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South Asian Student Groups Discuss #MeToo and Aziz Ansari

UPDATED: February 14, 2018 at 4:52 p.m.

Undergraduate South Asian student organizations gathered to discuss the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment, and entertainment on Thursday evening in the wake of a recent viral article that accused comedian Aziz Ansari of sexual misconduct.

The discussion, co-sponsored by the South Asian Association, South Asian Women’s Collective, and South Asian Men’s Collective, focused on the racial and power balance implications of the allegations against Ansari, published on website Babe.net.

“When the Babe article broke, I was in conversation about it with a lot of my South Asian friends, both male and female, across the Harvard community,” said Simi N. Shah ’19, co-president of the South Asian Association. “And a lot of them, when we got back to campus, were saying, ‘You know, I keep having these conversations with people, and I think it would be nice if SAA would do some sort of round table discussion.’”

Members of the groups said they viewed the discussion, in part, as an opportunity to discuss race as it relates to the #MeToo movement.

“Oftentimes, race is left out of the discussion when we discuss sexual harassment and sexual assault,” Sruthi Palaniappan ’20 said. “So we felt that it was really important for us to have this conversation and discuss it with an intersectional lens.”

Aditi T. Sundaram ’19, co-president of the South Asian Women’s Collective, said the three organizations had previously united for health-related issues affecting the South Asian community, but that this type of formal community discussion was new.

“This would be a first step in terms of talking about social issues and political issues,” Sundaram said. “The fact that we covered a lot of ground in an hour was really encouraging. It meant that this was something that was on people’s minds.”

The student leaders of the organizations said they were grateful for the strong support shown by the students who attended.

“I think every one of us needs to continue these conversations outside of forums like this,” said Ida M. Paul ’20, a student who attended the event.

This event was the first in a series of discussions hosted by the South Asian Association this semester, and many students said they hope to continue the conversation. Palaniappan and Shah confirmed that plans for a follow-up discussion are in the works for the coming months, along with other political events.

“There’s always so much more that’s left to be talked about. I don’t even think we started to scratch the surface, and there’s no way you could in an hour on a topic that requires so much attention and conversation and constant dialogue,” Shah said.

Leaders of the groups said they hoped other groups on campus would consider holding similar conversations.

“It shouldn’t take an incident like this Aziz Ansari case to start this conversation. That shouldn’t be the catalyst,” said Aashay A. Sanghvi ’19, president of the South Asian Men’s Collective. “I think that more groups should come together and do it.”

—Staff writer Paula M. Barberi can be reached at paula.barberi@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @paulambarberi.

—Staff writer Simone C. Chu can be reached at simone.chu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @simonechu_.

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