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By Hannah Marr, News Editor • June 21, 2024

CCAS officials ‘vetting’ Asian American studies minor amid student push

Photo Illustration by Sophia Young | Assistant Photo Editor
If approved, the Asian American studies minor will be housed in the English department and explore the history and identity of that demographic.

Officials said they are undergoing a “vetting process” for an Asian American studies minor in light of ongoing calls to implement the program.

Faculty submitted a proposal for the minor to Columbian College of Arts and Sciences officials earlier this fall, and students launched a petition last month calling for administrators to implement the minor, which has garnered more than 2,500 signatures as of last Monday. Rachel Riedner, the associate dean of undergraduate studies for CCAS, said the program is undergoing the same review process as all majors and minors, and officials are reviewing it in terms of “curricular offerings and resource allocation.”

Riedner said officials did not consider “tabling” the minor, despite claims from social media posts.

She said it usually takes one year from a minor’s submission to officials for it to be implemented into the curriculum. She said racism against Asians in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is an “important consideration” as officials consider implementing the minor.

Student leaders said they launched the petition to demonstrate student support for the minor to CCAS officials, but students have pressed officials for the program for a few years.

In 2017, then-Asian American Student Association President Jeremy Lee approached Patty Chu, a professor of English, about creating a minor in Asian American studies. Over the past three years, students and faculty have been working to develop the minor, Chu said.

Chu said if it is implemented, the minor will be housed in the English department and explore Asian American identity and history. Students who declare the minor will be able to take classes from different departments, like Asian American Experience through Movement and Sociology of Immigration, she said.

She said GW is “falling behind” its peer schools, four of which offer an Asian American studies major or minor.

Chu said it’s still possible for GW to implement the minor despite the hiring freeze officials implemented in March to mitigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, since it would require little additional hires or spending. She said officials should implement the minor in light of recent protests against racial injustice and increased xenophobia against Asians due to the pandemic.

She said students need the tools to understand the “place” of Asians in the United States, which she said students can learn through the minor.

“GW should counter such a situation by educating the next generation of leaders and citizens,” Chu said. “Public awareness of other Asian American issues pertaining to the pandemic is uneven.”

Dana Tai Soon Burgess, a professor of dance who helped develop the minor’s proposal, said the minor would teach the historical components of the Asian American diaspora in addition to the modern experiences of the diaspora.

Burgess said if the minor is implement, he will teach a course called Asian American Experience through Movement, which covers Asian American history through movement and performance.

“Many of the issues that Asians and Asian Americans deal with have to do with the body itself, like how it’s been exoticized or feminized or emasculated,” Burgess said. ”That’s really exciting to also have that with the minor.”

Fredrick Flores, a senior studying neuroscience and the vice president of the Philippine Cultural Society, said he is part of an informal group of members of various Asian American student organizations that have been pushing to implement the minor.

“Asian American identity and experience is a very unique thing,” Flores said. “I think a lot of students would benefit from learning that, not just Asian American students, but all kinds of students of all kinds of backgrounds.”

He said the petition, which he helped launch, gained a “whole wide range of support” from students, family members, alumni and professionals in the field of Asian American studies within a day of its release.

“If we can show that there’s a community of individuals supporting this thing, not just at GW, but throughout that, I feel like that’s a very glaring thing that the administration cannot ignore,” Flores said.

Student Association Sen. Gabriel Young, CCAS-U and the chair of the SA’s Asian Pacific Islander Desi Caucus, said officials told students who were pushing to implement the minor that CCAS officials were considering tabling its deliberation “indefinitely.”

The SA Senate passed a resolution last week backing the minor.

He said the GW community can help break down stereotypes and discrimination against Asians through the minor while also “clarifying and finding the truth” about Asian American identity.

“It is more of a reclamation of identity and truth to the Asian American identity and promoting the voices of those voices that have been oppressed throughout history,” Young said.

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