Asian American Issues [December 2017]

National API News Briefing

Ed Lee, the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco, passed away at the age 65. After being appointed a caretaker mayor, Lee, who was of Chinese descent, won election twice in a city known for its boisterous politics.

A survey by NPR (National Public Radio) finds that “large numbers of Asian-Americans experience and perceive discrimination in many areas of their daily lives. This happens despite their having average incomes that outpace other racial, ethnic and identity groups.” According to Harvard professor Robert Blendon, who co-directed the survey, “we are seeing again and again that income is not a shield from discrimination.”

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Key findings from the survey include: “More than three in five Asian Americans (61%) believe discrimination exists against Asian Americans in the U.S. today, while about a third have experienced slurs and insensitive or offensive comments about their race or ethnicity. A quarter or more of Asian Americans reported being personally discriminated against because they're Asian when applying for jobs, seeking equal pay or being considered for promotions, or obtaining housing.”

It also shows “a wide gap between immigrant and nonimmigrant Asian-Americans in reporting discrimination experiences, including violence and harassment” with immigrants less likely to speak up than native-born Asian Americans. The study was a collaboration of NPR, the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Download the full report here.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice launched an online hate tracker (https://www.standagainsthatred.org) this year to defend “our democracy against rising hate, intolerance, and xenophobia.” The group has documented “close to 200 hate incidents against Asian Americans from personal accounts and media reports.” According to AAAJ, the accompanying video “shows that no matter how long we live in this country, or even if we were born here, Asian Americans are seen as the ‘perpetual foreigner.’ Our hate tracker is filled with incidents of being told to ‘go back to your country’ or ‘learn to assimilate.’”

The New York Times offers an online lesson plan on “Teaching Japanese-American Internment Using Primary Resources.” December 7, 1941 marked the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military, and soon after, 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry would be rounded up and sent to internment camps. Parts of the Trump Administration’s “Muslim ban” went into effect this month, and an ACLU lawyer warns that the anti-Muslim prejudice today is the same kind that Japanese Americans faced in the 1940s. It also echoes the xenophobia against Chinese workers in the 1880s, including an infamous, violent expulsion of all Chinese persons from Tacoma, Washington on November 3, 1885.

"Children pledging allegiance to the American flag at San Francisco’s Raphael Weill Elementary School in 1942. Those whose families were of Japanese ancestry were sent to internment camps." Dorothea Lange captured a set of "rarely seen photos" on the subject of Japanese internment throughout the 1940s. Text from The New York Times

"Children pledging allegiance to the American flag at San Francisco’s Raphael Weill Elementary School in 1942. Those whose families were of Japanese ancestry were sent to internment camps." Dorothea Lange captured a set of "rarely seen photos" on the subject of Japanese internment throughout the 1940s. Text from The New York Times

The Department of Justice “has opened an investigation into the use of race in Harvard University’s admissions practices” according to the Wall Street Journal, and “has accused the university of failing to cooperate with the probe.” As reported by The Independent, “in a 17 November letter, the department wrote that Harvard was being probed under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 due to allegations that it was using race as a deciding factor in its admissions decisions…Title VI bars discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin for organizations that receive federal funding.” Facing this pressure, Harvard eventually agreed in December to “turn over years of confidential applicant and student records to the United States Justice Department, which has opened an aggressive investigation into whether the university has systematically discriminated against Asian-American applicants.”


 Stanford Activism Update (includes TO DO Action Items)

>> As Stanford plans for 2035, students and cities weigh in on equity, environment <<

Stanford University is in the midst of developing a new land and building plan—a once-every-two-decades process that will significantly influence the campus, surrounding cities and towns, and open spaces. The University is, after all, an entity with a daily population of over 35,000, which is projected to grow in coming years. After negotiations with the county conclude, a new 2018 permit is anticipated to last until 2035. Nearby municipalities, such as Palo Alto, have expressed interest and concern about Stanford’s proposals.

Stanford students are actively joining the discussion of how the University’s urban planning and development will impact communities in the Bay Area, as well as the commutes, housing, and livelihoods of future students and staff. The Stanford Coalition for Planning an Equitable 2035 (SCoPE 2035) is a coalition of students with a vision for a more equitable Stanford, beginning with the General Use Permit (GUP) process. According to SCoPE 2035, the GUP is the agreement between Stanford University and Santa Clara County that will specify the limits and requirements on Stanford’s future land use, growth, and development. During Autumn Quarter, the group engaged 75 students in a workshop on the Bay Area housing crisis and how Stanford might contributes to/alleviate it. They also connected with other stakeholders including Stanford's SEIU Local Chapter 2007 and Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition.

John Zhao '18 (Environmental Systems Engineering) and Courtney Pal '18 (Earth Systems and CSRE) speak at the Human Cities Expo.

John Zhao '18 (Environmental Systems Engineering) and Courtney Pal '18 (Earth Systems and CSRE) speak at the Human Cities Expo.

