History of ECASU (1991)

 from ECASU Handbook 1991 - thanks to Lydia Lowe

History

1.1 ECASU into the 1990's

As ECASU enters the 1990's, we can proudly look back at a decade of organizing for social change. Over the years, we have made many gains, suffered setbacks, but always remained committed to our vision of social justice and equality that has inspired and touched the lives of thousands of Asian American students. We have a wealth of knowledge and experience from which to build and tackle tomorrow's challenges. Together, we will shape our own future and build a more just and democratic society for all.

Founded in the late 70's in the the midst of a conservative backlash, ECASU has withstood the test of time with its up's and down's and proven itself to be a viable and effective vehicle for Asian American student activism, networking, and empowerment. While ECASU was a product of the 70's, it was the 60's that gave ECASU its original spirit and vision.

The 60's was a period of profound social transformation of U.S. society, driven forth by the Civil Rights struggles and the anti war movement, and fueled by the awakening to the injustice and inequality rooted deep in the contractions of U.S. society. Asian Americans began to critically reexamine our own experiences. Disillusioned and outraged at the U.S. war of aggression in Vietnam, Asian American students were among the first to organize anti war protests; realizing that we shouldn't be fighting abroad but here at home to better our conditions.

Inspired by the Civil Rights struggles, Asian American students fought along side other Third World students at San Francisco State and across the country to demand that the University serve the people and open its doors to students of color. After exhausting all channels of communications, Third World students resorted to rallies, sit ins, and takeovers that forced the University to open its doors. For the first time in U.S. history, we won the right to a quality education and enter universities and colleges in significant numbers. Ethnic Studies and other supportive programs were established to made education relevant to us.

During the early 70's, Asian American organizations were established to deal concretely with the needs and concerns of our people. Asian American student organizations (ASO's) were formed on campuses throughout the East Coast to address the issues of identity and educational rights. Some Asian American students went back "to serve our community" and formed community organizations to address basic issues of housing and health services.

Just when we felt we had made progress, efforts were already underway to turn back the clock to the pre 60's "good old days." In 1977, the Supreme Court upheld Allen Bakke's claim that he had not been admitted to UC Davis medical school due to "reverse discrimination." This decision symbolized an all out attack on the gains made in the 60's. It also sparked a huge struggle led by Third World students against this decision. The decision was a statewide challenge that required a new level of organization. Rallying against the Bakke Decision, Asian American students recognized the need for a network capable of providing a broader perspective, mutual support, and the capacity for collective action. This led to the founding of the West Coast Asian Pacific Student Union (APSU), the Midwest Asian Pacific American Student Organization network, and ECASU, with regions in the Mid Atlantic and New England.

The 80's was a period of conservatism with the Right on the move in attacking not only Affirmative Action, but also questioning: reproductive rights, language rights, freedom of speech, social services, environment, and "back to basics" in education. It was the "me" generation bombarded with "careerism" without any sense of social responsibility. As Asian Americans, we were touted as the "successful" "model minority" in Newsweek and Time so that perhaps we would turn our back on our community and other people of color. All this came in the midst of worsing economy and declining U.S. influences globally. 

It was under these conditions that ECASU emerged a organized force instrumental in providing leadership to the Asian American student movement. Guided by our vision and grounded in the daily reality on our campuses and in our communities, Asian American students spoke out against such myths and defended attacks on our educational rights. From helping campuses institute Asian American Awareness Weeks to increase Asian American student awareness and participation; to coordinating investigation into college usage of quotas limiting Asian American admissions; to establishing Asian American Studies and combatting campus racism; ECASU has consistently stood for the interests of Asian American students. Our annual conferences with themes ranging from "Beyond the Model Minority," "Education for Action," to "Asian empowerment through Unity," have attracted and inspired thousands of students throughout the East Coast. Our retreats and parties provided opportunities for students to mingle and socialize. ECASU on a campus by campus basis forged coalitions with other students of color and networks such as the East Coast Chicano Students Forum (ECCSF). ECASU also became actively involved in various community struggles such as job retraining for P&L garment workers and justice for Bun Vong, a victim of anti Asian violence. Through these and other on¬going efforts, ECASU strives to be relevant to the lives and struggles of Asian American students.

Upholding the democratic process, ECASU ensures the full participation of all Asian American students and organizations, regardless of ideology, nationality, gender, economic or class backgrounds. ECASU would never be where it is today if we did not have the full participation and leadership of Asian American women, whose contributions are often ignored on the ASO level. ECASU has also benefitted from strong campus bases, to share lessons and resources, to assist developing ASO's, and to lead major campaigns. Like many other organizations, ECASU dealt with its share of personal dynamics and organizational difficulties. Only through the firm commitments and the sincere desire of students to resolve our differences does ECASU survive where other organizations have failed, dissolved, and been forgotten.

As time and conditions change, so must ECASU. The 1990's hold great promise for our movement, but not without uncertainty and challenges. We must be creative and flexible in our approaches, yet firm in our commitments and principles. In the coming periods, ECASU must be responsive in addressing the needs and concerns of our growing numbers and diversity, including Korean American, South Asian, and South East Asian American students. We must actively involve students from the public schools, while maintaining ECASU strength among the private schools. We must continue to develop new leadership, and raise our network to a new level of sophistication and function to accomodate our growth regionally, and perhaps link up nationally.

The hard work and dedication of past generations of student have paved the way toward full equality and empowerment. With new blood and fresh ideas we can get the job done.