By Emilio Manuel Camu
“As I see all of these posters of the so-called students on campus, I have to ask myself: where the heck are all of the Asians? It’s as if our institution consisted solely of smiling white, 18-22-year-olds with a handful of token ethnics,” said Jen Le, a senior in accounting.
In fact, when you look at many of the posters on campus, including the health programs sponsored by the field house, the laptop rentals sponsored by the Union, the Campus Life discount books, and even the mouse pads located in the Language & Communication building, most, if not all, images on advertisements or posters include people of Caucasian descent.
“It’s a little disheartening to know that this is how our university is represented,” said Dao Tran, a freshman in business. “I feel like my needs aren’t addressed because the current administration and student government do not understand the needs of people that come from a different background than theirs.”
But why should diversity be on everyone’s agendas? Why should there be a need to demonstrate diversity through ads or through the student government? Well, the purpose of the university is to provide higher education for the students who attend, and the purpose of the ASUU is to serve the needs of the students. As the current population of U is very diverse in terms of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic status, marital status, and includes many non-traditional students while ASUU is majority white, many people feel that they do not understand many of the ways they represent the student body.
At a children’s Halloween event located at the Union, a member of student government passed me in the hall wearing a faux-feather headdress. She wanted to be a Native American for the Halloween activity. Obviously, she didn’t understand the social and cultural implications of her wearing the headdress as a costume, as the feather is a symbol or respect, dignity, honor, and importance in many cultures, not just that of the Native Americans.
As I walked up to her to ask kindly to take off the headdress, I didn’t know what I would say. I knew if the encounter were to turn bad, she somehow had the power to affect negatively the resources that I need to serve as the president of the Asian American Student Association.
I told her what the importance of the headdress was, and repeated four times that the headdress is “part of a culture, not a costume.” She still didn’t seem to understand the implications of what I had repeated to her, but she respected my wishes and removed her headgear.
I was in shock that she left without really understanding that the feather headdress was part of and important to many cultures, but it wasn’t a costume to be worn to festivities. If this is how knowledgeable our institution’s leaders are about the students they’re supposed to be serving, I wonder how dedicated they are in serving us. To be that unaware of different social and cultural communities located on the university and not being able to address such simple needs as respecting each others’ culture surprises me.
Should our leaders really be this ignorant of us, the students whom they serve?
By Emilio Manuel Camu