Indiana Daily Student

Forum discusses solution to minority exclusion in higher education

Director of Asian American Culture Center and Assistant Dean of Students at University of Illionis at Champaign-Urbana, David Chih, spoke during Asian American and Pacific Islander Experiences in Higher education on Monday morning at the IMU Dogwood Room.
Director of Asian American Culture Center and Assistant Dean of Students at University of Illionis at Champaign-Urbana, David Chih, spoke during Asian American and Pacific Islander Experiences in Higher education on Monday morning at the IMU Dogwood Room.

We should pay greater attention to the stereotypes — both positive and negative — attached to students who identify as Asian-American and Pacific Islander that currently exist in higher education, Dina Okamoto, an associate professor in IU’s department of sociology, told a room of nearly 50 IU faculty, staff and graduate students.

That was the message expressed at the Asian American and Pacific Islander Experiences in Higher Education forum on Monday in the Indiana Memorial Union’s 
Dogwood Room.

A series of panelists from IU, Purdue University and the University of Illinois discussed how cultural stereotypes are perpetuated among students and faculty and how various departments at IU can address these problems.

Joel Wong, an associate professor of counseling and counseling psychology at IU, identified the difference between Asian-American students who have been born in the United States and international Asian students who have traveled to America. He said often times these two groups are perceived as one, leading to incorrect racial microaggressions that assume all Asian-Americans are culturally the same as those born and raised in Asian countries.

Wong said this could lead to psychological 
consequences.

“A couple of studies have shown on Asian-Americans, the more and more they felt they were perceived by others as foreigners, the greater the depressive symptoms and the poorer the life satisfaction,” Wong said. “It leads to poorer mental health.”

Panelist David Chih, director of the Asian American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois specifically called attention to how Asian-Americans are often ignored or excluded when universities create programs and policies. He called on-campus policymakers in the audience to question why they may do this.

“Is it for a good reason or is it because that’s the way it’s always been done?” Chih aksed.

Panelists agreed that by putting on events such as Monday’s forum, IU is on the right track to making progress.

However, Wong warned sometimes in having these events on campus, speakers can be “preaching to the choir.”

“A lot of diversity programs will be attended by minority students or by students or staff that are very invested in cultural issues,” Wong said. “We need to engage the broader community of those who have very little interest in cultural issues.”

Maria Hamilton Abegunde, an organizer of the forum and director of The Graduate Mentoring Center at IU, said she believes among involved organizations like the Asian Culture Center and IU Health, more resources for support are becoming 
available.

“It’s a process,” Abegunde said. “Everybody is doing what it is that they are able to do and looking for ways that we can be more 
understanding.”

Tracey Bradley, a graduate recruiter for the College of Arts and Sciences, said her involvement in the event stemmed from her own lack of knowledge about minority groups. She said in planning the event she learned she was unintentionally defining minorities based on certain federal regulations that do not differentiate between Asian-Americans and Asian international students.

“A lot of it is just raising awareness particularly of those involved in recruiting and admissions to be more mindful of including Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders and being mindful of not homogenizing Asians and Asian-Americans into one group and understanding that it is a complex and very diverse group of people who come from difference experiences,” Bradley said.

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