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Letter: AAS initiative enjoys widespread, diverse support

We commend The Chronicle for its in-depth coverage of the Asian American Studies initiative in last Wednesday's edition. However, we would like to clarify some points for readers of that article. First and foremost, it is critical to recognize that a diverse group of students and campus organizations support the initiative. AAS is not a discipline solely representing or serving East Asian Americans; its aims are to enhance the educational experience for all students and faculty at Duke.

Perhaps unintended, the photo of the Asian Students Association's president, Christina Hsu, continues to perpetuate the widespread belief that support for AAS emanates only from Asian Americans of East Asian descent. This perception is severely problematic.

First, it misrepresents the wide-ranging efforts supporting AAS on our campus. Last April, a multi-cultural coalition of students, faculty and administrators organized the AAS teach-in. Recently, student groups ranging from the Black Student Alliance to the Hindu Students Association pledged their support through official letters to the deans. Last Wednesday, Duke Student Government unanimously passed a resolution supporting efforts to establish AAS at Duke.

Secondly, AAS can play a pertinent role in any student's education at Duke. The AAS initiative should be seen as a tool to diversify and improve the curriculum in departments such as history, English, public policy, sociology and others. Like Associate Professor of English Priscilla Wald said, AAS courses will "add to the culture and life at Duke specifically."

The field of AAS creates awareness for political, social and economic links across borders. The relevance of AAS is not limited to Americans from the Middle East, South Asia or East Asia. For the same intellectual and social reasons that African American, Latino American, Native American and Canadian American Studies are supported, so too must Asian American Studies be.

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