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Letter of Community Support for the UT Center for Asian American Studies

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Dear University Leaders, On behalf of the campus Asian American student community, we would like to thank you and your office for your hard work to address the unprecedented challenges facing the university budget, particularly the College of Liberal Arts. We understand that the response to the budget crisis has been an ongoing process since Governor Perry and state legislators ordered the first round of cuts in 2009. We understand that difficult decisions must be made, and we must share in the sacrifice; we also believe that in the long term, the State of Texas must rededicate itself to the future of our students and our state by increasing investment in public higher education, which has enabled Texas to provide an ideal environment for business and economic opportunities throughout our history. In the short term, however, we strongly urge your office to commit to maintaining needed financial support for existing programs, such as the Center for Asian American Studies, that are essential to a broad liberal arts education and preparing students to compete in a rapidly changing and increasingly diverse domestic and global market. In this current budget crisis, Asian American students are especially concerned about the well being of the Center for Asian American Studies (CAAS). The center serves as an intellectual focal point for so many Asian American students and others who aspire to examine and explore the rich culture, history and critical contemporary issues of the Asian American community and the larger society of which it is a part. As one of only three Tier-1 research universities with a renowned liberal arts program, a world-class faculty, and a pool of intellectually curious students drawn from the state and around the country, UT Austin is a shining symbol of hope for so many of us who see this campus as the pathway to knowledge, self-discovery, economic opportunity and a fuller understanding of our common humanity. As a result of already deep cuts, Center for Asian American Studies now has only one staff member, excluding the center director herself. This has made it virtually impossible for the center to function as an actual center and provide programming, support and value beyond the classroom. Despite these challenges, the Asian American student community has remained committed to expanding the center and assisting with the center’s outreach and fundraising initiatives, enabling the center to maintain at least some of its mission. UT’s Asian American alumni network, currently in the process of establishing an innovative new organization to benefit the university and its graduates, has also shown a strong desire to step up and support the center. CAAS has the opportunity to establish a stronger presence with more time and support as the other ethnic studies centers have had the opportunity to do. Already reduced from its already modest funding, CAAS cannot sustain an additional 22% cut to its budget as most recently recommended by APAC. As the center’s resources have already been severely limited from its previously low share of funding, the Asian American student community, which constitutes 17% of the student body, urgently and respectfully requests that you and your office reevaluate your budget reduction proposal and strive to protect the integrity of our university’s diverse academic programs. We believe that a fuller understanding of our tradition, contributions and challenges through learning, research, and community building via CAAS is at the core of students’ college experience; consequently, we believe strongly in the mission of CAAS and its important contributions to a diverse liberal arts education. After just over ten years, UT’s Center for Asian American Studies is recognized as the premiere Asian American studies program in Texas and one of the most prominent and innovative in the United States; it is also one of the only such programs in the South. Asian American students are a diverse community distributed throughout the university, majoring in subjects ranging from Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, to Government, Journalism, and Nursing. However, on this important issue, we as a community speak as one. We are fortunate to call ourselves Longhorns on this historic campus. We are lucky to have so many wonderful administrators and faculty to assist and guide us through our educational journeys. We simply ask that the deans of Liberal Arts respect our voices, our contributions, and our needs. While aspects of the APAC recommendations remain mysterious, e.g., how the numbers were determined, we remain confident that our deans' intentions are to act in our best interest during these difficult times. Again, we urge you and your office to reconsider the recommended cuts and consider providing modest, but critical additional resources for the Center for Asian American Studies. The Asian American student community trusts you to give us a meaningful voice in this decision, which will significantly impact not just our ability to explore and understand contemporary issues pertaining to the Asian American community at large, but also our role and identity in this institution. We are proud to attend one of the most diverse and thus dynamic universities in the country; we hope that you and your office will continue to support the policies that have made our university community strong and enhanced the educational experience of every Longhorn. Sincerely with much respect, Representatives of the Asian American student community at The University of Texas at Austin


Asian American Leadership Council


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