Yale’s President Announces Major New Commitments to Diversity Initiatives in Wake of Student Protests

Yale Law School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yale Law School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the wake of the massive student protests that have rocked the Yale campus highlighting the institutional racism of the school and the hostile campus climate that students of colour endure, university president Peter Salovey sent a campus-wide email this afternoon announcing several new commitments for improving inclusivity and diversity at the school.

The announced commitments were broken down into four major areas. First, Salovey announced a commitment to improve the racial diversity of Yale’s faculty by creating four new faculty positions to be filled by those whose scholarship is devoted to “the histories, lives and cultures of unrepresented and underrepresented communities”; their hiring will be guided by a new “Deputy Dean for Diversity” position that will also be created. Salovey also announced a commitment to increase the number of courses and teaching staff dedicated to topics of diversity, including “a five-year series of conferences on issues of race, gender, inequality and inclusion”. Finally, Salovey hinted — but did not explicitly state — renewed interest in creating a multidisciplinary ethnic studies department, which I can only hope would include some form of Asian American Studies offering (because, dude, #WeNeedAAPIStudies).

Continue reading “Yale’s President Announces Major New Commitments to Diversity Initiatives in Wake of Student Protests”

How Our “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach to Healthcare Fails Southeast Asian American Patients

kuoch-quote-ct-mirror

One of the watershed moments in my development as an AANHPI race advocate happened at ECAASU in 2003. I was still a student activist, and president of my on-campus Asian American political group. That ECAASU was my first Asian American student conference, and my first real opportunity to interact with politically conscious Asian Americans outside of the gates of my Ivory Tower.

The only workshop I remember is the poorly attended workshop on AANHPI healthcare disparities I attended because mental health disparities were a growing issue on my campus. I emerged undeniably woken up.

An enduring problem for AANHPI racial discourse is the homogenizing effect that results from how the mainstream talks about us, and also from how some of us talk about ourselves. We paint the AANHPI identity with the broad brush of “sameness”, and in so doing we commit two unforgivable sins: 1) we universalize the narratives of East (and to a far lesser degree, South) Asian Americans as if they are wholly representative of the AANHPI identity; and 2) we shortchange the Southeast Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander members of our vibrant and diverse AANHPI community.

As evidence of this mainstream instinct towards AANHPI homogenization, we need look no further than Nicholas Kristof’s recent column in the New York Times, which patronizingly lauded Asian Americans as universally high-achieving. We also need look no further than the angst expressed by Governor Jerry Brown when he vetoed a widely popular California state bill that would have required sophisticated ethnic disaggregation of demographic data for AANHPI people. To date, most AANHPI racial data is aggregated during collection and analysis.

Continue reading “How Our “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach to Healthcare Fails Southeast Asian American Patients”

May 3: The Overlooked Battle Against Depression and Suicide Among SE Asian Americans | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited

Bhutanese American Tara Gurung and her husband. Tara's father, Ram Gurung, counseled fellow refugees from committing suicide. However, after moving to the United States with his wife and two adult daughters, Ram Gurung committed suicide last year at the age of 73. (Photo credit: Ryan Lessard, NHPR)
Bhutanese American Tara Gurung and her husband. Tara’s father, Ram Gurung, counseled fellow refugees from committing suicide. However, after moving to the United States with his wife and two adult daughters, Ram Gurung committed suicide last year at the age of 73. (Photo credit: Ryan Lessard, NHPR)

For this year’s AAPI Heritage Month, I will take each day to pull one of my favourite posts or pieces from the archives highlighting some aspect of AAPI history and heritage, and add to it a short commentary and reflection. I invite you to check back every day for this #ReappropriateRevisited month-long feature!

Yesterday, I revisited one of my most popular listicles regarding mental health and mental illness within the AAPI community (Mental Health Awareness Week: Top 10 Myths about Asian Americans and Mental Health). This listcle reflects how most of us popularly conceptualize the issue of AAPI mental health: through statistics about high rates of depression and suicide among women and on college campuses. Studies clearly support a focus on subpopulations of AAPI women and youth as particularly at-risk with regard to unaddressed mental illness. However, our persistent framing of the AAPI mental health issue only through these two lenses ignores two other particularly vulnerable AAPI populations: Southeast Asian American refugees and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders.

