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Faculty Senate disrupted by students seeking Asian American studies
STANFORD -- A group of two dozen students advocating establishment of a full Asian American studies program interrupted the Faculty Senate meeting on Thursday, May 12, seeking faculty support, but instead causing an abrupt and unexpected adjournment.
It was the first time in memory of campus historians that the senate, which was formed in 1968, has adjourned for disruption. Because of the adjournment, a report on special physical and psychological needs of students was not given.
The Judicial Affairs Office is looking into the possibility that students violated the campus disruption policy, Dean of Student Affairs Michael Jackson said on Tuesday, May 17.
The students said afterward that they did not intend to disrupt the meeting. They expected to be asked to leave, and intended to do so, they said.
The students, part of a group called Concerned Students for Asian American Studies, quietly entered the senate meeting in a Law School classroom after freshman Kristin Hayashi, who was inside, opened a locked rear exit.
Before the 3:15 p.m. meeting started, an ethnically mixed crowd of about 75 protesters in the Law School courtyard greeted arriving faculty with chants of "Asian American studies now - Not another 20 years," a reference to the first attempts, in 1972, to establish a program.
The disturbance followed by one week a Chicano student protest and hunger strike demanding, among other things, a Chicano studies program.
Members of the Concerned Students group said they had collected more than 700 signatures supporting Asian American studies, and wanted assurance that the senate would take up the issue.
Senate rules provide that "a matter shall be placed on the regular agenda by the Steering Committee if a request to do so is received by the Academic Secretary, supported by . . . a petition signed by 500 or more Stanford stude nts."
(On Tuesday, May 17, Senate Chair Patricia Jones said that the Steering Committee on Wednesday would seriously consider a request by Asian American students for time on the agenda of the May 19 meeting if such a request were re ceived. As of Tuesday afternoon, students had not submitted a request to the Steering Committee.)
The students on May 12 went directly to the senate itself, rather than to the Steering Committee.
Based on a May 11 letter they received from Jones, they said they feared the Steering Committee would not consider their issue a legitimate "matter" to forward to the senate. Jones wrote that "the Faculty Senate is not the appr opriate body either to initiate and implement an Asian American studies program or to act to recruit or retain Asian American studies faculty."
The students sought permission in advance to send 50 of their members to the meeting. The Academic Secretary's Office turned down the request but offered to reserve seats at the back for 10 students, assigning them to the first 10 who called the office.
The additional, uninvited students entered the meeting as Humanities and Sciences Dean John Shoven was explaining that he would name a committee to study their request.
Initially, the 28 students standing against the back wall and the 10 who were seated listened silently.
Later, senior Patty Tsai stood up without permission to ask that the senate agree to consider at its May 19 meeting a resolution that would:
After several attempts to quiet Tsai by gaveling, Jones called for a motion to adjourn the meeting, 19 minutes after it started. The motion was widely seconded and most senators quickly left the room.
The students earlier had distributed to each senate member a letter stating they had more than 700 student signatures supporting Asian-American Studies, and asking the senate to ensure that Humanities and Sciences adequately ad dressed their concerns.
"We are not asking for a Faculty Senate committee," the group said.
They included copies of their resolution and a chronology about Asian American studies at Stanford. The first courses were taught in 1970-71, and a proposal was submitted to the dean of students the following year for program.
Chronology of events
The senate meeting opened with a memorial resolution and a report on the recent Steering Committee and Advisory Board elections.
Jones then turned to the Asian American studies issues.
She told the senate that Shoven had agreed to set up a working group to study the students' request, as he had done earlier for Chicano studies. Citing the senate's "legitimate interests" in curriculum development, she asked Sh oven to report back to the senate.
Shoven agreed, adding that he expected to name both committees by the end of May and expected them to complete their work by the end of fall quarter. Both committees will have a broad representation of faculty and of graduate a nd undergraduate students, he said.
Shoven also announced that he and Associate Dean Al Camarillo previously had scheduled an ad hoc meeting on May 27 with a delegation of Asian-American faculty, students and alumni to discuss their interest in an Asian American studies program.
During Shoven's remarks, the uninvited students entered the room.
Jones made no reference to the entry, but announced that she had spoken to several students about what constitutes an appropriate matter for the senate agenda and what procedures to follow.
She then recognized English Professor Regenia Gagnier, who asked about long-term plans for ethnic studies.
Shoven responded that he wanted the two committees - Chicano studies and Asian American studies - to work in parallel, considering whether ethnic studies should be placed, for instance, within American studies or whether the sc hool should establish comparative ethnic studies.
"I don't want to prejudge how the committees would work," Shoven said, "but I do think it would be advantageous if we had each committee think about the possibility for comparative study rather than think about the issues for e ach ethnic subject separately."
