YTF Concert Ticket/Swag Giveaway!


Hello Folks!

YTF is giving away TWO FREE concert tickets and t-shirts to promote their upcoming concert!

What’s YTF?

YTF (Yesterday,Today, Forever) is an entertainment group comprised of awesome Youtube celebrities such as Ryan Higa (“NigaHiga”) and Kevin Wu (KevJumba). They have developed a live concert show that takes elements from their youtube channels to create a unique entertainment experience for fans.

There are two ways to enter the raffle for two free tickets:

1) Get your tweet on

  • Follow APSA UCI and YTF Global on Twitter
  • Tweet “I’m a fan of @APSAUCI and @ytfglobal! #ytfucicontest
  • Tag 3 friends with your tweet

2) Facebook it!

  • Friend APSA UCI on Facebook
  • “Like” YTFGlobal on Facebook
  • Comment on YTFGlobal’s wall with the phrase “I’m a fan of APSA UCI and YTF!”


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What’s Happening @ UCI: Advocacy Edition

ASUCI Elections coming up – Thoughts?
ASUCI Election Packets was just released this week! Do you know who you’re voting for? What are your thoughts on those who have already declared candidacy?

ASUCI Legislations: Dr. Hazem Chehabi and the University of California Irvine’s stance on Human Rights and Diversity
A couple of interesting legislations – one written by Vasquez-Ruiz and another by Gamble. Check ‘em out. They’re kind of awesome.

March 1: Day of Action and Resistance Fair
On Thursday, Take Back UCI had a Day of Action/Resistance Fair to promote the student movement and the student movement’s impact on preserving the UC.

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In Response to Peter Hoekstra’s Superbowl Campaign Ad

From APSA @ UC Irvine

On Sunday, February 5th, a racially offensive television advertisement was aired during the Superbowl. This advertisement was created by Peter Hoekstra’s campaign team to promote his bid for the US Senate. The advertisement was targeted against his opponent, Debbie Stabenow, as she is accused of contributing to the China’s economic prosperity at the expense of the US economy. The advertisement featured an Asian woman who spoke in broken English. In the video, she thanks Stabenow for alleged US policies that increased US debt to China, strengthened the Chinese economy, and allowed Chinese people to take jobs from US citizens. This advertisement is blatantly racist because it frames Chinese Americans as ‘job stealers’ and that Chinese Americans are to blame for the US’s poor economy.

We are offended and disgusted by the advertisement because it falsely portrays Asian Americans as an enemy of the US economy. This video and its accompanying website sends the message that though many Asian Americans were born in the US, schooled in the US, and even work in the US, they will always be seen as perpetual foreigners. This advertisement is an indication that we are not living in a post-racial society and that Asian stereotypes are alive and strong today. The fact that this advertisement was approved and aired during the Superbowl is worrisome because of the impact that the media has on tainting the minds of our society to find truth in stereotypes. This message is dangerous for our communities because it paves way for Asian Americans to becoming the scapegoat in times of struggle and challenges.

This video advertisement is a painful reminder of how dangerous stereotyping can be for the Asian American community. We cannot help but to remember Vincent Chin, a fellow resident of Michigan, who was brutally beaten to death in June of 1982. For similar reasons as pointed out in the video, Chin, due to his appearance, was blamed for taking the jobs of “Americans.” Following a flurry of accusations, Chin became a victim of a hate crime, which was the result of the portrayal of Asian Americans as the perpetual foreigner and the enemy of the US economy. We want to highlight the magnitude of the effects of Asian American stereotypes because it is important to be aware that stereotypes can be averse and extremely dangerous impacts on the well-being of our communities.

Since the advertisement has aired, the video and website has been removed from Hoekstra’s campaign. However, he refuses to apologize for the Superbowl advertisement. We want to call upon Mr. Hoekstra to reconsider his refusal to apologize. We urge him to recognize and apologize for the insensitive, stereotypical portrayal of Chinese Americans in the Superbowl advertisement and its accompanying website.

We ask the voters to not support Peter Hoekstra in his campaign for the US Senate. Let us all do our best to keep this man from holding public office, especially one as esteemed as the US Senate.

We ask for those who have seen the video to start discussions on what it means to be an Asian American in the US and to raise awareness that we are not living in a post-racial society.

We ask for those who have not seen the video, to watch it in order become aware of how Asian Americans are being perceived by society. It is important to be aware that racial thoughts and ideas are still prevalent today because we claim to be living in a post-racial society but this video is evidence that we are not. In order to progress as a community of critical thinkers, it is important to be aware of the problem first before addressing how to remedy the problem.

More than ever, this advertisement is a strong indication that we all need to become critical thinkers and unite as a community to combat the racial stereotypes that target our identities and ridicule our roots, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds.

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Needs Attention Memo and Responses

Needs Attention Memo Link

Student Response

To Whom It May Concern:

We, the students, are greatly concerned with the “Needs Attention” Memo sent to the School of Humanities on November 15, 2011. This alarming memo addressed African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Women’s Studies, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Literatures, French and Italian, and German, as well as the Chicana/o- Latina/o Studies Department in the School of Social Sciences. With this selection of targeting, we feel that this is an attack on studies that are crucial to the development of critical consciousness among students and the UCI community.

Disseminated through the School of Humanities, this memo undermines the scholarly distinction of these programs and criticizes faculty for failing to meet manufactured expectations and requirements, which remain conveniently unknown. These departments are targeted on the basis of “productivity” measured in terms of low student-to-faculty ratios, a characteristic that is usually regarded as essential to a quality education.  As a result, the seemingly arbitrary elimination of critical studies seems to stem from the broader context of systematically removing programs that do not benefit the corporate structure.

