Since the founding of the first Ethnic Studies programs in late 1960s and on, faculty and students have continuously faced institutional challenges. We struggle to uphold the principles Ethnic Studies was founded on, the right to education, to redirect resources at higher education institution to our communities, and to connect with the grassroots movements. We have received backlashes at traditional, elite institutions. Our Studies has become inaccessible and academic because of the traditional framework of higher education. Our services to our communities are not valued, quantified or qualified for the "standards," made by people who intend to shake our beliefs, who want us to abandon the movements that have preceded us and will come after us.
As students of color in Michigan, we share the same struggles as students at Columbia University. Our faculty of color, not only in Ethnic Studies but across in various departments and disciplines, are being let go one by one. The same reasons are told to us each time we request an explanation: the faculty member's research is not qualified, given the context of the prestigious research institution; their work focuses on the community, not on research that allows the university to continuously be perceived prestigiously; their research only concerns a small minority group, not the society at large. These reasons only raise more questions: Who are the people who set the standards? Who decides what is prestigious and what is not? And furthermore, why should one be punished, not rewarded, for spending tremendous amount of time and effort in the community, outside of one's research facility?
The colonialism existing in the traditional academia framework greatly hurts students. If Columbia University claims to embrace diversity and freedom, then the diversity cannot be validated solely by having students of color on campus. The administration needs to recognize that diversity goes beyond numbers and community input is crucial in improving campus climate. The curriculum needs to be diversified, allowing knowledge in different fields, including Ethnic Studies, which promotes knowledge that has been traditionally suppressed because of colonialism. Students have the right to learn about the history and importance of people of color in building this country, founded on colonial principles. Students have the right to demand the university's support for acquiring such knowledge, if the university truly embraces diversity.
United Asian American Organizations Board
Eric Li, Co-Chair
C.C. Song, Co-Chair
Anisha Mangalick, Advocacy
George Dong, Community Historian
Katherine Takai, External Relations
Ashley Manzano, Internal Relations
Jeff Meng, Finance
Vivian Tao, Programming
Ravi Bodepudi, Service