Duke meets most demands for AAS

The student-led initiative for an Asian American studies department moved a step closer to fruition last week after key administrators gave the go-ahead to meet several key demands.

Provost Peter Lange, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William Chafe and Dean of Trinity College Robert Thompson met Thursday with student and faculty activists to respond to the proposal. In the meeting, Chafe announced the approval of a proposal for an Asian and Asian American studies research center, funds for faculty to explore new AAS course options and a task force to both oversee the AAS initiative and host a symposium on Asian American issues.

"We hope to provide a foundation for a larger conversation with the people who have been working on the field of Americas studies to think about how to better appreciate and explore the multiple cultures that populate the Americas," Chafe said, adding that he expected the center, the symposium and the faculty development grants to cost the University between $15,000 and $20,000. He said the current Arts and Sciences budget deficit limited the University's ability to hire new faculty.

Christina Hsu, who helped author the AAS proposal and has served as the point person for negotiations with administrators, said she was pleased with Chafe's response and hoped to meet with him early in May to finalize plans. "There were a lot of promises made at the meeting that we were very happy with," said Hsu, a junior. "Dean Chafe and I knew we would have to outline them in detail [at a later date]."

The Center for Asian and Asian American Studies, proposed by Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology Anne Allison and Associate Professor of Asian and African Languages and Literature Leo Ching, will be operated jointly out of the provost's and Arts and Sciences budgets. The center was first considered last fall, independent of the student AAS initiative, to research how the Asian and North American peoples have learned from each other.

"The center... will serve as an intellectual unit that establishes a critical research agenda and fosters a meaningful discussion about the study of Asia and Asia America on campus," Ching wrote in an e-mail.

Chafe said he saw the center's mission as complementary to the AAS task force. "We hope that they can provide some of the faculty liaison with the Asian and Asian American studies working group," he said.

Hsu said many details about the symposium need to be worked out when the amount of funding is known. She added that the symposium's vision was not yet clear either. "Because the symposium planning is by students and faculty, we've talked about our different visions," she said.

Chafe said that, because it is too late for faculty to develop fall courses, he would be surprised if any accepted the grant this year. He said the grants would be reoffered next year.

Both Chafe and Hsu agreed that AAS should be operated in the context of Americas studies, which was originally outlined in the University's strategic plan.

Hsu said that at the meeting she showed clips from a rally outside the Allen Building last Thursday. More than 25 students attended the rally, at which both students and faculty members called for AAS. Professor of English Houston Baker addressed the group from a megaphone. "You are post-colonial if you do not know Asian American studies," he said. "You pay $30,000 a year; don't let yourself be ignored."

Thompson said the rally and a teach-in earlier this month illustrated student interest in AAS, adding that what the administration had to do was to figure out how to link the efforts with University goals.


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