Lack of representation at Riverside City College leads to formation of the Asian Pacific Student Union

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The RCC Asian Pacific Student Union meets every Friday at 2 p.m. on Zoom. (Photo Courtesy of Asian Pacific Student Union)
By Arsal Asif

After finding the Riverside Community College District did not offer Asian representation in its race and ethnic relations courses, a group of students took it upon themselves to attempt to get the curriculum amended.

The Asian Pacific Student Union (APSU) was formed in light of the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. The club’s goal is to bring Asian representation to Riverside City College.

“RCC Asians haven’t been a priority lately, so the club was formed to make them a priority,” said Nico Hughes, one of the club’s founding members. 

Hughes said it was not uncommon for professors to disregard AAPI-focused issues brought up by Asian students.

Although he felt it may not have been intentional, Hughes said some would argue that, because the focus was on Black Lives Matter, it was not the right time to deal with Asian issues.

“And of course BLM is very important,” he said. “But … you can support BLM (and) also still be inclusive of these other issues. You don’t necessarily have to pit them against each other that type of way.”

In his effort to amend the course, Hughes said he encountered faculty who were not interested in bringing change for AAPI students because AAPI issues were not relevant to those faculty members.

“Society already tends to treat AAPI discrimination with indifference,” Hughes said. “When you see faculty expressing that same indifference, not only does it set a precedent for AAPI students in their classes that discrimination against them doesn’t matter, it also normalizes the sentiment for any other students they teach, which will continue the cycle of us being left out of the conversations we deserve to be part of.”

RCC is home to organizations and committees that address racism against Latinx and Black people. But Hughes said Asian students were being left out of conversations about communities that experience racism.

Stop AAPI Hate reported a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes during the past year. According to the report, the number of hate incidents reported to the organization’s center increased from 3,795 to 6,603 during March of 2021.

Verbal harassment and shunning made up 65.2% and 18.1% of the reported incidents, respectively. Physical assault was the third largest category of reported incidents, making up 12.6% of the total.

The Model Minority Myth, which presents Asians as being privileged and generally as successful as White Americans, further added to the idea that anti-Asian discrimination does not matter, Hughes said.

Because Hughes felt that the Asian community’s voice was not being heard by faculty, APSU began creating a space where AAPI students could voice their frustrations. The club aims to create a bridge between advisors, faculty and students, and to build a positive learning environment for AAPI students.

APSU has acquired enough members to be processed as an official club and expects to be approved soon. But with limited staff availability, the process has been slow.

The Associated Students of RCC recently worked to amend the student constitution so that there would be a lower minimum member count for clubs in response to COVID-19 reducing club attendance.

The club has not yet received any rounds of funding due to being established close to the Spring Banquet and the first club budget meeting already having passed.

Having started in the middle of the semester, members could not have been present during Club Rush, which meant the club missed out on opportunities to increase attendance.

APSU plans to host workshops on racism, raising voices, pluralism and more. The upcoming Diversity Night will intend to spread awareness of the diversity of Asian culture. They have a video compilation running where APSU is asking students for submissions to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month.

The union is working with Umoja and the Arts Department for future projects which include an AAPI-focused art exhibition featuring Riverside artists for the next AAPI Heritage Month.

 “We’ve had a little bit of limited reach,” Hughes said. “But for what it is, we have a really dedicated group.”

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