University of Virginia students propose $3M budget for Asian resource center

University of Virginia Asian Student Union

Four University of Virginia (UVA) students wrote a letter to the university outlining their  concerns about the lack of Asian community resources and representation across administrative leadership at the school.

Students take a stand: The letter was authored by UVA junior Sanjeev Kumar, UVA senior Katie Zhang, UVA senior Lauren Xue and UVA senior Serena Wood at the beginning of September.

  • The letter pulls from 2020 data from UVA’s Diversity Dashboard, publicly available on the university’s website, to calculate that while the undergraduate population is 16.16% Asian, only 2.91% of the institutional leadership staff is also Asian. In addition, there are no Asians in leadership positions across the eight offices at the university — including The Office of the President, The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and The Office of the Dean of Students — and only one or two Asians in leadership positions at three other administrative offices at the university.
  • Despite this proportion of Asian students, along with a roughly 9% Asian-identifying faculty population across the university’s three schools, the students point out there is a lack of “institutional structures or spaces” dedicated to these communities. 
  • The letter also references a 2018 report released by UVA’s student Asian Leaders Council, which highlights disparities across its student population (14-18.72% Asian) versus its faculty population (8.46-9.86% Asian).

Proposal: To combat these disparities, the students proposed the creation of an Asian and Asian American Center with a budget of almost $3 million.

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  • The letter demonstrates the ways other schools have approached the creation of a center for Asian and Asian Americans, including Virginia Tech, Stanford University, University of Southern California and Yale University.
  • The proposed budget of $2,968,000 will cover the costs of eight employees who would run the center as well as resources and programs to be provided by the center.
  • The students proposed that the center will maintain programs such as a Women’s Asian American Leadership Initiative (WAALI), which currently exists under the Multicultural Student Services; Asian Pacific American Leadership Training Institute (APALTI), currently under the Multicultural Student Services; Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), currently run by the Multicultural Student Services and the Asian Student Union and Peer Advising Family Network (PAFN), currently under the Multicultural Student Services.
  • The writers also suggested a new program: the Biannual Magazine for the Asian American community at UVA.
  • The authors conclude the letter by acknowledging that “an endeavor of this size will take some time to ensure that the physical center is up to standard for what we are demanding; however, the students at UVA deserve representation in the Asian American community in the university’s administration and a space for Asian American students now.”
  • Next steps outlined in the letter include approval for the construction of an Asian American Student Center as soon as possible while temporarily setting up the campus’  Newcomb building basement for the interim, and hiring the respective staff for the Asian American Student Center immediately.
  • Fifteen UVA student organizations were listed as being in support of the proposals suggested in the letter.

Response: University administrators responded to the students’ proposal, according to UVA’s student newspaper The Cavalier Daily.

  • In an email statement to the Cavalier, Interim Dean of Students Julie Caruccio said she and director of Multicultural Student Services met with the student authors of the letter,  and she “appreciates the substantive work demonstrated by students” in drafting the report and advocating for the center.
  • Caruccio told the Cavalier Daily that they are currently developing a process to consider student proposals such as this one.
  • “We expect to have that process ready for implementation by the end of this academic year,” she said. “The students in this group will be among those included in that process.”
  • One of the authors of the letter, Kumar, said he does not think it is realistic for an Asian American student center to be formed during his time at the University, but he hopes future generations of Asian American students at UVA will get to experience the changes he helped propose.
  • “[I know] if we get the University to sign off and then the constructions going we can get a center built [so] that future students at this University will feel like they have a home here or feel like the University sees them and acknowledges their presence,” he said.
  • “Without a doubt, there is a shortage of Asians and Asian Americans at UVA,” said UVA sophomore Iris Jung, who is Korean American, in an email to NextShark. “I would have preferred additional funding for Asian and Asian American programs, clubs and scholarships, as I feel this is more critical than the building of a center.” She added that she felt positive when she first heard about the proposal and hopes to see more opportunities for low-income Asian American students like herself in the future.

Featured Image from ASU at UVA

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