Responding to another question from Gagnier, Shoven said the Concerned Students for Asian American Studies would be represented on the committee. He also said he was willing to add one or two key people from the Concerned Stude nts to the May 27 discussion group.
Shoven was interrupted briefly by the noise of students trying unsuccessfully to enter the senate through the front doors.
Gagnier followed up her questions by asking history Professor James Sheehan, chair of the Commission on Undergraduate Education, if the commission was considering the student requests.
"We're not considering specific programs," Sheehan said. "If we get to that level, we could meet for a decade."
Gagnier suggested that some distribution requirements could address student concerns.
The commission has thought a lot about distribution requirements, Sheehan said, but not about ethnic studies.
"There already is an American cultures distribution requirement and a world cultures distribution requirement. We have talked about those in relation to Cultures, Ideas and Values," he said.
As the discussion ended, Tsai stood up and began seeking assurance that the senate would consider the student resolution on May 19. Jones repeatedly ruled her out of order, explaining that only a limited number of students are authorized to speak at senate meetings.
Several of the student guests and those who were standing at the back applauded Tsai's efforts. Jones then adjourned the meeting.
Tsai and other students seemed surprised by Jones' action, and several were in tears as faculty left.
On her way out, English Lecturer Kathleen Namphy, there to hear the report by Disability Resource Center Director Nancy Deason, said to Tsai: "I blame you for not sitting down and letting Nancy Deason have her time." She sugges ted that Tsai apologize to Deason.
Tsai responded that the students should not be blamed.
"It would have been easy for them to resolve to vote to put us on the agenda. We have over 700 signatures, we only needed 500," she said.
She and several other students then went and apologized to Deason and Alejandro Martinez, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, who also was scheduled to give a report. The two accepted the apologies.
Hayashi, who unlocked the back door, said "we didn't expect the meeting to be adjourned. We expected to be asked to leave and we were planning to leave."
Graduate student Davina Chen said it was "disillusioning that professors whose main task is to educate us would not take a few minutes" to discuss the students' request.
Karen Ho, a coterminal student in education, said she was disappointed that most of the faculty left the meeting quickly, instead of stopping to talk. However, several faculty have told her they are "impressed that we're there being committed to an intellectual endeavor," she said.
Moments after the adjournment, Jones said she was disappointed that a student would open a locked door.
"That is unauthorized and inappropriate, but we didn't stop the proceedings," she said. "We were willing to let them stay as spectators. But the senate cannot carry out its activities with that kind of disruption."
Jones said she was "disappointed in the students. It's unfortunate because it doesn't help the students' cause, and it basically prevented the senate from discussing some issues relating to students with disabilities and psych ological needs that would have been very helpful for faculty."
Several days later, Jones reported that Deason and Martinez have now asked to defer their reports until next fall.
Students attend Casper speech
After the senate meeting, about 20 students went to Kresge Auditorium to hear President Gerhard Casper deliver his state of the university address at 4:15 p.m.
During the question-and-answer period, Kristin Hayashi told Casper that students had not gone to the senate "with the intention of disrupting the meeting, we didn't go with the intention of getting adjournment."
"Thus, we'd like to offer a formal apology to Counseling and Psychological Services and the Disability Resource Center," she said.
"We tried before to go through all proper channels. So our question to you is how is it possible to have a voice on this campus?"
Her colleagues applauded.
Casper responded that "students have a voice on this campus now even if they feel they do not." He said he had referred the Asian-American Studies issue to the School of Humanities and Sciences.
"The issue is now there," he said. "You have it exactly where it belongs."
He said he hoped Hayashi would make "vigorous contributions" on the subject.
Hayashi persisted in asking "what does it take for us to be heard? Do we have to risk expulsion or suspension?"
"The committee you have," she said, "is to look at whether to have Asian American studies. We'd like a committee for implementation of Asian American studies."
Again, her colleagues applauded.
Casper said that he and Hayashi had a "very substantial disagreement, not on the outcome . . . but on the question of how we get there."
Although his own opinion is "not worth very much" in curriculum, he said he is concerned that the various ingredients of American culture are not put into "niches that are separate."
"The single most important element in an American university today is to develop an understanding of American civilization, its good sides and its warts," he said.
"Who do you consider a part of this American civilization?" Hayashi asked.
"I consider every person who lives in America or has lived in America as a contributor to American civilization," Casper said. "That includes simply everybody.
"And with all due respect, though I am only an immigrant, it includes me, too," he said to wide applause.
After the meeting, Casper spent several minutes discussing the issue with students Davina Chen and Jason Pu.
"You have to persuade the faculty," Casper told them.
"It's difficult to convince the faculty," Chen responded, "when we have so few forums to do it."
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