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Wellesley’s Asian Alliance

Jyoti Tibrewala

Students at Wellesley College held a protest on Thursday and Friday to demand an Asian adviser for their Asian and Asian-American students. The Asian student population at Wellesley comprises about one quarter of the student body, while the faculty and administration is only eight percent Asian. Asian students have been demanding an adviser for two years now.

The Wellesley Asian Alliance’s Web site fails to state a real reason, however, why the fulfillment of such a position is necessary. The site states that there are several reasons why it is in the college’s best interests to comply, but only mentions one: “[The] number of campus hate crimes against Asian and Asian-American students is rising across the country. An Advisor to Students of Asian Descent would help prevent such acts by giving Asian and Asian Americans a strong voice at Wellesley.”

If you were being attacked and repeatedly asked your assailant to stop, do you really think he would? The same holds true here. People who commit hate crimes do so out of hatred for a particular group. They will continue to commit these crimes regardless of how strong the opposition is.

That isn’t to discredit some of the other motives of the protesters on Thursday. The Wellesley Asian Alliance also sought to establish an Asian Studies curriculum; students protested the denial of tenure to Prof. Elena Creef, the only professor with a specialty in the area. In addition, they demanded courses in the Korean language and South Asian history. It is essential that the school have an Asian/South Asian studies curriculum simply so that students have the option of taking such courses and potentially come out of Wellesley as more well-rounded individuals. Surely such an alternative would appeal not only to students of these cultures but also to the student body in general.

Another demand of the Wellesley Asian Alliance is an allotment of space in the new campus center specifically for Asian and Asian-American students. They claim that the current multicultural space in the student center is inadequate for all multicultural organizations. However, they go on to demand space only for their own thirteen organizations --complete with equipment specifications -- and not for all multicultural organizations at Wellesley. Pushing your own culture is wonderful, but isn’t multiculturalism also about learning to embrace cultures other than your own? The Alliance might be more successful in achieving its goals if it were to push for more campus center space for all cultural groups at Wellesley.

On a personal note, the Wellesley sit-in makes me think about my experience growing up. I live in a very homogeneous community, one in which there aren’t many members of my cultural group. There were only three or four South Asian students -- none of whom I could say I knew -- in my graduating class of 100. As a result, I can’t say I’d had an awful lot of interaction with people in my cultural group before coming to MIT. The ratio was even smaller among the faculty at my school. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly noticed the difference in numbers, but I think I’m better off for it. It gave me an opportunity to learn about my friends’ cultures.

While the Wellesley Asian Alliance is justified in some of its demands, it would be to its benefit to reassess others. The call for an adviser specifically for Asian and Asian-American students is unnecessary, and the organization fails to clarify why members believe it is. The demand for additional Asian student organization space on campus -- and only for Asian student organizations -- ignores other cultural groups. Thus the organization is guilty of exactly what they accuse the administration of: ignoring multiculturalism.