At the recent Human Cities Expo at Stanford, SCoPE 2035 organizers John Zhao ‘18 and Courtney Pal ‘18 focused attention on key challenges related to Stanford’s GUP application. They suggested the proposal could be improved by addressing transportation options for those commuting hours from East Bay cities or even further; provide more on-site housing for many of the new employees who are supposed to service the university in coming decades; and developing a more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan post-2018.

Earlier in the fall, the group reviewed the County's Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the GUP, and gained hands-on experience with local government processes. “We prepared a public comment that we submitted in-person at the County meeting on November 30,” SCoPE 2035 Member Erica Knox explained. “Among other things, we highlighted that Stanford's proposed Below Market Rate housing fee was substantially lower than what Stanford should reasonably pay, and that Stanford had yet to fulfill its promise from the 2000 GUP to determine an absolute maximum build-out boundary.” At that meeting, the County extended the public comment period for the DEIR to February 2.

According to Knox, “SCoPE 2035 will continue to engage students in this GUP process to ensure that the final agreement reflects our shared values of accessibility, community, and equity.”

ACTION ITEMS:

 

>> Sexual assault at Stanford: alumni express concern over student welfare, encourage a more humane response <<

Stanford University has once again been thrust into the national spotlight over sexual assault allegations and the University’s handling of these cases. In November, yet another incident came to light, where a Korean-American graduate student was allegedly raped by a professor during her time at Stanford. At the time, the professor was investigated and put on leave, but returned to campus two years later and even had awards named after him. At this time, at least one other Stanford faculty member has been accused of sexual assault.

 The allegations stem from the 2000s or earlier, but only surfaced amid the #metoo movement, as more and more survivors have stood up and spoken out. Organizations around the country, including movie studios, Congress, and newsrooms, are reckoning with histories of harassment, sexual assault, and gender discrimination.

Current graduate students have been shaken by the latest allegations and have privately expressed outrage over what they feel is Stanford’s institutional silence in response. However, the power imbalance in academia—where faculty can make or break the careers of aspiring young scholars—has left them feeling unable to speak out publicly.

Andrea Lorei holds up a sign during the 125th Commencement ceremony at Stanford. (Image: Yahoo News) Many students held aloft signs of protests to call attention to the University's handling of rape cases. (Los Angeles Times)

Andrea Lorei holds up a sign during the 125th Commencement ceremony at Stanford. (Image: Yahoo News) Many students held aloft signs of protests to call attention to the University's handling of rape cases. (Los Angeles Times)

These incidents are only the latest to embroil the university, which has had a difficult track record in dealing with sexual assault and rape cases in recent years. A number of students have condemned the university’s responses as inadequate and founded a group, Stanford Association of Students for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), to raise awareness and encourage the University leadership to respond to this challenge. Last year, the Washington Post quoted group co-founder Stephanie Pham ’18 as saying, “Stanford looks at sexual assault cases from the lens of protecting its brand … Maybe it’s this need to forge an image of a perfect university where sexual assault doesn’t happen.” Students have also protested about this issue during the Wacky Walk and graduation ceremony.

The latest incidents reported by campus and national publications this past month have once more shone light on the issue in the Stanford community.

ACTION ITEMS:

  • As concerned alumni and representatives of the API community, a number of SAPAAC leaders and members have co-written a letter to Stanford asking the university administration to treat the issue with urgency. They express concern for victimized students and alumni, and ask for a more humane, less corporate, response to sexual assault that shows empathy and care for the survivors.
  • You are invited to read the letter and if you want to make a difference, we urge you to express your support and make clear to the Stanford administration that caring for students is a priority for alumni. You can sign the letter by adding your name here.

 

Many Asian American alumni from different generations gathered at Stanford in spring 2017 for the first-ever Asian American Alumni Summit.

Many Asian American alumni from different generations gathered at Stanford in spring 2017 for the first-ever Asian American Alumni Summit.

>> Voices Rising: Join the SAPAAC Issues & Advocacy Committee <<

After the first Asian American alumni summit at Stanford this spring, there was a surge of momentum in our community. During the summit and in its aftermath, we heard numerous requests for our API alumni organization, SAPAAC, to do more and take a stand on important issues affecting the API community. Alumni expressed concern about national issues, as well as those affecting the Stanford campus.

You are part of this alumni-driven movement! Members of I&A have already been active this year in forging a collective response by Asian American alumni. New upcoming issues include defending the Community Centers against budget cuts and supporting the hiring of more Asian American Studies faculty and Asian American university leaders.

ACTION ITEMS:

You are this movement! Join in and take action to ensure that API voices are heard by joining our next Issues & Advocacy meeting at 6 PM on December 17. To get involved, visit the SAPAAC website for details and contact the Issues & Advocacy co-chairs.

 

Action Items Checklist:

  1. Sign a letter supporting Stanford students and urging the University to adopt a more empathetic approach to addressing sexual assault

     

  2. Learn more about Stanford’s new land and buildings plan and get updates from student activists about how to encourage more equitable housing, transportation and climate options in the university plan. (Santa Clara County residents can also comment on the draft Environmental Impact Report)

     

  3. Join the Issues & Advocacy meeting at 6 PM on December 17 California time. Visit the SAPAAC website for details.