We feel disturbed by the severe lack of methods used to determine of the “collective role and place” of many of these Interdisciplinary Programs [IDP] on our campus. If the writers of this memo had legitimately researched for qualitative evidence regarding the success of IDPs, they would find concrete evidence and stories of the meaningful impact these units offer students in areas of critical thinking, identity and cultural competency, understanding historical legacies and struggles, and the futures of our diverse communities. We believe there is no legitimacy in this memo’s ability to critique scholarly quality of these programs when the writers have proven no expertise in these fields.

Not once does this memo provide meaningful solutions to the “low enrollments and low student-faculty ratios” it describes, other than making problematic allusions to consolidating these units.  Therefore, we see a disturbing contradiction in the fact that the memo labels these units as “Needs Attention”, without expressing any genuine concern or commitment; this reveals the austerity politics and damaging lack of institutional support from the University in this manufactured time of hardship.  We believe the members of the Academic Planning Group should engage in conversation with the IDP Department Chairs and students in order to discern what support the IDP units need, and how we can collectively create solutions to attract more students to these crucial majors.

Much of the UCI community is uneducated about the Third World Liberation Front, comprised of students of the Civil Rights movement who recognized the exclusion of their histories and identities in their University curriculum.  Starting in 1968, students fought to institutionalize the representation of their narratives at San Francisco State College, in order to make their education more relevant and accessible for marginalized communities.  At UC Irvine, the original establishment of Ethnic Studies also started from the student’s struggle in the early 1990’s when many organizations built a coalition named the Ethnic Students Coalition Against Prejudicial Education (E.S.C.A.P.E.).

Despite the fight that has carried on throughout generations, it is evident that University systems insistently take advantage of budget crises to threaten the existence of Ethnic and Critical Studies first.  Still today, we will continue to fight against any ideologies that fail to prepare students with cultural competency and develop their critical consciousness, both of which are necessary in recognizing and fighting institutional injustices.  Therefore, we demand the writers of this memo to re-evaluate its ways of devaluing the School of Humanities and other IDP units, and to cease its actions in treating the University as an enterprise.

We demand the following:

1) Stop the cuts and sustain Interdisciplinary Departments & Programs.
2) Reform the Multicultural general educational requirement to mandate all students to take at least two Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, or Ethnic Studies courses.
3) Establish and support a UCI School of Ethnic Studies and Critical Theory Studies.

Ethnic Students Coalition Against Prejudicial Education (E.S.C.A.P.E)

Alyansa ng mga Kababayan

American Indian Student Association

Asian Pacific Student Association

ASUCI Office of the Executive Vice-President

Black Student Union

Black Educated Men

Central American Student Association

Ethiopian Student Association

Filipinos Unifying Scientist-Engineers in an Organized Network (FUSION)


Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán 

Pilipino-Americans in Social Studies

Pilipino Pre-Health Undergraduate Student Organization

Asian American Studies Response

December 6, 2011

To: Vicki Ruiz, Dean, School of Humanities
From: Jim Lee, Chair, Department of Asian American Studies
Re: Addendum to Budget Reduction Memo in response to APG and EVC/P memo

This memo serves as the Department of Asian American Studies’s response to the memo from the APG and EVC/P that you forwarded to Humanities chairs and directors via email on November 15, 2011. It also serves as an addendum to the memo that I sent to you on November 9, 2011. Imbedded in this response are comments related to the Ph.D. Program in Culture and Theory.

We wish to address and correct the deep factual and narrative inaccuracies in the memo, which include the following:

• We challenge the claim that our Department has “very low” undergraduate enrollment, since by memo’s own measure, our SCH for 2009-10 are in excess of 1209, not far from the “exceptional” number Classics enjoyed during this same period. On the contrary, the ten-year record shows that Asian American Studies has held consistently high enrollments, and that this high rate of enrollment has “not changed much over the years.”

• Asian American Studies, as well as the other targeted interdisciplinary programs, have and continue to serve the Ph.D. program in Culture and Theory at every level. Asian American Studies faculty have taught in the Program’s Core series, and have individually mentored Culture and Theory students, whether serving on qualifying committees, dissertation committees or directed readings. The assertion that faculty participation from the IDPs is “significantly less than anticipated” is patently false; one even wonders the how “significant participation” is measured.

• Enrollments in Culture and Theory have remain relatively low because block funding has remained low. That said, Culture and Theory admissions rate is more selective than many other graduate programs in the School. The claim that neither the IDPs nor Culture and Theory are NRC-ranked—faulty a ranking system as it is—and thus constitute a liability is specious; it is not the fault of the programs that the NRC does not recognize this graduate program, but the all-too- narrow and fallacious scope of the NRC itself: do not criticize the object under scrunity when lens scrutinizing is flawed to begin with.

• The claims that “not one [member of the IDP] has served as director and few have taught core or elective courses” for Culture and Theory are also false. Inderpal Grewal, formerly a core member of Women’s Studies (and now at Yale), was the Program’s first Director; Arlene Keizer, who served as Director from 2009-11 is a core member in African American Studies, and Jim Lee, Chair of Asian American Studies, is its current Director. Glen Mimura, also a former Director, was until very recently an active affiliate of Asian American Studies (formerly Core), and even served on a search committee for the Department’s recent hire.

