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In an column published Wednesday, Gordon Siu argued that the Asian American Students Alliance has failed in its mission of “educating the entire Yale student body … about Asian American issues,” going to the point of spreading misinformation (“AASA fails to meet its mission,” Feb. 11). While we disagree with some of Siu’s claims, he brings up insightful points. He cannot be more right in noting that the Asian-American community at Yale needs an injection of political awareness.Just two weeks ago, over 1,000 Yale students attended a Lunar New Year’s event in Commons touted for delicious Chinese food. But at a screening of a seminal Asian-American film (“Who Killed Vincent Chin?”) last semester, exactly 10 students showed up, even though the director himself was present.
This fight against apathy is always embedded in AASA’s political programming. We hold Master’s Teas, distribute InformAsian (a biweekly educational awareness pamphlet) and hold leadership conferences for low-income Asian-American high school students in Connecticut, among other things. These events are the mediums through which we try to make sure that Asian-Americans do not get trapped within the “model minority” myth. These are the mediums through which we try to help Yalies open their eyes to the 24 different ethnic groups that encompass Asian America, each one with varied and vital concerns. But Yalies don’t attend these events.
We recognize that AASA focuses much of its energy on social events, but this is one of the most successful ways we have of bringing the community together — whether it’s the multiple dances, the year-round basketball league or the free cooking lessons. One of our roles will always be to provide opportunities for Yalies to come together and develop interpersonal relationships. But we know that’s not enough: The real transformative value of AASA lies in successfully using these social bonds to create political activism.
One month into our term leading the new AASA board, we know that the Asian-American body is not “a single multi-ethnic culture.” There are 40 different Asian-American related groups on campus invested in raising awareness about social, political and cultural issues. Our goal is to serve our member groups; after all, AASA was created in 1979 so that disparate groups could tackle holistic issues together. AASA is a crossroad for these various groups on campus, reminding others that Asian-Americans are apart yet a part of a greater Yale community.
And among the current Asian-American cultural groups on campus, all of which already have amazing programming, we don’t want to impose the common “Asian-American” stereotype on any member. In 2009, we are dedicated to reforming and strengthening programs that will make AASA an essential resource — especially to those who feel we have nothing to offer.
We’re currently working on a slew of diverse projects that will fill often-ignored niches: a community service project with AALEDF, an Asian-American civil rights nonprofit based in New York City; a mentoring program connecting Yale students with disadvantaged minority students; graduate student roundtables; film screenings; and awareness campaigns in collaboration with groups such as Alianza, Black Student Alliance at Yale, the Yale College Democrats and the Yale Political Union. Moreover, we’ve already begun the discussion on our blog, at www.yale.edu/aasa, and hope to use this as a forum to create ongoing, sustainable dialogue on issues relating to the Asian-American community at Yale.
There is still a glass ceiling we need to break. There are still deeply ingrained stereotypes about Asian-Americans that hurt our employment and social opportunities. And there will always be people who will continue to respond, re-evaluate and point out areas of improvement.
To all of this we say: Progress can only occur with your involvement. For 2009, we want to educate the entire Yale community at least a little about Asian-American issues, provide a strong network in which peers can easily connect with each other, and add value to your life. All we ask from you is your open-minded collaboration.
Peter Lu and Vi Nguyen are sophomores in Berkeley College and Davenport College, respectively. They are the co-moderators of the Asian American Students Alliance.