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Asian American Studies advances on 2 fronts

The long struggle for Asian American studies pushed ahead in both Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

The Hill reports a bill mandating the teaching of Asian American history in Wisconsin advanced out of committee for a full senate vote while at Amherst College in Massachusetts, the faculty is set to vote to offer an Asian American Studies major.

According to the Amherst Student, the fight for Asian American studies on campus began more than 50 years ago in 1972. For students such as Hibiscus Zhang, a major is long overdue. Lacking Asian American Studies, he’s been forced to develop his own program by taking a class load from multiple departments to form his own independent interdisciplinary major- Comparative Race, Migration, and Diasporic Feminist Studies in ‘Asian America.

“I’ve had to go out of my way to curate the education that I actually wanted. […] And while I do think these experiences have shaped who I am and only reaffirmed my interests in AAPI studies, it’s not something that I’d want anyone else to go through,” he told the campus student newspaper.

The vote by the faculty is set for March 8. It was made possible when earlier this month, the Faculty Executive Committee passed a proposal of an Asian American Studies major.

“I know that a program in AAPI studies has long been desired by many students and alumni, and I was pleased to see such a well-developed proposal come forward,” Professor of Mathematics and Head of the FEC Gregory Call said. “With the recent hiring of three faculty in related fields, the proposed program now has sufficient faculty staffing to mount a viable and cohesive curriculum on an ongoing basis.”

In Wisconsin, a state senate committee voted to advance a bill for Asian American Studies to the full senate.

Similar legislation has been considered in the state for 20 years, according to NBC News, but this is the first time the full Senate will get to vote on it.

“It allows students who haven’t seen themselves in textbooks to feel safer and to be able to share their stories, and for there to be an understanding amongst students, teachers and administrators about the importance of Asian American stories in our history,” state Rep. Francesca Hong.

The struggle for Asian American Studies gained momentum during the pandemic when many saw education as a key to reducing anti-Asian hate.

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