University Evaluates Proposal For Asian-American Studies

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The proposal for an Asian American Studies Program at Northwestern University made by the Asian American Advisory Board (AAAB) and submitted to University President Henry S. Bienen and Dean Lawrence B. Dumas is under consideration and will be evaluated through normal channels for curricular development in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Bienen, who responded to the proposal in a Feb. 14 letter to Robert A. Yap, president of the Asian American Advisory Board, said that [we] "start with the assumption that any new program we initiate at Northwestern ought to be done well and be excellent in content." He said that as the AAAB proposal says, "an Asian American Studies Program ought to build on, and add to, strengths that we have in history, political science, sociology, anthropology" and, he said, he would add "law, economics, journalism, education, the performing arts and other subjects and schools."

Bienen said that "the evaluation of the intellectual content, coherence and staffing of a new program remains in the school where a program would be lodged." He said that responsibility for the proper evaluation of an Asian American Studies Program would rest with the College of Arts and Sciences, "although other schools could be involved" in the process.

Dumas said in a Feb. 23 letter to the AAAB that the students had "identified a curricular area of considerable interest to the College of Arts and Sciences. He said that [CAS] "can provide many of the kinds of curricular change necessary to create the learning opportunities you seek."

Dumas said that CAS "will be assessing the size and shape of [student] demand with new course offerings." He said "we aim to develop some entirely new courses for those students who desire concentrated study in Asian American topics, while, in more general courses, providing the majority of our students with greater exposure to Asian American experiences and culture."

Dumas said that the College of Arts and Sciences has initiated, or will initiate, the following:

  • CAS has added Korean language instruction to its Chinese and Japanese offerings, providing additional language support important to understanding the Asian American experience.
  • CAS has offered a pilot course in the spring quarter on the history of Asian Americans since 1850.
  • CAS is drafting a request for course development to (1) encourage members of the faculty to develop new courses dealing with aspects of the Asian American experience and culture and (2) encourage members of the faculty to incorporate such material into existing courses.
  • CAS will evaluate the availability of faculty expertise at other institutions in the area to develop new courses and, on an occasional basis, to teach them.
  • CAS, through its Curricular Policies Committee, the established forum for faculty deliberation on changes in the curriculum, will determine what teaching expertise is available on campus, what curricular needs are not being served, and how the CAS might meet those needs.

Dumas said that the student proposal "connects to Northwestern's evolving interest in Asian and Asian American studies."

Following a meeting with the AAAB on April 7, Dumas said in a letter that he was of the opinion that [the AAAB and his office] were "walking together down a common path, working vigorously to bring the Asian American experience to the CAS curriculum."

Dumas said that the AAAB "has already played a vital role in our thinking" and that as the Curricular Policies Committee "enters into its deliberations as to the best way to build a curriculum suited to the particular needs of Northwestern and its students, I hope you will continue to serve as a key resource."

He said that while the Curricular Policies Committee prepares long-term plans, "we will seek short-term improvements as well by committing resources to encourage faculty to launch new courses and to introduce the Asian American experience into existing courses where it has been missing.

"We intend," he said, "to take advantage and encourage the talents of those both within and outside Northwestern in this regard."

Dumas said that he believed the most effective way to advise faculty and students on curricular issues was to "invite to our campus several visitors, each from a different academic discipline, each expert in some aspects of Asian American studies, each present at a different time and for up to one week, and each hosted by a different academic department." He said that he has asked Michael R. Stein, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences to organize this visitor series, with the advice and counsel of department chairs, selected members of the faculty and the AAAB.

"I look forward," he said, "to continued interaction as we proceed to develop the curriculum in this very important area."

Following a meeting with the AAAB on April 19, Dumas also agreed that while waiting for the Curricular Policies Committee to make its recommendations, and for formal action by the CAS faculty, he will make funds available to support four courses in Asian American studies during the 1995-96 academic year. He said that if the CAS faculty fails to "reach definitive conclusion " on Asian American studies curricular proposals during the 1995-96 academic year, he "will again allocate funds" for four courses during the 1996-97 academic year. Preparation for these courses, he said, "will follow the normal procedures for such ad hoc arrangements administered by the [CAS] Office of Studies."

Dumas said in an April 20 letter to the AAAB that he sensed that "we now have a basis for pursuing important curricular change, and that we can do so using normal channels."

Charles Loebbaka, Director of Media Relations
c-loebbaka@northwestern.edu - (708) 491-4887
University Relations, Northwestern University
Release Date: 4/23/95

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