• We contend that the overemphasis, even obsession, with one metric of “excellence” or “coherence” (i.e. the NRC rankings), prevents our colleagues across campus to see how the

members of Asian American Studies demonstrate visible “quality” and “excellence.” The following constitute but do not exhaust other criteria for evaluating quality and excellence: Linda Vo is an elected Board Member of the Association for Asian American Studies and is an Advisory Board Member of the Journal of Asian American Studies and Co-Chairs the American Studies Association-Japanese Association for American Studies Project Advisory Committee. She has also been recognized as one of “25 to Watch” emerging great academics in Diverse magazine. Claire Kim is co-chair of the Committee on the Status of Asian Pacific Americans of the American Political Science Association, serves as Associate Editor of American Quarterly, the journal of the American Studies Association, and sits on the Editorial Board of Kalfou, a comparative ethnic studies journal headed by George Lipsitz of UCSB. Dorothy Fujita-Rony has sat on the boards of the Filipino American National Historical Society and Labor and Working Class History Association. James Lee continues as an editor of the Heath Anthology of American Literature. Christine Balance has won over $17,000 of extramural grant money; Claire Kim received an $8000 grant from the UC Center for New Racial Studies just last year.

• We do not understand why the otherwise inaccurate statement that Asian American Studies and other IDPs have “trouble attracting and retaining chairs/directors” is at all a measure of quality, excellence, or productivity, and we would invite then the APG and EVC/P to apply this same principle to the local cultures of other academic units.

• The memo makes liberal use of the phrases “measures of quality and productivity” and yet is at pains to apply these so-called measures vaguely, unevenly, and inconsistently. To wit: Classics is lauded as enjoying “clarity of purpose and focus” and an “exceptional number of SCH” to “outweigh the relatively low number of students [majors?] compared to the number of faculty.” But by this measure, Asian American Studies falls into this category as well: our SCH matches that of Classics, and our curriculum demonstrates the interdisciplinary breadth that mirrors the national and international field of Asian American Studies. Even a cursory glance at our course offerings and major requirements shows that our program’s curriculum is consistent with Asian American Studies programs around the nation.

• Programmatic coherence is touted a number of times as so-called evidence of a given unit’s quality and/or excellence. But the criteria by which “coherence” is determined is never made clear: what does the memo mean by coherence? Methodological? Disciplinary? Ideological? And if any of these, isn’t such coherence worth challenging and debating lest it turn into calcified, ahistorical, untested “knowledge?” Moreover, we challenge this notion that coherence is an intrinsic academic or scholarly virtue worth upholding. Is not an engagement with a diversity of ideas, approaches, objects of study, indeed an interrogation of the very contours of knowledge a measure of quality that is at least equal to if not more worthy of evaluation than coherence? Is singular approach truly better than multiplicity?

• On diversity: we are curious as to why the IDPs are targeted and bearing the brunt of this question of “[reassessing] the role of these units in our broader effort to leverage diminishing State resources,” given that (1) Asian American Studies exists at UCLA, UC Davis, and UCSB and enjoy autonomous teaching programs at UC Berkeley, UCSD, and UC Riverside; no other UC has focused so obsessively on “reassessing” on the backs of these IDPs; and (2) UCI is, along with UC Riverside, the most racial and ethnically diverse campus in the UCs. We question why it is that the most diverse units in the most diverse School on campus occupy half of those deemed “needing attention” and wonder what implicit or explicit message this sends to UCI’s stated commitment to diversity at all levels of campus life. Indeed, the very description of the School of Humanities in the General Catalogue highlights the IDPs as programs that “cut across disciplinary boundaries.” Does this targeting of Asian American Studies and the other IDPs constitute a reaction against both diversity and a return to disciplinary retrenchment? If so, then the memo is more an ideological document than one of true “policy,” but one that carries the weight of policy.

It has not escaped our attention that this memo targets the very academic units that contribute most to the stated academic goal of “[providing] students with a foundation on which to continue developing their intellectual, aesthetic, and moral capacities” (General Catalogue). A crucial dimension of this foundation is the absolute necessity in the twenty-first century to cultivate cultural competencies in multiple communities in the US and beyond. This memo serves to erode and potentially eliminate wholescale the deep legacies of knowledge and struggle that are the basis and constitutive of Asian American Studies and the other IDPs. In essence, we are being told that for some reason, under the aegis of something called “quality” or “excellence,” the stories and knowledges derived from Asian American Studies are just not excellent enough and worth studying. We find this a deeply disturbing and indeed intellectually, morally, and aeshetically bankrupt way through which to cultivate this foundation for our students, which this memo was ostensibly supposed to represent. With the call to reassess the role of the IDPs and other units deemed needing attention, this memo in essence asserts without substantiation a qualitatively different mission of the university. We wonder if this new mission of the university is one truly worth pursuing, whether in times of growth or contraction.

Women’s Studies Response


To:       Vicki Ruiz, Dean of the School of Humanities
From:  Jennifer Terry, Chair of the Department of Women’s Studies
Date:   December 7, 2011

Re:       Addendum to Budget Reduction Memo in Response to APG and EVC/P memo

This memo is the response by the Department of Women’s Studies to the memo sent to chairs and directors in the School of Humanities via email on November 15, 2011. Herein we address and correct several of the notable inaccuracies in that memo.

