Tufts ignores Asian-American studies

Last Wednesday’s article, “University Working to Create Asian American Courses,” presented some inaccurate information on the status of Asian-American curriculum development at Tufts that we would like to help clarify. Unfortunately, an Asian-American program does not currently exist at this institution.

Right now, Tufts offers only two courses devoted to the study of Asian-American content, which hardly constitutes a program in this field. In addition, the University has not hired any permanent faculty to teach in this field. Because the two Asian-American courses are not grounded into the Tufts curriculum by full-time staff, there remains a sense of insecurity on the status of even our existing courses. Over the years, both students and faculty have made arduous efforts to increase the number of Asian American courses and faculty on campus without success.

In recent years, Tufts has fallen behind neighboring institutions in the availability of Asian American resources. The University’s Task Force on Race released a report in 1998 pointing out gaps and disparities in our curriculum in the area of Asian-American studies, along with Latino and Native American Studies.

Students who have taken both Asian-American courses wonder why there are not more courses devoted to this vast field including perspectives which are not traditionally covered in high- school curricula. Tufts even lags behind smaller schools like Mount Holyoke, which has three hired full-time professors trained to teach Asian American Studies. While Tufts has long been proud of its program in international relations and its promotion of international diversity, we often ignore the issues of domestic relations and domestic diversity on campus.

Professor Chaterjee claims that the university is trying to create more room for Asian-American faculty, yet we have not seen any steps taken toward this effort. Although Professor Chaterjee taught an Asian-American drama course last semester, he has not worked as extensively on curricular transformation as the twelve professors who participated in this summer’s workshop.

Moreover, it is important to note that merely hiring more ethnic Asian-American faculty does not necessarily mean the growth of Asian-American studies at Tufts. It is equally important that the new faculty be properly trained and educated to teach these courses.

Oftentimes Asian-American studies is confused with the field of Asian studies. Asian-American studies is rooted in the study of American society and culture. Asian Americans have been part of the historical, literary and social landscape of America for over 150 years, yet our curriculum fails to address and recognize this reality. Asian studies, while a wonderful resource for those interested in the study of Asia, does not aim to educate the student body about the Asian-American experience and is therefore an entirely separate field.

The comparison between Asian and Asian-American studies is analogous to one studying the history, literature, and culture of Italy and presuming to understand the experiences of Italian Americans, or those of White Americans in general.

Similarly, studying America without examining acts of resistance and contributions made to society by Asian Americans, and other racial and ethnic groups, paints an incomplete picture of American society. Our present curriculum omits various instances of Asian-American influence in the structural makeup of our country, thus rendering Asian Americans invisible.

he decline in Asian-African student enrollment is a completely separate issue from the current state of the curriculum. Regardless of the number of Asian-American students on campus, Tufts still needs to greatly bolster its Asian-American curriculum in order to truly educate critical thinkers who understand the past and present diversity of American society. This omission in Tufts’ curriculum maintains and perpetuates systematic racism and other forms of oppression.

Uyen Tang, LA ’03, Co-President of the Asian Community at Tufts

Laura Horwitz, LA ’03, Student Assistant for the Asian-American Curriculum

Transformation Project

David Wu, LA ’04, Asian American Cultural Representative to the TCU

Cecelia Chen, LA ’04, Treasurer of the Asian Community at Tufts

Cecelia Almazan, LA ’03, vice president of Association of Latin American Students

Aaron Chiu, LA ’03, Asian-American activist

Felicia Chao, LA ’02, Tufts Representative for the East Coast Asian Students Union Tufts

Representative and the Boston Inter-Collegiate Taiwanese Student Association

Aaron Chiu is a junior majoring in international relations.

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