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DSG votes to support Asian American Studies program at Duke

At Wednesday’s Duke Student Government meeting, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution in support of an Asian American Studies program.

The resolution—introduced by sophomore Manish Kumar, senator for academic affairs—advocates for a program that will feature a “fully operational department, tenure-track faculty and an academic major,” according to the legislation. It also supports hiring more diverse faculty and administrators.

"Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, activism has resulted in the creation of Asian American Studies programs at various institutions,” Kumar said.

Narrating a history of Asian American Studies at Duke, Kumar explained that the push for the department began in 2002, although “nothing really happened” until 2013. In light of a fraternity hosting a "racist Asia Prime party," Kumar said that the need for a creation of an AAS program resurfaced.

“The Asian American Alliance demanded action from the administration, but [the Alliance's demands] haven’t been met to this day,” Kumar said.

A photo campaign called “Duke Doesn’t Teach Me” began last year to advertise the AAS program to the student body, and Kumar said that the campaign is ongoing.

In Nov. 2016, Valerie Ashby, dean of Trinity College, conducted an external review of the importance of AAS at Duke, the legislation notes. The review concluded that such a program would teach how Asian Americans influence the identity of America and instruct students on how to minimize discrimination in an academic setting through increasing awareness on issues like micro-aggressions and implicit bias. 

The resolution also references that 27.7 percent of Duke undergraduates identify as Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander (AAPI). It also notes that a 2015 Diversity Task Force researched AAPI faculty and found that only 14.8 percent of regular rank faculty and 13.6 percent of tenure track faculty identify as AAPI. The resolution includes a provision to support hiring more diverse faculty and administrators to help fix this discrepancy.

First-year Andrew Carlins, senator for academic affairs, presented a negative speech to the resolution. He argued that an AAS major would be “impractical.” He offered the idea of creating a certificate or minor, explaining that if students showed interest in those programs, it would be easier to gain support to create a major.

Elizabeth Barahona, vice president of equity and outreach, pushed back on Carlin's point about starting as a minor or certificate and building up to a major.

“A major is completely built on a topic; whereas, a certificate takes different topics and puts them together,” she said. “They’re not given the same resources or funding and they stay stagnant.”

At the end of questioning period, Carlins was asked where he stood on the resolution, and he responded that he would leave the resolution as it is and not recommend amending it in favor of creating a minor or certificate program. 

The resolution passed without dissent by a voice vote.

In other business

The Senate made two allocations from its programming fund on Wednesday night. They awarded $5,121.15 to the Duke Chinese Theater to put on a play called Your Life­ and the Duke Catholic Center received $1,680 to host a speaker and film screening of "Speaking to Sparrows." 

Two allocations from the surplus fund were made at the meeting as well. The Senate approved a budgetary request for $362.50 to the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership for transportation costs for an event to package meals for the Durham community on MLK Day. They also allocated $1000 in funding to DevilsGate for a Small Towns Record Concert on November 18. 

Junior Kushal Kadakia, DSG’s executive vice president, advocated for the budgetary allotment. The legislation comes with a provision specifying that the future relationship between DSG and DUU will entail sharing costs amongst groups, he noted.

“A big push this year for DSG is to partner [with] DUU to harness both of our groups’ resources so we can reach as many students as possible,” Kadakia said.

The Senate also chartered the Duke Psychology Majors Union, which will host information sessions and provide help to undergraduates to engage their interests in the major, and student group Actively Moving Forward, which seeks to provide peer support to students grieving losses.

Dellinger presented the amendment to the by-laws for the Young Trustee Nominating Committee—discussed at last week’s meeting—that change the minimum number of committee members from 10 to eight and enable a quorum to be assembled at seven members. The amendments passed.

The Senate approved FORM magazine to reallocate funds within the $5,800 they were allocated by SOFC towards printing expenses. This follows a ruling by the DSG judiciary that the magazine could apply for annual budget funds for this year after issues with filing paperwork on time originally resulted in them being left out of DSG's budget for the school year.

Stefanie Pousoulides | Investigations Editor

Stefanie Pousoulides is The Chronicle's Investigations Editor. A senior from Akron, Ohio, Stefanie is double majoring in political science and international comparative studies and serves as a Senior Editor of The Muse Magazine, Duke's feminist magazine. She is also a former co-Editor-in-Chief of The Muse Magazine and a former reporting intern at PolitiFact in Washington, D.C.


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