  • Operating under the instructions we have repeatedly received from the upper-administration, we have concentrated on student credit hours, and in this category, our enrollments are comparable to or better than other units of the same size or larger than ours. We were never given a directive that we should concentrate specifically on increasing our number of majors nor any target number that would be deemed optimal for our number of FTEs. Of course, our goal has always been to increase our majors. We revised our curriculum in 2005 for that very reason. Because we have been told explicitly by the dean and by the EVC/P that student credit hours would be the measure of unit productivity, we have spent much energy over the past decade offering our large lecture courses that fulfill General Education requirements. That said, as of Spring 2011, we had twenty-eight students majoring in Women’s Studies, up from nineteen in Fall 2009. This increase occurred during a time when the department had sustained the loss of 2 of our 8 total FTE faculty, a 25% reduction. We have not been given the opportunity to replace these positions. However, with only 5 FTE ladder faculty members and 1 FTE Lecturer, we have steadily increased our majors and continue to do so.
  • We challenge the claim that Women’s Studies has “very low” undergraduate enrollment, since by the memo’s own measure, our undergraduate SCH taught by just 6.0 FTE faculty members exceed that of other units that are not on the “Needs Attention” list. The most recent data available (2009-2010) indicate our SCH were 5,441. In terms of faculty-to-student ratios, the AGP/EVC/P report only points to major numbers for English, History, and Film and Media Studies, not to SCH. The memo should have compared the faculty-to-student SCH of these units to those of Women’s Studies. We are confident that our SCH are comparable or better. Over the past ten years, Women’s Studies has had consistently strong enrollments overall.
  • We contest the statement that Women’s Studies and the other IDPs have “trouble attracting and retaining chairs/directors.” Senior members of our department have willingly and effectively chaired the department each time a term comes up. Since the memo uses this false assertion in a discussion about the measure of quality, excellence, and productivity, we request that this point be redacted for the sake of accuracy.
  • The memo speaks of “measures of quality and productivity” without clarity about how these measures are defined and applied. For example, Classics is appraised as having “clarity of purpose and focus” and an “exceptional number of SCH” to “outweigh the relatively low number of students [i.e. majors?] compared to the number of faculty.” By this measure, Women’s Studies should be lauded for its accomplishments, rather than relegated to a status of lacking coherence. As stated above, our SCH have been consistently robust for many years and our Department has been recognized nationally and internationally for its interdisciplinary breadth and cutting-edge curriculum focusing on transnational feminist studies.
  • The memo makes reference to the NRC ratings as a key measure of “excellence” and “coherence.” We contend that the NRC ratings are narrow as is the memo’s reliance on them. This narrowness obscures – indeed makes invisible – the many contributions of our faculty to multiple disciplines and to innovative interdisciplinary scholarship nationally and internationally. Moreover, it prevents our colleagues from across the campus to see how members of the Women’s Studies department demonstrate “quality” and “excellence” by serving on the editorial boards of nationally and internationally acclaimed journals, serving as officers of professional organizations, and publishing in top university presses and journals. Over the past decade, our faculty members have been awarded large sums of extramural funding (for example, Jennifer Terry received a collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation for $640,000 in 2006-2008).
  • The memo erroneously remarks that Women’s Studies and the other IDPs “do not have PhD programs,” remarkably overlooking the fact that, from its inception, all Women’s Studies faculty members have served as core faculty in the Culture and Theory PhD program. It then goes on to speak rather dismissively about the Culture and Theory PhD by erroneously asserting that the program was “supposed to provide access to graduate students for faculty in these [IDP] programs, but that does not seem to have worked.” This statement is patently false: our faculty members have taught seminars, conducted directed readings, and provided academic advising and dissertation supervision to Culture and Theory students. Each chair of Women’s Studies has served on the Executive Committee of the program and been integrally involved in curriculum development, admissions, and recruitment. In addition, we employ Culture and Theory students as TAs for our large undergraduate courses, providing them an opportunity to learn to teach in interdisciplinary classrooms with innovative tools suitable to learning in the 21st century. The key reason why the Culture and Theory program lost its initial momentum was the suspension of admissions during the third year of its very existence, a decision that was made by the then-director on the grounds that the Graduate Division would not commit funds to support a small cohort of new students. Putting a program on a starvation diet and then blaming it for not thriving is disingenuous to say the least. The Culture and Theory program is intellectually vital and viable. It has suffered from a lack of resources, not from a lack of faculty commitment. We request that the APG and EVC/P redact its memo in light of these facts.
  • Our long-standing and vital Graduate Feminist Emphasis is mentioned in passing in the memo only to relegate it to a trivial status, given that it is not intelligible within the narrow grid recognized by the NRC. The GFE provides a coherent program of study for graduate students from other departments, who receive specialized training in feminist epistemology, methodology, and pedagogy. GFE students benefit from teaching experience in Women’s Studies courses, joining a vibrant interdisciplinary research community, and they are qualified for a wider range of job positions upon graduation than their peers in their home departments. Since its implementation in 1994, the GFE has been awarded to 112 PhD students from programs around the campus. Many of its recipients have gone on to acquire tenure-track positions in departments seeking expertise in women’s studies, gender studies, and feminist studies. We ask that the APG and EVC/P rectify this oversight.
  • On the subject of programmatic coherence, as invoked in the memo to be a sign of quality and/or excellence, we question how “coherence” is being defined and measured. Our curriculum is carefully crafted and our courses are designed to meet the goals explicitly stated in our department’s mission statement, which itself incorporates much of what the University has stated to be its goals. Our expertise in feminist transnational studies has established our predominance, and we enjoy the reputation of being among the best departments of women’s studies in the country. Our last external review appraised the department for its stellar quality, stating, “UCI has put together an impressive ensemble of faculty and classes to produce a unique and highly promising, interdisciplinary course of study at the graduate as well as undergraduate level in Women’s Studies. The quality, rigor, and potential of the program are beyond question.”
  • We question why Women’s Studies and the other IDPs that enhance the diversity of the University are being singled out to bear the burden of this question of “[reassessing] the role of these units in our broader effort to leverage diminishing State resources.” Women’s Studies exists at every other UC campus that offers undergraduate education, and yet no other UC campus has focused so heavily on “reassessing” resources by targeting Women’s Studies or other interdisciplinary programs such as African American Studies and Asian American Studies – programs that fulfill the mission of the UC to provide an intellectual foundation for living in a diverse world. Over the past few years, Women’s Studies and each of the IDPs have been proactive in carefully trimming our already small budgets. Three years ago, Women’s Studies consolidated our staff with Comparative Literature and German and we were held up as a model of efficiency for doing so. We teach large numbers of students from all across the campus. We regularly host research colloquia with invited participants from other UC campuses and beyond, and we do so on a bare-bones budget. In the current need for a cost-benefit analysis of academic performance, we therefore question why the APG and EVC/P are targeting units that clearly have been doing so much with so few resources. Our vital contributions to the University and, indeed, to the larger contexts of California, the United States, and the rapidly diversifying world should be respected, not targeted for reduction.

