Faculty, staff, students, and members of the community celebrated the 30th anniversary of UW’s Department of American Ethnic Studies during an open house on October 12, 2015. • Courtesy Photo
Faculty, staff, students, and members of the community celebrated the 30th anniversary of UW’s Department of American Ethnic Studies during an open house on October 12, 2015. • Courtesy Photo

The following is an August 1, 2016 letter to UW President Ana Mari Cauce from the State of Washington Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs and API community leaders calling for the retaining of three positions in the university’s Asian American Studies program. Amidst an already limited number of faculty to teach Asian American Studies at UW, three professors recently retired from the American Ethnic Studies department: Steve Sumida, Gail Nomura, and Tetsuden Kashima. UW is currently looking for temporary lecturers for next year, and will begin searching for full-time faculty once they hire the temporaries.

Dear President Cauce,

With three vacant faculty positions in Asian American Studies (AAS) in the Department of American Ethnic Studies, the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs is concerned about the future of the Asian American Studies program. The Commission works to improve the well-being of Asian Pacific Americans by ensuring their access to participation in the fields of government, business, education and other areas (RCW 43.117). We write in support of retaining the three positions within the program, as well as a quick and efficient search to fill these three tenure track positions.

The Commission and community leaders urge the President and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to retain and increase faculty members in Asian American Studies. There is widespread interest in the Asian Pacific American community for a speedy, yet quality search. We believe that supporting faculty in AAS will promote understanding and improve the campus climate at the University of Washington.

While the Race and Equity Initiative at UW seeks to support and sustain diversity and inclusion at the UW, this alone is not enough. According to UW’s Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, 28.2% of undergraduates identify as Asian. With over one quarter of the undergraduate population identifying as Asian, it is important that these students have an opportunity to learn about their history and identity. The AAS program has the unique ability to support this goal by empowering students through curriculum and having representation within faculty and staff.

Compared to the freshmen class of 2015-2016, the 2016-2017 freshmen class at UW is becoming more diverse, with a 10% increase in underrepresented minorities. This population includes Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders that would greatly benefit from a supportive academic environment that the Asian American Studies program provides. Many Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander students have felt invisible and marginalized, and the retirement of Professor Sumida is of particular concern to Pacific Islanders as he taught one of the few courses on campus focusing on Native Hawaiian culture. Hiring Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian faculty who represent or can teach courses about their cultures can serve to inspire and mentor these students.

Across the nation and in Washington State, Asian American leaders advocated for the creation of Asian American studies programs at colleges and universities. In the 1970s, local leaders held sit-ins to ensure Asian Americans were represented in faculty and administration. Today, Asians and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing populations in the United States. For students of all ethnicities, AAS offers an opportunity to learn more about the history, cultures, and perspectives of the numerous ethnic groups represented by this program. Retaining and increasing the number of faculty positions in AAS will better serve a growing diverse student population that seeks representation in academics, programs, faculty, and staff.

The Commission and community leaders urge the President and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to strongly consider our request and support for the Asian American Studies program. We believe that retaining and increasing faculty positions in AAS will promote understanding and improve the campus climate at the University of Washington and help fulfill the goals of the Race and Equity Initiative.

Sincerely,

Ty Tufono, Chair

Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs

Michael Itti, Executive Director

Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs

Santino Giovanni Camacho, Director

ASUW Pacific Islander Student Commission

Sam Le, Director

ASUW Asian Student Commission

Diane Narasaki, King County Co-Chair

Asian Pacific Islander Coalition

Lua Pritchard, Pierce County Chair

Asian Pacific Islander Coalition

Van Dinh Kuno, Snohomish County Chair

Asian Pacific Islander Coalition

Vang Xiong Toyed, Spokane County Chair

Asian Pacific Islander Coalition

Dori Peralta Baker, Yakima Valley Chair

Asian Pacific Islander Coalition

Lin Crowley, South Puget Sound Co-Chair

Asian Pacific Islander Coalition

Brian Lock, South Puget Sound Co-Chair

Asian Pacific Islander Coalition

Jacqueline Wu, President

OCA Greater Seattle Chapter

Dorothy Wong, Chair

Asian Pacific Directors Coalition

James Hong, Executive Director

Vietnamese Friendship Association

Ay Saechao, Co-Founder

Southeast Asian Education Coalition

Tony Vo

UW American Ethnic Studies Alum

Sameth Mell, Co-Chair

Cambodian American Council of Washington

Bopha Cheng, Education Co-Chair

Cambodian American Council of Washington

Rich Stolz, Executive Director

OneAmerica

Sarah Baker, President

Seattle JACL

 

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