Brandeis explores new minor in Asian American Pacific Islander Studies

Brandeis explores new minor in Asian American Pacific Islander Studies

January 15, 2016

Interim President Lisa Lynch sent out an email on Dec. 22 informing students about the “formation of a new Faculty-Student Committee on Asian American Pacific Islander Studies at Brandeis.” This comes in response to the Brandeis Asian American Task Force’s (BAATF) letter to the administration, which was posted on their Facebook page Dec. 2, that demanded the creation of an Asian American Studies department at Brandeis.

Lynch prefaced her email announcing the formation of the Faculty-Student Committee with a short paragraph addressing Brandeis’ commitment to change, saying that although Brandeis’ Mission and Diversity Statement “speaks to a commitment to fostering a just and inclusive campus culture, we are not always as successful as we aspire to be.”

BAATF originally launched their Facebook page and published their manifesto on Nov. 20, which was the same day the occupation of Bernstein-Marcus began. They had planned to publish the letter to the administration at this time as well, but after the occupation of Bernstein-Marcus they chose to delay the release of their letter and stand in solidarity with the students involved in Ford Hall 2015.

“To ignore the call for Asian American Studies is to create a flawed and oppressive curriculum; to deny Brandeis students the opportunity to pursue knowledge critical to the identity and advancement of Asian Americans is to contradict Brandeis’ mission,” said the letter from BAATF to administration.

The Faculty-Student Committee on Asian American Pacific Islander Studies is headed by Professor ChaeRan Freeze (NEJS/WMGS). The faculty on the committee also includes Professor Sarah Lamb (ANTH/HSSP/REL/SAS), Professor Joyce Antler (AAAS/AMST/HIST), Associate Professor Harleen Singh (COML/GRALL/SAS) and Assistant Professor Xing Hang (HIST). Student members of the committee include Theresa Yeo ’17, Tony Tran ’17, Cecile Afable ’16 and Danni Tang ’19.

Lynch said in her email that “This committee has been established to examine and make recommendations on the development of courses, programming and a minor in Asian American Pacific Islander studies.” The committee will also consider how the curriculum might be structured, named, located and resourced within the School of Arts and Sciences, Lynch said in the email.

The Faculty-Student Committee has not yet had their first meeting, but it is scheduled for Jan. 22.

“Our goal is to discuss ideas about the minor based on research on comparable programs,” said Committee Chair Professor ChaeRan Freeze in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. They will also discuss “the possibility of hiring a Kay Postdoctoral fellow to teach at least two courses starting next year, and potential speakers to bring to campus this semester,” she said.

Fellow committee member Professor Xing Hang elaborated briefly on the committee’s plans, saying, “Using comparisons to other institutions will certainly form an important component of how we structure the program. Research into other programs will form a part of our meetings, starting with the one on Jan. 22.”

This is not the first time students have been dissatisfied with the academic offerings at Brandeis and requested a new department be added. During the occupation of Ford Hall in January 1969, one of the 10 Demands the occupying students released was a call for the formation of an African Studies Department. As a result of the demands, Brandeis’ African and Afro-American Studies Department (AAAS) was formed in April 1969.

BAATF was happy to see their demands have resulted in positive change. They said in a statement posted on their website on Dec. 22, “Thank you to all of of the students, faculty, staff and alumni who have stood with us and supported us. Our voices were heard. This is change.”

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