April 27, 2001

Asian Community Targets Minority Issues on Campus

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Exit surveys revealed that of any ethnic group on campus, Asian American students graduating from Cornell were the least satisfied with their experiences and with University services. In addition, five of the last eight student deaths on campus were Asian males.

In response to these concerns Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA) organized a forum with members of the administration to discuss how Asian American students can receive “better support and serve the Asian American communities at Cornell,” according to a pamphlet for Asian American Heritage Week (AAHW).

“I think it’s just that we [have been] invisible,” said Melissa Hu ’02, co-president of the APAA.

Hu pointed to these statistics as an indication that Asian Americans should reevaluate their place within the University.

“Asian students here are a minority, but don’t receive the same services as underrepresented minorities do,” Hu said. “There is an absence of services … and not enough support given to the students.”

Yesterday’s forum was one of many events associated with AAHW, which included another forum, “Who are your Asian American Representatives?: Networking, Organizing and Community Issues,” as well as several food, culture and film events. These will last through Sunday, when closing ceremonies will be held in the Straight at 8 p.m.

Over 30 campus organizations sponsored the week, including APAA, Cornell Asian Pacific Students Union, the Chinese Students Association and the Cornell Filipino Association, among others.

Hu and AAPA Co-President Lisa Wang ’02 began to meet with the administration after a bias- related incident that occurred last fall in which a female Asian American student was verbally harassed and sexually assaulted near Goldwin Smith Hall.

“Last semester’s [bias-related] incidents were negative, but we’re trying to work on these in more positive meetings [with the administration],” Hu said.

“[Asian American students] don’t feel comfortable in approaching the University,” she added.

To that end, many members of the administration attended yesterday’s forum, among them Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice-president for student and academic services, who was the first to bring the statistics about the student deaths and the exit surveys to Hu’s attention.

“[AAHW] is a ground-breaking event,” said Jennifer Fang ’03. “It’s really reached out to many Asians who don’t normally go to things like this.”

Fang added, however, that students of other ethnicities did not attend as many of the week’s events. “That could have been better.”

Many students touched on the fact that groups sometimes self-segregate based on ethnicity.

“Cornell advertises to everyone that we have one of the most diverse campuses in the U.S.,” said Yue He ’02, president of the Chinese Student’s Association. “But people from the same background tend to form their own groups.”

At yesterday’s forum, Hu passed out a list of possible programs that would be directed specifically toward the Asian American community. Among the ideas was regular a regular forum for discussion of “community issues, personal experiences, and general ideas.”

“This attracts a very specific crowd,” said Christopher Fan ’02. “These are the people we don’t really have a problem with. You don’t bring in the people with the problems.”

Attendees at the forum discussed how to attract a larger audience to discuss diversity and minority issues.

“We have to capture them at orientation,” said Prof. Lee C. Lee, human development.

Diversity events were held at orientation last year, according to Murphy, but “by labeling them ‘diversity’ [activities], it frankly didn’t work.”

Murphy suggested that in future years, diversity orientation events shouldn’t be labeled explicitly as such.

“By giving it this big label … only students who already cared would go [to the event], or students wouldn’t show up at all,” she said.

“Though we really like to view the University as something that works from the bottom up, it really works from the top down,” said Thomas Leung ’02, who attended the forum. “If President [Hunter R.] Rawlings were to say ‘minority issues are a priority,’ then I think something would get done.”

Archived article by Maggie Frank