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For decades, Asian and Asian American students at the University have been calling for an Asian/Asian American student center. To date, the University has failed to respond to their requests. Dismantling institutional racism requires a committed effort. One step the University can take towards dissolving all forms of racism is to change the physical environment around Grounds. Moreover, this call is particularly relevant in contemporary times with the dramatic increase in anti-Asian violence. The University should heed these calls and build an Asian/Asian American Student Center on the grounds.
A recent letter signed by 15 student organizations lists their demands for an Asian American student space on Grounds. This application has been endorsed by Asian American fraternities and organizations, including Asian Student Union, Asian Leaders Council, Indian Student Association, Vietnamese Student Association, Pakistan Student Association, ‘alpha Kappa Delta Phi International Sorority and the Sigma Psi Zeta. Sorority at University. In addition, the letter also received support from other student organizations on Grounds – Student Council, The Minority Rights Coalition and University Guide Service, to name a few. However, this is far from a new request. The Asian Students’ Union began calling for such a center in 1995.
Indeed, there are already centers for students of color on Grounds – the Multicultural Student Center and the Latinx Student Center for example. All of these centers are valuable to the university community. However, their existence does not negate the need to create a student center specifically for Asian American students. The existence of student centers for other minority groups on Grounds does not erase but rather reinforces the University’s responsibility to provide a safe space for Asian and Asian American students on Grounds.
Providing a safe space for Asian and Asian American students on Grounds is especially necessary given the recent increase in anti-Asian violence. In 2020, hate crimes against Asian Americans in 16 cities increased by 150%. Stop AAPI Hate – which tracks Asian hate crime cases – has received reports of more than 2,800 hate incidents across the United States since the start of the pandemic. The university community is not isolated from the wave of anti-Asian violence. In an attack likely motivated by anti-Asian sentiments, two Asian students at the University were instigated in March 2020.
The ultimate goal of this center would be to provide a space for Asian and Asian American students at the University to organize and come together safely. There are several resources for Asian students on Grounds – the Asia-Pacific American Leadership Training Institute, the Asian American Women’s Leadership Initiative, and the Family Peer Counseling Network, for example. However, these programs would all benefit from a physical space to conduct their meetings, various events and socialize.
Additionally, the new student center is expected to serve as a space for Asian students at the university to congregate in a safe social environment. In the aftermath of the Atlanta shootings in March – where six of the eight killed were Asian women – Sophia Liao, third-year council president and business student, noted a “strong sense of isolation”. She expressed her desire to have a physical space at the University where she could gather with other Asian and Asian American students that she could connect with. The letter demanding the need for an Asian American student center reflects this premise – it lists five primary goals for the center, largely focused on providing a safe social environment for the University’s Asian community.
That being said, the University must not forget to involve the students in the design of this centre. For one thing, the term Asian is a broad category. There are students of many different Asian ethnicities on Grounds – data that has itself been studied by students as the University’s demographic survey measures Asian identities as more of a monolith – and the letter’s authors also stressed the need for balanced representation. Moreover, the demands of the students are not limited to the simple construction of a physical building. The letter also calls for additional Asian faculty, particularly in leadership roles. All of this means that student demands must be considered as the University builds an Asian American student center.
An Asian American Student Center is a necessary addition to the current Multicultural Centers on Grounds. The University has a responsibility to provide a safe and welcoming environment for its Asian and Asian American students. However, we cannot forget that an Asian/Asian American student center is only one step in creating an environment on Grounds that is truly welcoming to everyone – the University must listen to the request from the Asian community on Grounds.
The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is made up of the Editor-in-Chief, the Managing Editor, the two Opinion Editors, their Senior Associate and an Opinion Columnist. The board can be reached at [email protected]