I remember attending an AAPI conference early in my career as an activist and blogger (which conference it was has long since left my memory) wherein I was first introduced to the need to disaggregate epidemiological data along ethnic lines to reveal ethnicity-specific disparities that specifically impact Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. At the time, all data for AAPI were lumped together, and the relatively small proportion of Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders within our community masked these patterns. At the time of the conference, disaggregated data were rare: now, studies have confirmed alarming public health issues for Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Only when I started writing on the topic of mental health — and therefore read a number of primary source material — did I learn about the scope of this issue.

With regard to depression and suicide, a shockingly high number of Southeast Asian American refugees live with symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Rates of suicide ideation and attempts are significantly higher for Southeast Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — particularly among youth and when compounded with queer identities — compared to the average rate for Asian Americans or the national average as a whole.

Yet, when we talk about AAPI mental health, we rarely ever include in our conversations meaningful discussion about Southeast Asian Americans or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders. Why is that? Is there a certain amount of reinforced privilege in focusing our conversation on AAPI mental health entirely to the exclusion of our Southeast Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander brethren?

Continue reading “May 3: The Overlooked Battle Against Depression and Suicide Among SE Asian Americans | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited”

May 2: 10 Myths (and Facts) About #AAPI Mental Health | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited

depression002

For this year’s AAPI Heritage Month, I will take each day to pull one of my favourite posts or pieces from the archives highlighting some aspect of AAPI history and heritage, and add to it a short commentary and reflection. I invite you to check back every day for this #ReappropriateRevisited month-long feature!

May is AAPI History and Heritage Month, but it is also national Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental health is a critical issue for AAPIs. In many studies, AAPIs — young men, women, seniors, and college students — are more likely to experience depression and anxiety-related symptoms than people of other races. Among certain segments of the population, mental health and suicide rates are higher — in some cases significantly higher — than the national average.

Yet, within our community, mental health issues rarely receive attention. Stigmas that either silence conversation about mental health, or alternatively that spread misinformation about mental illness, abound within the AAPI community. AAPI who are fighting mental health issues are treated with shame and suspicion, and therefore rates of reporting mental health concerns are particularly low for our community.

I am particularly impassioned about AAPI mental health. I believe that our reluctance to address this highly prevalent health concern is literally hurting (and even sadly, in some cases, killing) our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters. When we are unwilling to have the uncomfortable, difficult, and emotionally draining conversations about mental health awareness and education that our community desperately needs, our complacence makes us complicit in a deeply wounding silence.

Every story of an AAPI suicide is, for me, a heart-breakingly preventable loss that results in part from our unwillingness to politically prioritize this issue within the AAPI community.

Continue reading “May 2: 10 Myths (and Facts) About #AAPI Mental Health | #APAHM2015 #ReappropriateRevisited”

Yale mourns death of Luchang Wang ’17 by apparent suicide

Luchang Wang, from a Facebook photo.
Luchang Wang, from a Facebook photo.

The Yale student community was rocked last night with news that sophomore Luchang Wang, ’17 — mathematics major and member of  Yale’s Silliman College — had died Tuesday of an apparent suicide. She was 20 years old.

Friends became concerned after Wang posted some worrisome messages to a public Facebook thread on Tuesday, prompting the rapid organization of a campus-wide search by students and friends. The search was coordinated online with friends posting places they had canvassed on Facebook — some ventured as far as East Rock, the park north of New Haven.

At 2 p.m., a public Facebook status authored by Tammy Pham ’15 told Yale students in New Haven to search high-rise buildings, school buildings and public areas for signs of Wang. Students began to comment, adding locations that they had searched, some even venturing to East Rock to look for their friend.

Students also contacted Silliman College and Yale Police to officially report Wang missing, launching a door-to-door search. They later reported to police the discovery that Wang had purchased airfare to San Francisco, California; the plane was scheduled to land Tuesday morning. Later that afternoon, police also discovered that the last time Wang had used her Yale ID to swipe into Silliman College was two days prior, and asked students to halt their frantic New Haven search under the presumption that she had boarded her flight and was no longer in the New Haven area.

By 6pm Tuesday, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway delivered the tragic news to the Yale student community by email that Wang’s body had been recovered in California.

Continue reading “Yale mourns death of Luchang Wang ’17 by apparent suicide”