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Asian American studies course returns after five years with new professor

Patrick Chung, an adjunct lecturer, will teach the new course on Asian American Experience, said members of the Brandeis Asian American Task Force (BAATF) at a town hall event this past Monday. The course is part of the anticipated Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) minor that students and faculty are working to design.

Chung graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history from Penn State University in 2010. He is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Brown University writing a dissertation on U.S.-Korean relations post-World War II, according to a Brown website.

“His expertise fits the subject and he has taught variants of the course before,” said Professor Thomas Doherty, chair of the American Studies Department in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. He had someone in mind to teach the class, but she was unavailable and recommended Chung. Members of the Brown American Studies program suggested him as well.

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As of now, Chung is only scheduled to teach the class for the fall 2016 semester. “The ideal situation is to get someone at full time harness, because they are there all the time advising students,” said Doherty, but Chung will bring the study of Asian American history back to Brandeis after five years without a professor to teach the subject.

Larry Fuchs, the founder of the American Studies program at Brandeis, “founded and taught the first Asian American studies course at Brandeis in the 1980s,” said Doherty. He wants students to be aware that what is happening today, in terms of the Asian American Experience course, is not a new concept and is in fact 35 years old. Fuchs taught the course for a “couple of decades,” according to Doherty, and the Asian American Experience class has been in the Brandeis course catalog before.

“Larry taught the course for a long time and then he retired and we got a junior replacement in the field and she taught the course until she left five years ago,” said Doherty, noting, “This is a bit of history students should know about.”

Doherty said he has made repeated efforts to encourage the university to replace this position and expertise, which is “vital to the area of American Studies,” but the university has refused. In regards to hiring a full-time professor for this position, Doherty said his ideal candidate would be “someone who can teach the [American Studies] core courses, as well as courses in their own expertise,” like Larry Fuchs and his successor did.

Around 20 people attended the town hall event to hear about the Asian American Experience course being offered. BAATF discussed the next steps it wants to take in the future, including encouraging the university, in combination with a faculty student committee, to hire a Florence Levy Kay Postdoctoral Fellow, which brings young postdoctoral scholars to campus for two-year appointments in interdisciplinary programs. BAATF also mentioned the possibility of opening a new Asian American Center on campus.

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The new course will focus on the hidden history of Asians in the United States and examine the “political, economic, social and contemporary issues” related to Asian Americans from the mid-nineteenth century to present, according to the course description in the Brandeis course catalog. The course is listed under American Studies (AMST 140b) and will fulfill the university’s oral communication and social science requirements. The class has 30 students enrolled.

BAATF is a grassroots student organization that led a campaign for an Asian American Studies Department last semester. The group sent a list of demands to administrators and held a “Day of Action” outside the Bernstein-Marcus administration center. In late December, Interim President Lisa Lynch announced the creation of a committee to work on creating a new minor.

Speakers at the Town Hall could not share many details about other minor requirements, as they are still in the planning stages. The committee and BAATF are involved in its design.

At the town hall event, BAATF stated that the Brandeis community could support the Asian American Studies program by checking BAATF emails, its Facebook page and coming to BAATF meetings and events, which would fix the gap of the lack of knowledge on campus. Lauren Chin ’19 said she would like to see BAATF hold mixers with other schools such as Tufts, which has an Asian American Studies minor.

BAATF stated that the American Studies program is holding an event April 20 at 5 p.m. in Schwartz 112 with Heather Lee, who received her Ph.D. in American Studies at Brown University and is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT. Lee has written articles on transnational Asian American history and a book project on the social history of Chinese restaurants through a case study of New York, according to the American Studies Department page. She will discuss “New Directions in Asian American Studies: Chinese Restaurants through a Transnational and Digital Lens.”

The BAATF will hold its next meeting Tuesday, April 19 in room 313 of the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC).

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