We offer these data and clarifications so that the APG and EVC/P may rectify unfounded claims upon which our department was assessed and placed in the “needs attention’ category. We request a re-evaluation of our standing on the basis of the accurate and up-to-date data included in this memo. Although the APG/EVC/P memorandum did not include instructions detailing the precise format of the appeal process, we submit this memo to you as the first step in such an appeal.

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Glenn Omatsu APAAC Keynote

Thank everyone who came out to our 27th Annual Asian Pacific American Awareness Conference. In case you missed our keynote by Professor Glenn Omatsu, read his inspirational words of wisdom here:

Glenn Omatsu

APAAC, UC Irvine, Jan. 28, 2012

The Movement, Then and Now

      I want to thank the Asian Pacific Student Association for inviting me to join this gathering this morning.  I especially want to thank APSA leader Kevin Mori and Prof. James Lee of the Asian American Studies Department.

This is the second time I am giving the keynote speech at this important conference.  The first time was in the early to mid-1990s during a time period that is remarkably similar to now.  At that time, I emphasized the key role of students, especially in the struggle for Asian American Studies.  In the early 1990s, APSA focused on gaining Asian American Studies for this campus.  This morning, I want to again emphasize the power of Asian Pacific students, but now your focus is not to establish Asian American Studies but to defend it from attacks and expand it.  These attacks are happening in the broader context of Right-wing campaigns against rights of immigrants, people of color, and low-income communities.

Let me very quickly explain why defending and expanding Asian  American Studies is so important.  While most believe that Asian American Studies is defined by its subject matter, it is actually more than simply the study of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  Asian American Studies is defined by its epistemology – its special approach to knowing about the world and changing it while simultaneously changing oneself. This special approach exists as a challenge to the mainstream university in terms of teaching and research, the roles of students and faculty, and the relationship of the university to communities.  This means that anyone who takes a class or teaches a class in Asian American Studies has a responsibility to move beyond mainstream university practices, such as seeing knowledge only in terms of individual advancement.  To be a student or a faculty member in Asian American Studies means living within the dialectic of resisting constant pressures to conform to mainstream university practices while upholding our special mission.

The theme of this conference – identifying the Movement in terms of “then and now” – is very important.  We need to connect past struggles to current ones.  However, let me explain what I will talk about and what I won’t.  I won’t talk about my own history as an activist, which began as a student activist in the late 1960s. I won’t analyze achievements from that time period or important leaders.  I won’t cover legacies from that period, other than to say that these legacies remain alive today in our communities, largely through the work of young activists sitting in this room today.

Instead, I want to focus on critical challenges facing student activists today, especially on this campus.  I will talk about these by connecting them to similar challenges confronting APSA activists in the early 1990s.  By looking back to their victories, I do not want to give the impression that student activists then were more numerous, more committed, or did a better job of mobilizing communities than students today.

All young activists – including myself when I was in my twenties – believe that in our communities there was once “a golden period” of activism.  We conceptualize this “golden period”  as one of large-scale activism and higher consciousness than the present, which is often described in terms of apathy and lack of action.  We then seek ways to recapture this “golden period,” often by replicating ideas and actions from that time period.

In reality, there is no past “golden period” of Asian Pacific activism.  Or, more accurately, the “golden period” that we seek exists potentially within ourselves and will emerge through our collective ability to connect legacies from past struggles to current ones.  Thus, as activists, we need to know the common questions that confront all generations, but we need to be able to answer these enduring questions in the context of new conditions facing us.

By the phrase “the common questions that confront all generations,” I refer to core questions, such as:  How can we unite all that can be united against the forces of oppression?  How can we raise awareness in our communities and get more people involved?  How can we create actions that effectively promote changes in institutions?  How can we use participation in movements to change society to also transform ourselves so that we can promote righteousness without becoming self-righteous?  These are the questions that young activists ask today, but they are the same questions asked in the early 1990s, in the late 1960s, and even by immigrant activists in the late 1800s.

By the phase “to be able to answer these enduring questions in the context of new conditions,” I emphasize the necessity for today’s activists to analyze what is new.  One way of doing this is to understand that past struggles when they are successful create new conditions.  Thus, while the questions raised by activists today are the same as in past generations, today’s activists can answer these questions differently due to what past generations achieved.

This morning I want to emphasize one significant new condition for APSA today:  Student activists in this room are more powerful than their counterparts from two decades ago.  They are also more powerful than Asian Pacific student activists in the late 1960s.  In a few minutes, I will explain why I believe this and how APSA can use this new power.

