The students of Cal State University Los Angeles are fighting for the iife of its Asian American Studies program. Recently, the Dean of its college announced that he intended to suspend the program, despite its minimal cost of $4,000 a year. Students have created a website, garnered support from the academic and student community throughout the U.S., and initiated an on-line petition to support continuing the program. On January 14th, they also met with the Dean, James Henderson. However, after the meeting, the students were pessimistic about the administration's ultimate decision.
The Asian American Studies program goes back over 30 years. However, though over one-quarter of the student population is Asian American, only twenty-one students are currently enrolled in the program. About a hundred students take the course offerings. Oiyan Poon, who studies Asian American educational issues, observes that the administration are looking at the low number of majors that fail to contribute to the bottom line. It is, she noted, part of the "corporatiization of education."
This may be the first of a number of Asian American Studies programs to face threats in the near future. Asian American Studies programs often resulted from community pressure, and most programs are in public universities, which are more subject to these pressures (in the Association for Asian American Studies, over two-thirds of the Asian American Studies programs are in public institutions). However, state and city governments are going through a fiscal squeeze that will undermine support for public colleges and universities, whose administrations never fully supported Asian American Studies.