Asian-American Students Make New Demands at Cornell

Move over, Black Lives Matter.

The Cornell University student group Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA) are demanding the creation of an Asian-American Studies major to be added to the curriculum by next semester.

The group is rallying Thursday during the weekly Student Assembly to cry out and issued a letter of its demands:

The University must give Asian American Studies more resources, because students want to learn about these histories.

The current program is crucial in allowing students the opportunity to engage with the experiences of a diverse and varied community that comprises almost 25% of Cornell. For too long, the majority of these voices have been absent from or silenced on a local and national scale. We demand that the University hear us as we call for the creation of an Asian American Studies Major.

The APAA is apparently looking for its own voice to be heard over the louder voices of the Black Lives Matter movements that have swept up all the attention on American campuses over the last year. One Cornell alum penned a profane call-to-arms late last year hoping to muster up ground support.

A self-proclaimed "Asian American activist, writer, and intersectional feminist," wrote:

Fellow activists: it’s time to step the f*** up for Asian American Studies.

We need to get angry; or, if we’re already angry, we need to get angrier. We need to get out our giant Sharpies and our cardboard signs. We need to chant and protest and disrupt and agitate. We need to demand meetings with campus administrators. We need to write open letters. We need to stage walk-ins and walk-outs. We need to create hashtags and selfie campaigns and tweet the f*** out of this issue. As students, faculty, and alumni, we need to speak up about why and how Asian American Studies has mattered to us. As alumni, we need to donate.

It's not enough that Cornell's Asian-American Studies Program was already founded in 1987, it's that it is under-funded, according to APAA, and under-staffed. Essentially, it's a tiny blip on the overall radar of what Cornell offers its students.

But as The Cornell Review noted:

Even if interest in the program has grown, it is nowhere near as intense as student interest in business courses, especially finance, and computer science. Obviously, this is because, in general, business and STEM majors prepare students for higher-paying jobs outside the realm of academia. If Cornell were to create an Asian-American Studies major, it would be almost irresponsible: allowing parents/students to pay $60,000+ a year to take classes in, basically, what it means to be Asian-American.

To be sure to rub the group in all the wrong places, the piece adds: "The curriculum can be learned by befriending an Asian-American."

Furthermore, the Review recommends majoring in the already-offered China and Asia-Pacific Studies, which requires an intense four-year study of the Chinese language as well as semester-long trips to Beijing. Cornell boasts that these students often go on into the fields of consulting, diplomacy, or financial services.

The Review concludes on the absurdity of this most specific demand:

Most likely, there is but a handful of students who would actually want an Asian-American Studies major. One might guess the number is no greater than 20.

What justifies the creation of a major with no real-word applications; that is a simplified derivative of an already successful and thriving major; and that only a very small number of students would pursue?

The students behind this push make reference to Cornell’s famous “any person, any study” motto, but they misunderstand it. This guiding principle does not mean Cornell must create a major to satisfy every single person’s particular academic interests. In other words, it doesn’t mean “one student, one major.”

*The above photo was from a 23-day hunger strike by students at Northwestern in 1995, demanding the creation of an Asian American Studies Program, which they did. However, like Cornell, it never developed into a major.