Back in the early to mid-1990s when I spoke at this conference, I emphasized the power of student activism to win Asian American Studies on this campus.  I connected the student struggle to broader trends in U.S. society at that time.  These broader trends are very similar to what is occurring now.

The early 1990s was a period of both intense racial conflict – exemplified by the 1992 L.A. Riots and Uprising – and also significant work by activists in all communities to form powerful interethnic alliances.  The early 1990s was also a period of severe attacks on rights of immigrants, which culminated in 1994 with the passage of Proposition 187 by California voters.  Although major portions of this proposition were quickly declared unconstitutional by a federal court, this racist legislation has served as the basis for current laws targeting immigrants in states like Arizona and Alabama.  The early 1990s also saw major attacks on communities of color and low-income communities, such as the dismantling of affirmative actions programs first by the UC Regents and later by California voters.  The early 1990s was also a time of U.S. warfare, notably the First Gulf War in the Middle East and the accompanying hate crimes in the U.S. homeland against Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and those who looked like them.  Finally, the early 1990s was a period of economic hardships, with the burden borne by low-income people, new immigrants and refugees, and communities of color.

All of these trends served as the broader context for the students’ movement for Asian American Studies on this campus in the early 1990s.  But their struggle was also shaped by grassroots movements occurring at that time.  At UCLA, for example, a multiracial student movement – led by Chicano activists – fought for the establishment of a Chicana and Chicano Studies Department against steadfast opposition by top administrators.  Eventually student activists joined by one professor from the sciences made the difficult decision to engage in a hunger strike to demand action from the administration.  They were inspired by the examples of Gandhi and Cesar Chavez and initiated their hunger strike with the same understanding that it could result in death or serious health problems for participants. 

During the first week of their hunger strike, the UCLA Chancellor remained unmoved.  But then a remarkable thing happened:  support for the hunger strike grew daily, both from on campus and from community groups.  This powerful support challenged the Chancellor’s insensitivity.  Why was he willing to allow students and a professor to die rather than meet the decades-long demand of students and community groups for a department?  After a two-week hunger strike, the student movement won its demands due to powerful grassroots support on both the campus and from the community.

At that time, APSA leaders such as Michelle Ko and Dean Matsubayashi studied what had occurred at UCLA.  Today, both are important community leaders with the Loyola Marymount University’s Asian Pacific Student Services office and Little Tokyo Service Center, respectively.  In the early 1990s, they and other APSA leaders realized that engaging in the same kind of hunger strike as UCLA students would not win the demand for Asian American Studies on this campus.  They identified the specific conditions facing them:  this campus had become the first majority Asian American campus in the UC system, but administrators used this achievement against them by arguing that most Asian American students did not see the need for Asian American Studies.  In addition, although APSA leaders had gained the support of several Orange County community groups, the local Asian Pacific community was still relatively new, and thus APSA activists could not replicate the tremendous grassroots mobilization achieved by UCLA activists.  Finally, due to the small numbers of Latino and African American students on this campus in the early 1990s, although APSA had been able to create a multiethnic coalition, it was not as strong as the one at UCLA. 

Based on their analysis of these conditions, APSA activists concluded that they needed a different strategy and different tactics than their UCLA counterparts.  They especially needed actions that could educate fellow students on this campus, recruit more into the movement and continue to put pressure on the administration.  What emerged from their thinking was a relay hunger strike.  This creative tactic enabled more students to join the movement.  As a result, the relay hunger strike lasted for more than a month and was critical for winning Asian American Studies.

APSA’s activism in the early 1990s also had an impact on community activism in Orange County.  One example is the campaign against racial profiling of Asian American high school and college youth by several police departments.  This campaign was initiated by high school students who were stopped in their cars by police and then illegally photographed.  Their photos were then put into an Asian Mug Book, which was used by crime victims to identify criminals.  Police departments justified this illegal practice as necessary to combat the rise in gang activity among Asian youth.  According to police, Asian gang members could be identified by the following criteria:  they drove Japanese import cars, there would be at least two people in the car, and they would be wearing baggy clothes. 

High school students with the support of APSA and UCI librarian Dan Tsang formed a community group, protested at police stations, contacted the ACLU and lawyers for help, and created “Know Your Rights” cards for high school students.  Their grassroots mobilization eventually ended the mug books and educated the Orange County immigrant and refugee community about the importance of standing up for rights and recognizing the power of young people.  This grassroots campaign is only one example of how student activism on this campus impacted off-campus communities, leading to greater empowerment.

APSA’s accomplishments in the early and mid-1990s also had an impact on campus administrators.  Although campus officials will never admit this, they now make policy changes with some consideration to how APSA will respond.  They also won’t say it, but they are aware that former APSA leaders are now important community leaders, and as UCI alumni their voices have to be listened to by campus officials.

Thus, the accomplishments of APSA activists in the early and mid-1990s helped to change the political landscape on this campus and in Orange County Asian Pacific communities.  This new landscape is the reason why I contend that student activists in this room are now more powerful than those from the early 1990s and even from the late 1960s.  Your support from community groups for this conference and the participation of many students outside the APSA membership is a testament to this power.

I want to identify ways to effectively use this power.  On this campus, the struggle to defend and expand Asian American Studies should be connected to other student struggles, especially defense of the rights of Muslim American students.  Their ongoing court case not only emphasizes students’ right to free speech but is also linked to the historical struggles for civil rights of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

All at this conference should also be aware of the attacks on Ethnic Studies occurring in other cities and at other colleges.  In Arizona, for example, politicians are attempting to eliminate the highly successful Mexican American Studies program, which has achieved outstanding graduation rates for high school students. 

