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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: UA has an obligation to fund ethnic studies programs

    Late last month, the UA hosted its first ever Asian Pacific American Studies conference. The event, which had an audience of students from across Arizona, was an avenue for discussing the implementation of an ethnic studies program pertaining to Asian Pacific Americans at the UA.

    The university already has some ethnic studies programs, including: Africana Studies, Mexican American Studies, Latin American Studies, and American Indian Studies. The Gender and Women’s Studies department also offers a Sexualities and Queer Studies concentration. This leaves each of the designated cultural centers at the UA with a corresponding program, save for Asian Pacific American Student Affairs.

    Conversations about the issue of diversity and increasing funding for minority and ethnic studies programs have resurfaced across college campuses in large part because of the work of the Black Lives Matter movement. Institutional support of minority students—or lack thereof—has festered resentment from numerous campus groups, making this a prime opportunity to push for an Asian-American studies program.

    Although the complaints and demands from marginalized students at various universities have spanned many topics, including cultural competency training for faculty, an increase in the number of full-time staff members in the cultural centers, and a commitment to larger facilities for cultural centers, ethnic studies programs are a pressing need that’s often overlooked.

    Ethnic studies programs provide a variety of essential services to a university and its students, including those who don’t identify with that specific race, ethnicity, or gender.

    Professor Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales of San Francisco State University, the first institution to implement an Asian American Studies Program, presented research in last month’s conference’s keynote explaining how ethnic studies programs improve the retention rates, G.P.A., attendance and self-confidence of minority students.

    In fact, a recent study from the Stanford Graduate School of Education on the impact of high school ethnic studies programs found that “attendance for those encouraged to enroll in the class increased by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points and credits earned by 23.”

    Hannah White, a junior at the UA and one of the students on the APASA board of directors, explained why an Asian American Studies program would be beneficial for our campus: “We need an Asian American studies program to help bring awareness about the ethnic diversity of Asian Americans. These issues include: class gender, race, language, religion, class, health, immigration, and more. This will be a first step of many in bringing about cultural competency and the beginnings of eliminating racism.”

    Ethnic studies departments not only boast the empirical advantages of higher GPAs and stronger retention rates, but can also give students an opportunity to study culture, significant historical figures, and perspectives that are often left out of traditional (i.e. White) curriculums. Understanding how Asians, or any other marginalized group, came to the United States, have been historically treated, and have integrated their culture into a broader society, are essential questions for exploring a host of topics in today’s world.

    These perspectives are frequently disregarded in traditional courses and can also provide non-marginalized students with valuable information and perspective. Much of our curriculum emphasizes white authors, white political figures, and white narratives. In addition to Whiteness, these curriculums tend to focus around cisgender, straight, able-bodied and Christian men. Challenging the typical narrative is a beneficial learning experience for all students.

    Studying the United States from the perspective of other cultures and identities develops cultural literacy and allows students to understand the modern political landscape and the systemic, institutional barriers that still exist in society today.

    The University of Arizona has an obligation to fund ethnic studies programs and give priority to these erased and silenced narratives. The momentum currently exists to make this a reality, so hopefully our university will act as a true representative of the students it serves.

    Follow Jacob Winkelman on Twitter.

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