Michelle Fraling / Sun Senior Photographer

Students discuss an initiative to add an Asian American Studies major.

March 11, 2016

Student Assembly Proposes Introduction of New Major, First Generation Representative

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The Student Assembly passed two resolutions aiming to augment diversity on campus at its meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The assembly passed a resolution supporting the creation of an Asian American studies major 19-1-1, with an additional two community votes bumping the vote to 21-1-1.

“The Asian American Studies Program lacks resources and remains understaffed … with an increase in interest even though no additional resources have been allocated to this program since its creation in 1987,” said Linda He ’16, facilitator of Cornell Asian Pacific Islander Student Union.

Cornell currently has an Asian American studies minor, but students stressed the need for an Asian American studies major.

“Our community is very large … our Asian diaspora is extensive, so our experiences are incredibly varied. It’s really important to have an academic curriculum that can encompass and articulate all those different narratives,” He said.

Diana Li ’17, S.A. undesignated at large, sponsored the resolution citing an increased interest in Asian American courses.

“We have eagerly seen an increase in demand for this major, because enrollment numbers in this particular field have doubled, tripled in the last few years,” she said.

Department faculty numbers have decreased and several professors only teach Asian American studies classes part-time, according to Li.

He added that student enrollment in Asian American studies courses has increased in recent years.

“For example, two years ago, enrollment numbers for an intro class in this field was at eight people,” she said. “This year, that same class has 48 people enrolled. We’re asking for the University to put money where its mouth is at.”

Li also stressed the resolution’s role in addressing issues “rooted in the ongoing struggle of equal representation on this campus.”

Julia Montejo ’17, a community member, emphasized the need to educate people on the “depth and breadth of the Asian diaspora in America.”

“When I talk to students about undocumented student issues, many have no idea that the majority of students who are undocumented at Cornell are in fact Asian,” Montejo said. “As a result, I think it is imperative that we look to the fact that many people fail to recognize the issues of Asian Americans because of model minority stereotypes perpetuated on our students day in and day out.”

The S.A. also discussed a resolution supporting the creation of a first generation representative on the assembly.

Ben Bacharach ’18, S.A. chair of financial aid review committee, supported this resolution and addressed issues regarding the creation of the position.

“One concern was that we’re not going to have enough people run for the new S.A. [position],” he said. “My main argument is the opposite — this is a great way for get people back interested in the S.A. and get people to run for this position, which has so much potential and has done and can do so much.”

Bacharach added that he believes the S.A. should approve the position as soon as possible.

“I think this is an incredible start, I’m not comfortable on waiting for a full restructuring of this position,” he said. “I think we need to bring this position in now, so we can start its process.”

The resolution, which was tabled last week, passed 22-2.