After years of fighting for an expansion of Northwestern's Asian American Studies program, students may be one step closer to creating an Asian American Studies major.
The fight began in 1991 when students submitted a proposal for the program, which was rejected. In the following two years, two more proposals were submitted – and rejected. The movement picked up steam again in 1995, when Northwestern students launched a 23-day hunger strike to promote the creation of an Asian-American Studies program. They received support from many students, especially other marginalized groups, but also faced backlash from then-president Henry Bienen and other students on campus.
The movement was not initially successful, but four years after the strikes, in 1999, an Asian American studies program was created. Now, students are drafting a proposal for an Asian American Studies major. On Oct. 6, APAC put out a petition to show student support for this major. It currently has about 600 signatures and is still collecting. Students are working with history and Asian American studies professor Ji-Yeon Yuh to draft the proposal.
Weinberg senior Kevin Luong, who drafted the petition, said this is a necessary major. “Asian American Studies reveal[s] a lot of narratives and stories that are often either erased or silenced,” Luong said.
Currently, the University offers an Asian American Studies minor. Students can also create their own ad-hoc Asian American Studies major. The proposed major will require 14 courses, 12 of which are in Asian American Studies. The other two will come from a related ethnic studies field, and students will also have an immersion component – for example, a senior thesis or independent research project.
"[The major will give students] a lot of the cultural skills to better understand how to function in a global, diverse world," Yuh said.
Once the draft is finished, it will go to the Dean's office, which makes some edits; a curricular review committee, which ensures that it is on par with other majors; and finally to two votes by the entire Weinberg faculty. If the proposal passes, Asian American Studies will offer a major. The hearing could be as early as Spring Quarter.
Yuh said this push is important because a major in Asian American Studies will prepare students for “a lifetime of satisfying, remunerative work."
Although the program has progressed over the years, there is still work to be done. The current program is still two faculty members short of the 1991 proposal. Earlier this spring, Northwestern’s Asian Pacific American Coalition held a commemoration for the 20th anniversary of the strikes in which over 100 people gathered to talk about both the struggle to create the program and its future. They especially focused on the role of student activism – which is evident in the efforts students have taken to get the major in action.