Letter from President Bienen -
April 17, 1995

Office of the President

April 17, 1995

To Our Students Participating in the Hunger Strike:

I am concerned about you and the means of dissent you have chosen to support your proposal for an Asian American Studies Program, and particularly so because it puts you at risk. Your safety and welfare are important to us. I ask that you consider channeling your considerable energies in other, more productive ways.

The University administration has never rejected the idea of changes in the curriculum that would explore the Asian American experience and culture and, in fact, bring Asian American studies into the curriculum. Quite the contrary, as Dean Dumas has written to the Asian American Advisory Board, "your proposal connects to Northwestern's evolving interest in Asian and Asian American studies." Our point, my point, is that what we do at Northwestern University should be done well; any new program we consider should build on our existing strengths. It should be, indeed it must be, well considered, well conceived, and, in a word, excellent in every respect.

As I have said to you, both in person and in writing, the evaluation of this proposed program, or any new program, must rest with the faculty. In this particular case, responsibility for the evaluation of the intellectual content, coherence, and staffing for a proposed Asian American Studies Program rests with the Curricular Policies Committee, the established forum for faculty deliberation on changes in the curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences. We cannot and will not abridge that process because it is central to the governance of a university and absolutely vital to its intellectual health and well-being.

Meanwhile, Dean Dumas has made commitments and taken special action to bring the Asian American experience and culture more immediately to the curriculum by encouraging members of the faculty to develop new courses dealing with aspects of the Asian American experience and culture and to incorporate such materials into existing courses; he also will evaluate the availability of expertise at other institutions in the area to develop new courses and, occasionally, to teach them. You know that the College of Arts and Sciences already has made commitments to provide special coursework on Asian American topics-as the History Department is doing this quarter. You know, too, that we have made a commitment to continue to do so next year.

Dean Dumas also has made a commitment to invite to campus a series of visitors, each from a different academic discipline, each expert in some aspects of Asian American studies, each present at a different time, and each hosted by a different academic department. It is, I think, an excellent way for us to seek counsel and advice on curricular issues relating to your proposal for an Asian American Studies Program. I hope that we also can find public occasions to talk with these visitors about their areas of expertise and, perhaps, present speakers in other venues.

I want to assure you, as I have the students with whom I met, that I am not against your proposal; I continue to keep an open mind about it. You have my assurance that I will keep in close contact with Dean Dumas as his faculty considers your proposal.

We have made commitments to you; it is, I think, an opportune time for you to make a commitment to us, by working with us, to bring the Asian American experience and culture to the curriculum in a permanent, meaningful way.

Sincerely,

Henry S. Bienen
President

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