Asian-Americans from six colleges meet at Penn
By biconews On 8 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Lakshmi Gandhi

The Asian/Pacific American Intercollegiate Organization for Networking and Empowerment, or APAIONE, 2000 conference was held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Meyerson Hall on Saturday, Jan. 29. The purpose of the conference was to further educate students about Asian American issues and, according to the organization’s mission statement, to “unify the Asian American Intercollegiate community” of the Philadelphia area.

Last week’s conference was APAIONE’s first major event since the organization started in the spring of last year. The group consists of students from the University of Pennsylvania, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore and Villanova. Students from Rutgers also attended the conference. Steering Committee member Jennifer Chang (BMC ’02) said, “I think APAIONE is a really important organization because … all our affiliate schools are really unique. Because our schools differ in everything from size and racial breakdown to student resources, we can really learn a lot from each other.”

APAIONE came into existence on March 20, 1999, after a leadership retreat at Bryn Mawr with the purpose of creating a closer and stronger relationship between the various schools. In September a second retreat was held at Swarthmore and a steering cornmince was appointed with representatives from each of the schools. APAIONE’s first official event was held in November when they sponsored the pop artist Magdalen Hsu-Li at Haverford.

The conference consisted of six discussion panels, of which participants chose two to attend. There was one panel devoted to Asian Americans in the media, and the short documentary “Between the Lines” was shown. The film mainly focused on the portrayal of East Asian women in the movies and on the network news. It featured clips from movies dating from the 1940s to the present that portrayed Asian women as submissive and demure, but at the same time exotic and fetishistic objects. Over the past 50 years there has been very little change in the portrayal of Asians in the media, and the film offered a theory as to why that is. While other minority groups in America stage protest and boycott if they are stereotyped or insulted in the media, the Asian population traditionally has been very reluctant to do so and as a result, the stereotypes continue.

Other topics discussed in the conference were issues that concern most Asian Amencans in this country, such as affirmative action, Asian American Studies at the university level, and creating a Pan-Asian American identity that would unite all Asians. Other panels discussed aspects of Asian society in America that are often neglected, like the history of Asians in America, which goes back hundreds of years. Another topic that was addressed was the role of Asian-Americans in arts and literature; the main speaker on that panel was Haverford English professor Theresa Tensuan. A major point made was that Asian involvement in the arts is often ignored, with more attention given to the contributions of Asians to science-oriented fields such as engineering and medicine.

Both Chang and Yun-Wen Shaw (BMC ’02), Bryn Mawr’s other Steering Committee member, said that they felt encouraged by the turnout and the overall success of the evening. Chang

commented that she “was nervous about how successful the conference would be, but for the most part, I think most of the participants were pleased with the seminars and the speakers. I think that it would be a terrific idea if APAIONE could continue to host this type of conference

once a year.”

According to Shaw, the conference was a milestone in the fledgling organization’s development. “This conference was a huge step for APAIONE for us to bring ourselves out to the community and finally let the Philly schools know not only that we exist out there, but that we’re out there for them. Hopefully soon, all the APA groups within these schools will be able to lake advantage of APAIONE and … bring the whole cornmunity together and have other huge events and teach the

community even more about issues that we need to be more aware of,” she said.

One of the major concerns addressed at the conference was how to get more Asian students involved with cultural organizations like APAIONE. Many student leaders expressed dismay about the lack of involvement students have within their own communities, and contend that the Asian population will not have a collective voice until students make a sincere effort and devote their time to the cause. One of the main problems seemed to be the apathy of this year’s

freshman class who, according to nearly every school represented, seems to be the group least likely to become involved in cultural groups and to attend conferences like APAIONE. It is a problem that no one quite knows how to solve and one that the participants agreed needs attention, because without the participation of the incoming class the future of these organizations is unsure.

Even so, Shaw expressed optimism and offered her plans for the future of APAIONE. “I think the next big step for APAIONE will be to bring other schools into the coalition, such as Temple and Drexel. There are huge APA populations on those campuses too, and the fact that we’re not as closely linked with those two schools should not inhibit them from helping to strengthen APAIONE … I see an awesome future for the group.”

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