October 22, 2008

Asian Community Center Endures Setbacks, Delays

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Last week, the Asian/Asian American Center (A3C) Committee held the first of several information sessions in order to update and inform students of A3C’s progress. However, many students were angry to hear that proceedings were slower than had been anticipated.
At the information session, the students on the A3C committee presented on the importance of the center and answered students’ questions. Clara Ng-Quinn ’10, a member of the committee, gave a PowerPoint presentation to inform students of the purpose of A3C — that it would serve as a central hub for the Asian community at Cornell and in Ithaca and as an institutionalized resource not already available to Asian students.
The University committed to the A3C initiative last spring, after students brought the findings of the 2004 Asian and Asian American Task Force Report to the attention of the Student Assembly during fall 2007. The Task Force Report examined the satisfaction, retention and recruitment of the Asian and Asian American community, determining that the community was being underserved at Cornell. The Student Assembly passed Resolution 8, citing findings in the 2004 Task Force Report and supporting the creation of the center, according to the A3C blog.
The A3C space could be used by all students and would benefit all students and staff on campus. It would also facilitate communication between different communities on campus, Ng-Quinn said.
The committee initially suggested that A3C be located on the fourth floor of Rockefeller, but this location violated building code. The second floor of Willard Straight Hall is now the proposed location of A3C, due to the lack of other available spaces on campus, according to Susan Duan ’09, a member of the committee.
However, due to accessibility issues within WSH, progress on the construction of the center has been slowed. The University architect proposed the installment of a LULA, a small elevator, to solve accessibility problems, according to Kent Hubbell ’67, dean of students. The inclusion of the LULA affects the pricing of the center, which in turn affects its progress.
“In order for us to go forward, we need to get some pricing,” Hubbell said.
“I would say that administrators are not supportive. They think that Asians are piggybacking on blacks and Latinos who have fought for their rights in the 60s,” said Caroline Hugh ’10, co-chair of the committee. “People need to stop looking to the past and realize that A3C is looking to be international because a huge portion of international students are Asian, a huge portion of undergraduate students and graduate students are Asian or Asian American. We have way more potential to expand the center beyond student services. There has been a need for mental health issues.”
The LULA increases construction costs by over 50 percent, according to Hugh. The committee is responsible for contributing a portion of the funds it would take to construct the center through fundraising. Still, according to several of the committee members, the two million dollars it may take to build the center is trivial compared to the University’s four billion dollar Capital Campaign.
“Accessibility is undoubtedly important, and work to create a more accessible campus should continue alongside the Center, not hinder its already-slow progress,” Hugh stated in an email.
The committee is currently frustrated due to the slow progress on the center which has been “a long time coming,” with the impetus for the most recent developments beginning in 2004 according to the A3C blog, which documents the progress and invites students to participate in the creation of A3C.
Currently, the committee is attempting to move forward by keeping students informed. In order for the center to move forward, broad support from the Cornell community is necessary, including support from parents, alumni and trustees. The committee would like to hold another forum for students on the committee and the administration to address the community on A3C’s progress. The committee has been meeting weekly and hopes for some more “optimistic news” at the next meeting with administrators this Friday, Hugh said.
“We’re all here to get this to happen as soon as we can, but there are so many complicating factors,” Hubbell said.
Other factors that complicate the construction of the A3C include the University’s plans for a new health center, the economy and other construction projects on campus, according to Hubbell.
“All of the students on the committee are just frustrated with the whole procedure because it seems like we’ve be working for a while and nothing substantive has happened,” Duan said.