Mount Holyoke News 1996-1997

December 5, 1996

Asian American studies discussed

Students, faculty call for curricular representation

by Kelly Emminger '99

The need for an Asian American studies program was discussed on Wednesday, November 19. An Asian American studies department or major does not exist at any of the Five Colleges.

At the discussion, Asian American studies was defined as "the interdisciplinary field which examines Asians in the U.S. This includes examining the histories of Asian Pacific Americans and analyzing the communities and contemporary experiences/concerns of Asian Pacific Americans."

"The question is not 'Why do we need to have Asian American studies here?' but rather 'Why don't we have Asian American studies here?'" Thao Mee Xiong '98 said.

Faculties and students attended the discussion. Sharon Chang '98, one of the primary organizers of the event, said the College's Asian studies program mainly focuses on China, Japan, and India.

"It really reduces how we understand Asia and Asian Americans ... It doesn't represent the contributions of Asian Americans in this country," Chang said.

An Asian American Studies Committee has been formed within Asian American Sisters in Action. According to Chang, goals of the committee include the establishment of a five college Asian American studies major, incorporation of Asian American studies and issues into existing courses, and the permanent employment of faculty who teach Asian American studies courses.

"We need to get something going with Asian American Studies. There is no question about our support for it," said Peter Berek, dean of faculty and provost.

Berek said two faculty appointments, Floyd Cheung in the English department and Keng-Fong Pang of the anthropology department, were made last year in an effort to provide Asian American studies courses on campus.

"That isn't enough," said Berek. "We need to do more." Both Pang and Cheung hold non-tenured positions at Mount Holyoke.

According to Berek, a meeting of interested faculty is planned for January to discuss the development of a Studies of America program (no official title has been established), which would "redefine the notion of what it is to be an American." He suggested an Asian American studies curriculum could find a place within this program. "It could be an umbrella under which African, Latin, and Asian American studies could flourish," Berek said.

Chang questioned whether or not "Asian American studies will get lost in a Studies of American program"

Berek also talked about the possibility of forming a faculty and student co-curricular seminar on Asian American studies, which could meet once a month to discuss Asian American issues. "It's a way of generating some interest," Berek said.

Although an Asian American studies major will probably not be formed in the near future, an Asian American Studies Certificate program was "do-able," according to Sally Habana Hafner, a professor at the University of Massachusetts School of Education. Hafner also said a summer institute at UMass is being planned as a place where graduate students and faculty would concentrate on Asian American research and issues in preparation for teaching Asian American studies courses.

Following the discussion, Vivian Lu '97 said, "I was happy that members of the faculty were here ... We need to make sure the faculty knows [of] our interests."

Karla Delgado '99 said, "there was a pretty good show of people. The room was filled. But we shouldn't stop with little successes. We need to keep on going."

The Asian American Studies Committee is being expanded and will begin holding monthly meetings. The two Asian American courses being offered at Mount Holyoke next semester are Anthropology 316(02) "Asian American Identity and Culture" and English D253 "Asian American Literature."

The discussion was sponsored by AASIA and was held at the Eliana Ortega House; there were 22 people in attendance.

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