Seven deaths in the past four years among Asian-Pacific students at the University five of which were suicides and an offensive e-mail addressed to members of the Asian-Pacific student community last week have spawned concern over the integration and unity of these students at the University.
The e-mail, sent by a group identifying themselves as the “Crew of UM AzN Voice,” read, “day in and day out we walk around campus and see groups of Asians walking around like herds of sheep.” It challenged Asian-Pacific students to stop “walking around campus like a bunch of hardasses and staring everyone down.”
Sunny Park, named as a commissioner of the White House Initiative on Asian-Pacific Americans by President Bush last August, addressed the dilemma facing the Asian community at the University, saying Asian-Pacific students are stereotyped as being overachieving, financially motivated minorities with no problems.
Park said these stereotypes persist because Asian-Pacific students are passive and do not communicate enough with other faculty and students. He stressed participation as the key to integration, challenged them to socialize and participate more at the University and urged them to work to remove negative stereotypes.
Identifying Asian-Pacific Americans as “missing in history,” Sunny also said the ethnic group needs to become aware of their historical contributions in America.
Jason Kwah, the Asian-Pacific American Coordinator at the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, said all minorities can easily feel disconnected from the University, but the problem is greater among Asian-Pacific students.
Psychiatrist Daniel Park, director of Research and Special Projects at the University, has been studying how Asian-Pacific students isolate themselves and said there are two primary reasons. First, participation in extra-curricular activities is significantly lower among Asian-Pacific students. Secondly, as a group, they feel more disconnected upon leaving their parents for college. As a result, he said, Asian-Pacific students tend to congregate with students of the same background at college.
Kwah said the Asian-Pacific community is very divided because there are many different cultural backgrounds among the minority group and not enough resources for these students at the University.
Daniel Park said his office has encouraged Asian-Pacific students to utilize the resources the University does offer such as counseling and psychiatric services. The office is also developing an outreach program to help the students become more involved around campus.
Kwah said he has been overburdened because the University has employed only one Asian-Pacific American coordinator since 1971, despite a large enrollment increase in the minority group. Asian-Pacific Americans constitute 14 percent of the student population.
Sunny Park”s White House committee is responsible for advising the President on the integration of Asian Pacific Americans in the government. He said the initiative also collects data on the group and encourages community involvement in local communities.
In addition to working for the initiative, Sunny Park began the Good Neighboring Campaign, a program aiding the integration of recent Asian Pacific immigrants by instructing them to mingle with their American neighbors, learning American history and exhibiting pride in their nation.