By Nan Ma & Tony Vo
In the article “Invisible Course at Bellevue College Highlights AAPI Advocacy,” published on June 10, 2021 by Northwest Asian Weekly, that highlights the exclusion of Asian American studies from the 2021-2022 Bellevue College (BC) annual class schedule, BC’s Interim President Gary Locke is found saying that the exclusion happened due to a “misunderstanding.” Locke cites the hiring of a new faculty as the reason behind the class not being scheduled.
What Locke failed to address is that while we were told by the leadership of the Cultural and Ethnic Studies (CES) department that the new hire could be specializing in African American studies, Latinx studies, or Asian American studies, only Asian American studies was removed from the schedule. While other ethnic studies classes have been visible to students since the end of March, Asian American studies was scheduled in early June, only after the OCA Greater Seattle chapter reached out to Locke and the Board of Trustees.
Since April, we have been given six different and, at times, contradictory answers to why Asian American studies was removed. We countered each reason with evidence and follow-up questions. To this day, the reason that Asian American studies was singled out for exclusion remains unclear.
Locke also failed to mention that Asian American studies has been offered twice a year for the last two years. The current schedule reduces the offering of Asian American studies to once a year.
We advocated for the class to be scheduled for fall quarter since it draws the largest enrollment based on enrollment data from the last two years, but our request was ignored. As spring tends to have low enrollment, we are concerned about the risk of cancellation. Additionally, the administration changed the class’s modality to an online class without any meeting times attached. This is the first time that Asian American studies is offered as a completely online, asynchronous class. We are concerned that this change of modality is not conducive to building community, especially since this is a class where class interactions and group discussions are needed and guest speakers are invited to speak on a variety of topics concerning the Asian community.
As the faculty who have been teaching this class, we have been sidelined in conversations and kept in the dark of how decisions are made in regard to this class.
A request from our Asian Pacific Islander Student Association (APISA) to meet with the CES leadership was also denied. After we started to raise concerns, we were removed from our teaching in a public statement and have been subjected to harassment and disparate treatment. We heard that the class was finally scheduled, not from the College, but initially from the OCA-Greater Seattle chapter on June 1. On June 4, after not hearing of this update from our College administration, Nan reached out to the Office of Academic Affairs to express our concerns about the change in modality and the quarter in which the class is offered. Nan was told by the AVP of Academic Affairs that “[a]s I have asked for you to not involve yourself in the management of the CES program, I do not feel it would be appropriate to explain the programmatic decision-making process any further, or to continue to discuss which quarter the CES 150 course will be offered.” The office of Academic Affairs only let people know about the scheduling of the course on June 11, a day after the first NW Asian Weekly article came out.
We advocate for Asian American studies, along with African American studies, Latinx studies, and Native American studies, to have a permanent place in the schedule and that these classes be scheduled regularly with at least two sections per year. We would like to see that BC makes a tangible commitment to help these classes grow and thrive. BC needs to uphold its core values by including adjunct faculty in its decision-making and ensure transparency in communication.
AAPIs comprise 28% of the BC student body. The fact that Asian American studies was singled out for removal during a time of increased anti-Asian hate and violence speaks volumes to the invisibility and disregard of AAPI struggles. We ask BC to conduct a thorough investigation and hold CES leadership accountable for this egregious act.