More than 1400 students, faculty and staff have signed a petition calling for Fordham to increase Asian American support

After University President Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., released a statement on March 13 condemning the anti-Asian racism occurring in the U.S., faculty members came together to create a petition for an Asian American studies program to be established at Fordham. 

“Fordham has needed an Asian American Studies program for a long time,” said James Kim, associate professor of English and comparative literature and one of the creators of the petition. “The school has a long history of marginalizing Asian and Asian American students.” 

Kim cited the mass shooting in Atlanta and growing anti-Asian racism in the U.S. throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as the immediate reason for the petition. Kim also stated that another cause for the petition was Fordham’s lack of Asian American studies scholars. There are only three professors currently tenured.

“What’s needed now is faculty hires. We can’t build an Asian American Studies program without hiring Asian American Studies scholars, simple as that.”James Kim, associate professor of English and comparative literature

“What’s needed now is faculty hires. We can’t build an Asian American Studies program without hiring Asian American Studies scholars, simple as that,” Kim said. “In order to make those hires a reality, the folks behind the petition will have to perform a significant amount of additional, uncompensated labor. We’re willing to do that labor. More crucially, however, the administration will have to make a meaningful investment in supporting the field.”

In order to create the petition, Kim came together with some of his colleagues to quickly create a draft. The goal was to begin circulating it at the first two events on anti-Asian racism hosted by Chief Diversity Officer Rafael Zapata. 

After the release of the petition, the Conference of Arts and Sciences Deans (CASD) met with the petitioners.

CASD is made up of Eva Badowska, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences and assistant vice president for arts and sciences; Maura Mast, dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill; Tyler Stovall, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; and Laura Auricchio, dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center. 

CASD was “very eager to meet with the framers of the petition to discuss the matters that pertain to academic programs and to support the faculty in thinking through a possible proposal.”

In looking forward to creating a new program, CASD explained that there are different requirements for creating a new major or minor. This also differs based on if the program will be offered to undergraduates or graduates.

“His silence is noteworthy, because the petition specifically calls on him for an explicit, public commitment to hiring Asian American Studies scholars and building an Asian American Studies program.”James Kim

The timeline of developing a program will then depend on what the petitioners are looking to establish. According to CASD, a minor can be created within a single academic year if there is already enough faculty to offer the program. However, it will take longer if the new minor requires hiring additional faculty members.

Designing new majors is more difficult as it also requires approval from the New York State Education Department (NYSED). CASD stated that it typically takes one to two years to create a new major, with an additional 8 to 12 months to receive approval from NYSED. 

“We are eager to work with the faculty on this important initiative and look forward to the next steps,” the members of CASD said.

“Having Asian American Studies at Fordham will not only serve to amplify Asian and Asian American voices and educate the general student body about Asian and Asian American cultures, experiences, and histories.”Loreen Ruiz, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’21

Kim stated that although the initial meeting was very productive, they are disappointed to not have heard from McShane. 

“His silence is noteworthy, because the petition specifically calls on him for an explicit, public commitment to hiring Asian American Studies scholars and building an Asian American Studies program,” Kim said. “The fact that we haven’t heard from him is frankly disappointing and a bit discouraging.” 

The United Student Government (USG) at both Rose Hill and Lincoln Center released statements of support. Additionally, the English department unanimously released a statement of support.

“Having Asian American Studies at Fordham will not only serve to amplify Asian and Asian American voices and educate the general student body about Asian and Asian American cultures, experiences, and histories,” Loreen Ruiz, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’21 and USG president, said in a statement. “It will also provide an environment in which Asian and Asian American students will feel supported and welcomed, knowing that the University and its faculty acknowledge and promote their perspectives.”

CASD will be meeting with the petitioners again on May 25 to determine how they would like to move forward.