Students Try to Revive Ethnic Studies Activism

ESAC focuses on establishing ethnic studies concentration

Members of the Ethnic Studies Action Committee met last night in Loker Commons to discuss ways of reviving student awareness and activism in hopes of establishing an ethnic studies concentration.

"I hope that we can get students talking about it and realizing that it's still a problem," said Michael K. T. Tan '01, referring to the College's lack of an ethnic studies department or concentration.

Committee members said they hope an ethnic studies department will eventually be established within the College.

"I think we should have a department on race and ethnic studies which has the flexibility to combine various subject matters with a theoretical basis on race and ethnicity," said Nancy G. Lin '99.

The committee envisions an interdisciplinary ethnic studies concentration with a structure similar to that of the current social studies concentration which integrates courses from different departments, several committee members said.

"I think [the concentration would] be respected, and I think a lot of people would be interested in it," said Kamil E. Redmond '00.

In the spring of 1995, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles rejected a proposal put forth by the Academic Affairs Committee which called for an increased focus on ethnic studies as well as more funding for professorships in the field.

In a 1995 letter explaining his decision, Knowles said the Faculty should not establish programs limited to "narrowly defined ethnic groups but should focus on ethnic studies generally."

Committee members also outlined their more immediate goals at last night's meeting.

"I think some realistic goals are getting more [ethnic studies] courses, visiting professors and, hopefully, tenured professors," Lin said.

Tan emphasized the need for an "institutionalized space" where students could find resources relating to ethnic studies as well as Faculty support.

Ultimately the committee hopes to craft a proposal calling for an increased focus on ethnic studies through the hiring of more ethnic studies professors as well as the establishment of an ethnic studies concentration and department.

"We're laying the groundwork for when this proposal goes to the administration, and we're trying to rebuild the network that died two years ago with this proposal," Tan said.

Lin emphasized conducting media blitzes of campus publications, talking to ethnic groups and surveying students as ways to raise student awareness.

"I think it can succeed if students become active and willing; student involvement is key," Redmond said. "Showing support vocally or writing letters [to campus publications] which help form a collective body of students will bring great success."

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