Politicians have banned books, including Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, my CSUN colleague Rudy Acuña’s Occupied America, and the powerful collection of essays called Rethinking Columbus.  If you are not familiar with these books, please check them out and find out why some Arizona politicians are afraid of their impact on young people today.  The banning of books is obviously a violation of the U.S. Constitution.  But if there is only one thing that a student learns from taking an Ethnic Studies history class, it is that rights in the U.S. are fragile and only exist if people fight for them.  This is why high school students and community supporters are fighting for their rights and not relying on the courts to protect their lives.

In Arizona, the attack on Mexican American Studies is connected to a broader attack on rights of immigrants and low-income communities.  In other words, it is part of a larger political agenda, and student activists promote awareness of these larger issues through their actions.

Similar to what has occurred in Arizona, last year at Cal State L.A. one official suspended the Asian and Asian American Studies program.  He justified his decision by citing low enrollment in classes and small numbers of majors but never acknowledged the lack of funds and support for the program from administrators.

At both Cal State L.A. and in Arizona, powerful multiethnic alliances led by students mobilized against the attacks.  Today’s student activists have learned from the struggles of past generations and formed student-community coalitions that are multiracial and multi-generational.

In Arizona, the student movement is led by high school students who are directly affected by the attacks.  At Cal State L.A., the multiethnic student alliance successfully beat back the administration’s efforts to eliminate Asian and Asian American Studies.  However, the students remain vigilant, realizing that their opponents have not gone away.

The campaigns of students at Cal State L.A. and in Arizona are also part of an upsurge of activism across the U.S. in the past six months, symbolized by the numerous Occupy campaigns.  I support these campaigns, and I urge others to do so too.  However, these campaigns also give Asian Pacific students an opportunity to reflect on the special legacy of Asian Pacific activism, which is similar to but also different from the high-profile forms we see going on around us.

Understanding our special activist legacy will help students in this room respond to the challenges facing them.  It will also enable them to use their power creatively and effectively.

To explain the legacy of Asian Pacific activism, I want to focus on a mural on this campus.  It is now housed at the Asian American Studies Department, and there is an interesting story behind the mural and the artist who created it.  This story will enable me to concretely explain what I mean by the legacy of Asian Pacific activism and how it differs from the prevailing approach to activism seen in America.

The mural was created by Darryl Mar, a UCI and APSA alumnus who is now working as an animator for many children’s projects.  Darryl is a private person, and I know what I say about him would embarrass him, but I hope he will understand why I am focusing on his mural project.  He is a talented artist, and after finishing the UCI mural he went on to create several more murals.  There is one at UC Riverside, one at UCLA, and one on the walls of a housing project in San Francisco Chinatown.  There is also a magnificent mural he did with fellow artist Tony Osumi on a building in Koreatown.  Unfortunately, that mural was covered over, but it may be discovered fifty years from now by community archaeologists and restored and preserved as an important cultural artifact.

Darryl’s name is probably not prominent in APSA archives.  He never defined himself an activist or a leader, but he fervently supported the need for Asian American Studies, and after graduating from this campus in the early 1990s he entered the UCLA grad program to further learn how he could develop his skills as a community-based artist and serve his community.  In his first year of graduate work at UCLA, he decided to create an Asian American history mural for APSA.  He saw the mural as his way of using his talents to give back to this campus and contribute to the student movement.

As an artist, Darryl was used to creating projects by himself.  He developed the historical themes for the mural and decided to fill it with famous Asian American leaders.  Each evening after his graduate classes at UCLA, he would work for several hours on the mural in his apartment near campus.  But he soon realized that working on the mural this way would mean that he would not be able to complete it for several years.  He seriously thought about abandoning the project.

From his discussions with UCLA student activists connected to the Asian Pacific Coalition and Asian American Studies Center, he heard an intriguing idea.  The students suggested that he should bring the mural to the UCLA campus and allow others who were non-artists to help him work on it.  Initially, he didn’t like the idea, but he also realized that Irvine students were expecting the mural, and this would be the only way he could finish it quickly.

Involving other students in the mural changed Darryl in unexpected ways.  Many of the students who volunteered to help him were women, and when they saw Darryl’s original design, they gently criticized him for its content.  All of the historical figures in the mural were male.  They asked for the inclusion of women.  Other volunteers gently criticized Darryl for putting only famous people in the mural, and through these conversations he realized that his original attraction to Asian American Studies was to tell the stories of ordinary people like his grandfather.  Still other volunteers gently suggested to Darryl that he should include the histories of other Asian Pacific American groups instead of only Chinese and Japanese.  Finally, several volunteers gently urged Darryl to link his historical images to contemporary issues, and he realized that their recommendation was another core teaching in Asian American Studies.

For several intense weeks, Darryl worked with volunteers to complete the mural.  Afterward, he said the experience was exhilarating.  In the past, all his art projects had been individual ones.  As a result, he usually felt burned out near the end.  The mural was his first experience in working collectively, and the process energized him.  He said the experience also changed him as a person.  He learned how to listen and incorporate the ideas of others, while also emphasizing his own vision.  From women activists who helped on the project, he learned the necessity to incorporate women’s voices and women’s issues into his work and not to be defensive when gently criticized by others.

