OPINION: In a time of crisis, lack of support for AAPI students at CMC is clear

Mentors and mentees of the Asian Pacific American Mentor program on a hike
Asian American Pacific Islander students deserve increased institution support from Claremont McKenna College, argues guest writer Jayson Yasukochi CM ’22. (Courtesy: Julia Catolico)

CW: Anti-Asian violence

Asian America is in crisis.

The nearly 3,800 hate incidents in the past 11 months and the recent murders of Asian women in Atlanta highlighted how Asian American Pacific Islander individuals face xenophobia and violence in America. Unfortunately, Claremont McKenna College has so far failed to provide AAPI students with adequate resources. 

CMC must take initiative and provide the AAPI community with institutional support; otherwise, students will be forced to pick up the burden.

CMC has historically turned a blind eye toward AAPI students. Before the Asian Pacific American Mentor Program was created in 2001, the CMC dean of students at the time required “proof and research” that students would need such an organization, according to an archive collated by the Asian American Resource Center. This skepticism has continued to this day. 

Despite years of petitioning from APAM head mentors and students, the only institutional funding CMC provided the AAPI community in my time with APAM is a paltry stipend for two to three APAM head mentors and a part-time staff member, both of which were only conceded in the last two years.

In contrast, Black and Chicano and Latinx students are provided institutional support through the Office of Black Student Affairs and the Chicano/Latino Students Association, in addition to their own mentorship programs. These are 5C-wide organizations with full-time staff members and their own dedicated space on campus. 

The primary resources provided for CMC AAPI students are APAM and per-appointment use of the CARE Center

This is not meant to be a criticism of OBSA, CLSA or the CARE Center; all three are absolutely necessary. CMC’s actions indicate it does not recognize AAPI students as a marginalized community in need of support — a precedented view in education administration.

Today, APAM is the only CMC-only AAPI organization on campus, and all non-head mentors perform their duties on a volunteer basis. APAM should only have to perform its duty as a mentorship program: to help first-year mentees acclimate to their first year at college. However, because CMC has failed to provide ample resources, APAM is forced to act as the only form of support for the AAPI community on an informal basis. 

An example of this came in February, when APAM held a Dismantling Anti-Asian Sentiment event designed to inform the CMC community of the rising xenophobia against Asian Americans in the United States. This event, which over 150 members of the CMC community attended, had to be completely initiated, organized and run by seven APAM mentors.

Of those seven mentors, four were unpaid. The other three were head mentors, who volunteered to run the event on top of institutional work with the dean of students, the Asian American Advisory Board and other affinity groups on campus. Community support events like this one should be run by paid employees, not unpaid students that only signed up to mentor first-years. Yet, the only supports that CMC has mustered are a small stipend and a part-time graduate student staffer that does not know if they will be hired for next year.

Pomona College and Pitzer College provide contrasting examples of how to support AAPI students. Both schools provide spaces specifically for their AAPI population — the Asian American Resource Center and the Center for Asian Pacific American Students, respectively. AARC and CAPAS are run by full-time employees that specialize in Asian American community work, are staffed by paid students and exist alongside student-run AAPI mentorship programs.

CMC should have a similar model, where AAPI students would be provided assistance through a dedicated organization with its own space. The organization could be created in collaboration with Scripps College and Harvey Mudd College, which face a similar lack of on-campus and staff resources. In any case, this organization would have the bandwidth to allow for community outreach, identity exploration and support during times of crisis, like now. Furthermore, APAM would finally be allowed to focus on what it is supposed to do — mentorship. 

CMC is by no means a bad school. I believe that, on the whole, it is trying to solve issues of racism and hatred with the CARE Center and funding for programs like the Presidential Initiative on Anti-Racism and the Black Experience in America. I admire and respect the vast majority of staff, professors and administrators for how they have supported my community. However, given the current climate, it is not enough. I have no doubt that CMC has the capacity to fix this, but it will require decisive action. 

During the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, a persistent and outdated belief was that Asian Americans could “pull themselves up out of racism by their bootstraps.” Unless it decides to provide AAPI students the support they need, CMC is giving a similar signal: that AAPI students have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and endure without support from the school. 

Jayson Yasukochi CM ’22 is an APAM mentor.

Facebook Comments