UCSD Approves Asian American & Pacific Islander Studies Minor for Fall 2020

The UC San Diego Institute of Arts and Humanities officially launched the Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies minor on Thursday, Sept. 17. The minor aims to expand the knowledge of its students and to contextualize Asian American and Pacific Islander studies within the San Diego community. 

The minor will have 21 faculty members from a variety of majors, ranging from ethnic studies and history to music and visual arts. Until this year, UC San Diego was one of the only two UC campuses that did not have an undergraduate Asian studies program, with the other campus being UC Merced. 

The Coalition for Critical Asian American Studies is a non-profit, student run organization whose purpose is to advocate for Asian American studies at UC San Diego, and has contributed to many efforts to build support for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In an open letter to the university in 2014, CCAAS made a list of demands to the university to provide for more resources and opportunities for Asian and Pacific Islander students.

The open letter called for the creation of an Asian American Studies Minor program, an Asian Pacific Islander Middle Eastern Desi American Research and Resource Center, increased funding for ethnic study programs, and other requests for increased investment in student resources.  

While CCAAS has organized mixer events for the last few years and garnered support from students and faculty, there had been no movement on getting an AAPI minor approved. According to UC San Diego Associate Professor of History and AAPI Studies Program Director Simeon Man, the turning point came this year when the university finally found a place to house the minor. 

Man said having the academic program allows students to see the history and experience of one’s culture and creates a space for students to find the group they identify with. 

Moreover, Man hopes to continue to build and strengthen relationships with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities beyond campus.This will be done partly through the Race and Oral History Project, which connects UC San Diego students with grassroots organizations representing San Diego’s racial and ethnic communities. 

Ryan Okazaki, an Eleanor Roosevelt College alumnus who graduated in 2019, agreed that there was a need for greater academic representation of the histories of traditionally marginalized communities.

“There was a lack of [educational] resources for our history and students were teaching each other about the history in [organizations like CCAAS],” said Okazaki, “I want to see my family history and my community history represented in education.” 

“Establishing [an] AAPI minor is a formal step for the university to build communication with the students and will help students establish community,” Okazaki added.

Despite the successful establishment of the new minor, Man said that a challenge is ensuring that the minor receives greater support and attention from the university.

“Establishing the AAPI Program is an important step, but in order to grow and sustain it and to make a truly supportive program for students, the university will need to allocate more resources,” said Man. “For example, Pacific Islander studies remains severely underrepresented on this campus. I would like to see the university commit to hiring more faculty in this field and to recruiting and retaining more Pacific Islander students.”  

Man added that the timing of the minor’s approval coincides with calls for racial justice and a need to stand in solidarity with other marginalized groups.

“It is important to recognize the moment we are in, and the fact that the minor is being established at a time when the Black Student Union is making demands for the university to address systemic racism in concrete ways,” Man said. “One of their demands is for UC divestment from the Thirty Meter Telescope at Mauna Kea. It’s an eloquent reminder that movements are always built in coalition with others. The AAPI program does not exist in isolation from these other struggles, and we must help amplify each other.”

The first two events for the AAPI Program are a faculty and student mixer on Thursday, Oct. 15, and a panel event titled “What Does an Abolitionist Asian American Politics Look Like?” on  Friday, Oct. 16th. Students who are interested in learning more about the program can visit the minor’s website and can fill out this form to sign up for email updates. 

Art created by Angela Liang for The UC San Diego Guardian.

This article was last updated on October 4, 2020 at 7:25 PM.