August 28, 2008

Plans for Asian/Asian-American Center Progress

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The Committee for the Asian/Asian-American Community Center did not relax their efforts over the summer. After writing a proposal at the end of last semester that outlined various aspects of the center, including staff positions and the desired goals and objectives, the committee spent the summer replying to the administration’s critiques and suggestions.
“We spent the summer putting together a response to [President David Skorton’s] letter,” said Kent Hubbell ’67, the dean of students.
In addition, the committee created plans and models for the center, which will be located on the second floor of Willard Straight Hall. That location is currently used as a workshop storage area for the ceramics studio. The area will be remodeled before being transformed into a space suitable for the center. Susan Duan ’09 and Clara Ng-Quinn ’10, members of the Asian/Asian American Center Development Committee, described the need to heighten the ceiling, add a series of new walls and make the bathroom more accessible in order to create the desired two offices, lounges, a conference room and a kitchenette.
“Initial design plans are complete. Such as the dimensions of the offices, their location, the location of the rest room and kitchenette, and a tentative idea of what will be placed in each room,” Duan said.
With the plans for the remodeling part of the equation complete, the committee now has to turn its attention to two important tasks: seeking out funding for the center and finding people to fill the two staff positions of assistant dean of Asian/Asian-American development and programming assistant. The programming assistant position has not yet been officially approved.
“We are hopeful that the University will still fund the initial construction costs,” Duan said about her and the committee’s desires for University aid in the estimated $600,000 endeavor.
Unfortunately, with the current staff rearrangement caused by Biddy Martin’s departure, there could be some delays receiving the necessary funds.
If all went according to plan, the committee was hoping to begin construction during Winter Break and have the center operational by late March or early April 2009. But since they have yet to receive the necessary funding, the best-case scenario may not occur.
In search of additional funding, the committee plans on talking to Cornell alumni whom they believe will be sympathetic to their cause and will champion the goals of the center. They will contact alumni through the Cornell Asian Alumni Association. The committee still has hopes that construction be finished at least by the end of spring semester, but it might have to be pushed back even later.
While the committee was given the go-ahead to begin making plans and outline objectives and staff positions for the center last spring, the idea and suggestion for the center on the Cornell campus dates back to the Asian and Asian American Campus Climate Task Force in 2004. After interviewing and looking at statistics for Asian/Asian-American students, the task force — comprised of students, faculty and staff — observed and concluded that this group of students was among the largest group in Cornell to graduate dissatisfied.
The center, once complete, will “represent a space where the rich and diverse Asian community can come together, build bridges, create programming, celebrate cultural heritage and outreach to all members of the Cornell community,” said Renee Alexander, director of the minority alumni program, who was appointed by the administration to serve on the Center’s committee.
Their suggestions were unable go into effect immediately, however, because it took time for the proposed ideas to circulate among the administration, and many of the students who advocated the idea graduated.
The creation of the center lost much of the momentum it had gained from the task force after 2004. It was not until the East Coast Asian American Student Union Conference in February 2008 that the center recovered that lost momentum.
The combined efforts of the conference and the passage of Issue Eight among the Student Assembly, which pledged its support for the center, gave way to the forum last spring in which the administration gave their vocal support.
Currently, there is an interim location on the fourth floor of Rockefeller Hall next to the Asian American Studies Program.
Duan and Ng-Quinn stressed that while they might not be on campus to see it happen, their eventual hopes for the center include a separate building of its own. The center location on the second floor of Willard Straight, though is suitable for their short-term goals.