Students seek to establish Asian-American studies program

Staff Writer

Laila King

The initiative to create an Asian-American Studies department or major at Davidson began when Evan Yi’18 sought to create an Asian-American Studies major for himself through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, but he found that there were not enough classes to complete his course requirement.  The problem hinged upon the fact that the required course load did not exist to help him create such a major. He found that Davidson offers no program, minor, or concentration in Asian-American Studies; furthermore, there are no professors on Davidson’s campus specializing in Asian-American Studies.

This realization prompted the formation of the Asian Culture and Awareness Association (ACAA), and the group established its goal to create an Asian-American Studies major. The campaign currently consists of ten people, but it has gathered support from the Black Student Coalition, the Organization of Latino American Students, and the Student Initiative for Academic Diversity. The members of ACAA have met with President Carol Quillen and Dean Wendy Raymond on multiple occasions. They have written and circulated a letter to all department chairs outlining why this appeal is important and providing faculty with a timeline for the creation of an Asian-American Studies major or department.

In its letter, ACAA outlines a specific timeline. “[First,] the hiring or setting of a faculty line by the 2017-2018 academic year for a tenure-track Asian-Americanist. This professor will be clearly and demonstrably capable of teaching an Asian-American Studies 101 course similar to the Africana Studies 101 course currently offered.” “[Second,] the creation of an Asian-American Studies interdisciplinary minor by the 2019-2020 academic year.” “[Third,] the establishment of a full department or major for Asian-American Studies by the 2022-2023 academic year with at least two core faculty members.” “[Finally,] the creation of a Center for Asian-American Studies that operates as a fulcrum for Asian-American Studies in the South.”

The ACAA hopes that (assuming its plan is put into effect) the first professor hired will not only teach an Asian-American Studies 101 course but also fill vacancies in other departments. In their letter to the department heads, ACAA members suggest that the professor could also teach a class in the English department.

Additionally, while still working to gather support from the administration and the faculty, the ACAA is in the process of developing an online course in Asian-American Studies. The hope is that the course will be available next fall and be administered in conjunction with an Asian-American Studies professor from another college or university.

The ACAA advances the belief that Davidson should promote the creation of Asian-American studies for reasons similar to those that led to the creation of both the Africana Studies and Latin American Studies departments. Asian-American students compose 6% of the student body of Davidson, and the national population of Asian-Americans is expected to increase to 50,000,000 by the year 2050. Such prospective statistics only intensify the need for more attention to Asian-American Studies fields.

One of the possible constraints regarding the creation of such a department or major is that Davidson is much smaller than most of the colleges or universities that currently boast Asian-American Studies programs.

There are also concerns about how to fund the program on campus, especially with regard to hiring a new professor. In addition to its capital campaign goal of $425 million, the ACAA also proposes that once a program is created, Davidson alumni would be motivated to donate money to the program. Its members point to the case of Stony Brook University, where alum Charles Wang donated $52 million for the creation of an Asian-American Cultural Center, and hope that their vision may be similarily fulfilled.

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