Racist Attacks Revive Asian American Studies Program DemandBreaking News
tags: ethnic studies, colleges and universities, Asian American Studies
As Dartmouth College sophomore Nicholas Sugiarto flipped through the course catalog last semester, two words caught his eye: “Asian American.”
The 19-year-old Chinese Indonesian American didn’t know Asian American-focused classes were even an option at the Hanover, New Hampshire, campus. The biomedical-engineering major ended up enrolling in “Gender and Sexuality in Asian American Literature” and now wishes he could minor in Asian American studies.
“I never realized how long and storied the history of Asians in America has been,” Sugiarto said. “You also hear about stories that just never made the news or never made it into the standard AP U.S. history textbooks.”
That feeling of being seen resonates now more than ever for Asian American and Pacific Islander students and faculty at college campuses around the country. For all the “Stop AAPI Hate” hashtagging, accounts keep emerging of new incidents of Asian Americans being coronavirus scapegoats or made to feel like foreigners in their own country.
Pawan Dhingra, a professor at Amherst College and the incoming president of the Association for Asian American studies, said he is aware of a few other East Coast schools either considering Asian American studies or renewing their commitment to it.
“A lot of ethnic studies programs grew out of student demand during key inflection points in American history,” Dhingra said. “This is an inflection point. The push for ethnic studies — in this case Asian American studies — fits the tradition of how these programs come to be. It’s rarely the brainchild of administrators or faculty.”
The concept of ethnic studies is believed to have started in California, where it became state law in August that California State University students take one ethnic studies course to graduate.
In 1968, students of color at San Francisco State University, which was named San Francisco State College at the time, joined Black classmates demanding a curriculum that wasn’t just Euro-centric. What followed was five months of protests — the longest student strike in U.S. history — and hundreds of arrests.
In March 1969, after intense negotiations, the university officially launched a College of Ethnic Studies. Other schools also devised similar programs.
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