Section: EditorialsNovember 4, 2016
Last week, the Brandeis Asian American Task Force (BAATF) released a statement that they would be delivering a letter to President Ron Liebowitz on his inauguration day. In the statement, BAATF encouraged Asian American and Pacific Islander students to contribute their own stories by adding a letter of their own to the overall open letter, and for concerned allies to write their names at the bottom of the document as a sign of solidarity. Liebowitz received the letter during his Inaugural Luncheon, and this will hopefully spur the development of an Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies minor at Brandeis.
The Editorial Board supports BAATF’s actions and reiterates the need for the university to create this minor program.
BAATF has been advocating for an AAPI Studies minor since last fall, shortly after the Ford Hall 2015 movement, in order to create a more inclusive and welcoming campus climate. While it is a step in the right direction that the new Asian American Experience course has taken root at Brandeis this semester, it is crucial to continue this work to achieve the official minor. As the incoming president, this is an issue that many students are passionate about, and something that Liebowitz should be thinking about as he transitions into his new role and takes on Brandeis’ diversity efforts.
In terms of the university’s recent diversity and inclusion initiatives, establishing an AAPI minor would make Brandeis a more comfortable place for students who often feel invisible on campus. The countless open letters to Liebowitz contain powerful personal narratives about how students have felt isolated on campus or like their histories are overlooked. Brandeis already has strong programs in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (NEJS), Afro and African American Studies (AAAS) and Women’s, Gender and Sexality Studies (WMGS). It is important that we add a new AAPI program at Brandeis to support minority students who are not represented in other academic programs. This is also essential considering that 13.1 percent of undergraduates identify as Asian American, according to university statistics.
While the presentation of the open letter may seem like an interruption to the inauguration, there is no reason this issue does not deserve our focus even on this day of celebration. It is something on the forefront of many students’ minds, as evidenced by the numerous open letters and outpouring of support from student allies. If the university wants to make a commitment to increased diversity and inclusion, the new presidency should lose no time.