Fully restore University of Michigan's Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies

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At the height of Asian/Pacific Islander American (A/PIA) Studies at the University of Michigan, we were part of a nationally renowned program offering a wide range of courses addressing race and justice. We had engaged faculty whose activities extended far beyond the classroom and whose mentoring served our organizations and programs on nights and weekends. 

For the past 18 years, Emily Lawsin has been one of those cherished mentors. Professor Lawsin is an influential Asian American scholar and teacher as a full-time faculty member in the Department of Women’s Studies and Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan. With her classes in high demand and regularly oversubscribed, she has received multiple awards and recognitions for her teaching and public service.

Since 2013 though, A/PIA Studies has been reduced to a shadow of its former self due to decisions by administrators who have failed to appreciate the program’s value and potential. The most dedicated faculty have been fired or pushed away -- in disturbingly similar ways as others at campuses across the country. The classes and programs we built up have disappeared. Because of this, the climate for A/PIA students and everyone at the University of Michigan has become less inclusive and more hostile.

The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and the University of Michigan must recognize the incredible accomplishments of A/PIA Studies and make it a cornerstone of the campaign for diversity, equity, and inclusion. The University of Michigan has the power within its grasp to restore its national leadership in the field of A/PIA Studies.

  1. We call for the full restoration of the tenured faculty that have been lost in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies, including the restoration of the courses, scholarly expertise, student mentoring, and connections to community activism that have been lost.
  2. We call for the university to end the harassment of Professor Emily Lawsin and respect her ongoing right to a “presumption of renewal” as a Lecturer IV by immediately granting her 5-year contract extension, which was due December 31, 2017.
  3. We call for the university to reinstate Professor Scott Kurashige to his position as a Full Professor and Director of the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program.
  4. We call for the university to meet the demand for staff, funding, and physical space that students, faculty, and staff deem necessary to fulfill the curricular and co-curricular needs of A/PIA Studies and related A/PIA cultural programming and activities.
  5. We call for institutional structures that ensure the A/PIA Studies Program has the autonomy to be led by its own stakeholders who are central to the work of the program and possess the expertise needed to promote its success. We can never again allow A/PIA Studies to be undermined by short-sighted administrators or department chairs that lack the best interests of the program.
  6. We call for the formation of a commission of external Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies experts to identify additional steps UM must take to become “the leaders and the best” in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies. This commission must outline a pathway for A/PIA Studies to achieve departmental status.
  7. We call for the university to elevate its efforts and resources to combat the hate crimes and hostile climate on campus by increasing funding for student organizations dedicated to anti-racist awareness and education; hiring more ethnic studies staff and faculty; removing racist names from campus buildings; and ending the exclusion and marginalization of underrepresented minority students in admissions.


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