Establishing Asian American Studies remains an uphill battle in Georgetown

Professor Christine So wants to know why English is the only department in Georgetown with a specialist in Asian American studies. In the spring of 2019, two years after beginning teaching at Georgetown, she created an introductory Asian American Studies course that explores what it means to be Asian American, considering its connection to class, ethnicity, sexuality, etc.

But despite the apparent success of his classes — with dozens of students on the waiting list and eager requests for graduate-level courses — So is still Georgetown’s only full-time faculty member specializing in Asian American studies. . This, according to So, is not just a detriment to the Asian student body, but to Georgetown academia as a whole.

“Asian Americans in particular have a particular history in the United States that not only explains how whiteness was constituted in the United States, but also tells us something about American imperialism abroad” , said So. “These people and their stories are invaluable.”

Asian American Studies First Between the public lexicon in 1968 through a five-month strike organized by the Third World Liberation Front demanding the creation of ethnic studies programs in universities, which led to the coining of the term “Asian American”. A year later, California universities established early Asian American studies programs. Traditionally, Asian American Studies has had a highly interdisciplinary nature, allowing the field to incorporate the work of scholars in sociology, philosophy, history, English, and more. Yet more than 50 years later, according to the Asian American Studies Association, only 32 higher education institutions in the country to offer major or minor programs dedicated to Asian American Studies. A collaborative Google Map created by Dr. Diane Wong of Rutgers University put this number is 42, with another 77 institutions offering Asian American Studies courses in different departments.

Since 2009, Georgetown has been considering setting up its own Asian American Studies program, establishment working groups to recommend changes to foster cross-cultural change in academia. President John J. DeGioia and former Provost James O’Donnell reaffirmed their commitment to exploring and developing new resources and programs for Asian American Studies through public letters written in 2010 and again in 2015.

Four years later, the university still had no Asian American studies program. “If Georgetown’s goal is to educate its students to be responsible and active participants in civic life, its current lack of ethnic studies classes is totally inconsistent with that,” said one. the description for Georgetown’s Asian Pacific Islander Leadership Forum (APILF) 2019 Photo Campaign titled “Georgetown Don’t Teach Me”. Drawing inspiration from similar efforts at schools such as Yale, Duke and Dartmouth, the movement called on the administration to uphold its commitment to Asian American studies programs.

“APILF has enabled Asian American studies to make significant progress. Part of their job was to go around departments asking if they would hire or teach Asian American Studies in the department,” So said. “When they came to me with this [idea], I thought it had never really occurred to me to teach an Asian American studies course.

According to a report by the Stop AAPI Hate coalition, more than 140 hate crimes have been engaged against Asian Americans in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area between March 2020 and March 2021. During the same period, San Francisco experimented a 567% increase in reported crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Between March 19, 2020 and September 30, 2021, the coalition reported a total of 10,370 anti-Asian hate incidents nationwide.

Last April, after Georgetown failed to make sufficient progress, APILF hosted a three-part summit advocating for an Asian American Studies program in Georgetown in response to the nationwide spike in anti-hate crimes. -Asians.

Most recently, the Asian American Student Association of George Washington University hosted a panel on January 26, following the creation of a minor in Asian American Studies after three years of student advocacy, including a 2020 petition which gathered more than 2,500 signatories. The minor was formed not only because of student advocacy, but also GW faculty who expressed interest in creating courses for the new minor.

Georgetown, according to So, still lacks this resource base. “I would say there’s been a lack of interest in hiring scholars in Asian American studies, Latin American studies, Native American studies,” So said.

According to So, Georgetown currently has only five full-time professors teaching American racial and ethnic studies outside of the African American studies curriculum: Shelbi Meissner, professor of philosophy and the only specialist in native studies, three professors of American studies Latin Americans and So. She added that the lack of faculty threatens the stability of existing courses in race and ethnic studies and makes it impossible to implement new programs.

According to Brian Hochman, director of the American Studies program, the program is currently working to strengthen the offering of Asian American, Latin American, and Indigenous studies.

“Georgetown’s support for the field — as well as related fields, such as Native Studies and Latin Studies — has been lacking,” Hochman wrote in an email to Voice. “We are currently working on a joint job offer in this area. This is a major priority for us. »

Advocacy remains the most viable way for students to fight administrative barriers to expanding Asian American studies programs, according to So. She suggests that students continue to request more lectures and discussions related to Asian American Studies.

“Ask departments and the university to hire professors and Asian American studies,” she said. “Make it clear that Asian American issues, people, courses and fields of study are critically important.”

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