I have spent several minutes focusing on Darryl and the story behind this mural because it can serve as a way to concretely understand what I refer to as the special legacy of Asian Pacific activism.  Unlike activists in the broader U.S. movement who openly proclaim their activism, there are many in our Asian Pacific movement who, like Darryl, contribute their talents but do not self-define themselves as activists.  The challenge for APSA leaders is to be able to create activities within its campaign to allow these people to contribute to the movement.  In other words, while the emphasis in the broader American activist movement is to highlight a few activist leaders and to get many people to work together as a single mass to do one common thing at one particular time, the legacy of Asian Pacific activism focuses on encouraging people to contribute their talents in both big and small ways through many activities that are connected together.

The story of Darryl and the mural also highlights the importance of discussions, especially informal dialogues, in clarifying ideas.  These informal interactions are just as important as formal meetings and often more important in the history of activism in our communities.  In contrast, in the broader U.S. activist movement, the emphasis is on formal meetings where all discussions and decisions are thought to occur.

The story of Darryl and the mural also illustrates the practice of militant humility among Asian Pacific activists.  Militant humility has been passed down to each generation by previous generations, and student activists in the early 1990s learned this value from Philip Vera Cruz and Yuri Kochiyama.  While in the broader U.S. activist movement, the emphasis is only on militancy and being humble is regarded as being weak, there is a long tradition of militant humility in Asian Pacific communities.  Asian Pacific activists also know that practicing militant humility is often difficult because it requires ideological clarity.  Teachers such as Philip Vera Cruz emphasized the need to be humble towards those we serve but to be militant towards those who oppress us and others.  During the mural project, student activists working with Darryl learned to criticize him gently.  In contrast, in his previous work at Irvine he encountered other activists, mainly white, who criticized him in the same way they criticized top campus administrators. 

Finally, the story of Darryl and the mural shows how personal transformation of lives is integrally linked to participation in movements for social change.  Through the process of collectively working with others on a mural project to educate people about Asian American Studies, Darryl said that he became both a better person and better artist.  He confronted his sexism, his ethnocentrism, and his own ego.  He learned also that he did not have to feel self-conscious or defensive about not being an activist because others appreciated his contributions to the movement.

Let me end my talk today by summarizing from this concrete example of Darryl Mar and the mural what the legacy of Asian Pacific activism is and how students today can use this legacy.

Asian Pacific activism is not simply a set of beliefs or a series of actions; more accurately, it is a way of living.  It is practicing militant humility in transforming society while transforming ourselves.  It is learning how to give back our talents – in both small and big ways – to build our community around the principles of justice, equality, and righteousness.  It is propagating the practice of Shared Leadership rather than the individualistic style of command leadership commonly seen in the U.S. today, even in progressive movements.  It is honoring our historical legacy – rooted in immigrant worker struggles of the late 1800s and early 1900s and in earlier peasant uprisings in Asia and the Pacific – and sharing this legacy with the generations that follow us.  Asian Pacific activism is helping people around us deal with uncertain situations and dark times by recognizing the power within themselves.

Obviously, Asian Pacific activism is not practiced only by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, but is common to many people of color in ongoing struggles against colonialism and oppression.  However, in the broader U.S. activist movement today, this alternative approach to activism is not always recognized or valued.  Thus, it is vital for young Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to share our vision of activism to help other activists.  Other U.S. activists need to understand that there are alternative approaches that they need to acknowledge, respect, and follow. 

We can best teach other activists about the legacy of Asian Pacific activism by practicing it in our daily work.  In our daily work, we can show others how to practice humility along with militancy and to develop the ideological clarity to understand this activist value.  We can help others to engage in personal transformation along with social change.  We can nurture Shared Leadership in our campaigns rather than individualist notions, and we can encourage all in our networks to serve communities with their talents.  And most of all, we can show why we define activism not in terms of set of beliefs or a series of actions but as our way of living.

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Breaking News: Noose Message found on UC Davis Campus

posted by "M" in comments below

This morning at the annual Students of Color Conference (SOCC) a discriminatory, derogatory, and disappointing message was found on a tree of the UC Davis campus. The message was written on a yellow ribbon tied to a tree. The yellow ribbon was amongst many placed on trees throughout the campus in support and remembrance of Veteran’s day. The message read: “Use me as a noose.”

This hate crime brings back unfortunate actions and sentiments of the past when a noose was found in the library of UC San Diego in 2010. It is representative of the hate and bigotry still present across our UC campus climate and is a most unfortunate situation coinciding with the occurrence of a progressive and peaceful conference where students across UC gather annually to combat such discrimination and hate.

A picture of the ribbon to follow soon.

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America apologizes for the Chinese Exclusion Laws

Up until now, the American government has apologized for the forced syphilis testing on Guatemalans as well as the unjust treatment of Native Americans but now another apology can be added to the list that holds great significance not only for the API community but for the altering role of a multicultural America.

Senate Resolution 201 was passed October 10 addressing the Chinese Exclusion laws.  OCA, a national non-profit organization that stands for the API community stated,

“The Senate’s unanimous support of Resolution 201 represents a victory, not only for our community, but all groups that may have suffered in the past as a result of exclusionary policies. This reaffirms the beliefs of so many immigrants that we are a nation built on diversity, inclusion, and opportunity,” said OCA National President Ken Lee.

The Chinese Exclusion Laws were a series of legislative acts that explicitly discriminated against Chinese laborers and were later expanded to all persons of Chinese descent.  They were the first to restrict a group of immigrants based on race and class. The laws were later repealed in 1943 without any formal apology.

“The Chinese Exclusion Act had a profound effect on Asian Americans affecting many aspects of our society for nearly sixty years. It is a time in our history that America tried to forget but that we, as a community, have fought to have remembered. This is a great win toward that effort,” said OCA Interim Executive Director, Tom Hayashi.


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