FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. What is Asian American Studies?

Asian American Studies focuses on the lived experiences, histories, and critical contributions of Asians in and to the United States. It is a multidisciplinary area of study that, while housed in American Studies, spans into fields such as Political Science, English/Comparative Literature, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Art History, Anthropology, Sociology and Legal Studies.

2. What is the difference between Asian and Asian American Studies?

Asian Studies focuses on the history and culture of Asian people living in Asia, while Asian American Studies is interested in the experiences of Asian American citizens and immigrants living in the United States. While Asian Studies and Asian American   Studies might intersect in the field of diaspora studies of the Asian people, the intellectual origin and theoretical concerns of the two area studies are different.

3. Why do we need Asian American Studies?

Asian American Studies provides an opportunity for not only Asian American students to learn about their identity and history, but also for all students to learn about the unique ways Asian American experiences have shaped and defined American culture and society. Moreover, Asian American Studies is not just for Asian American students but for all Williams students because it provides a critical space for learning about the integral contributions, sacrifices, and continued investment of Asian Americans across all disciplines that constitute all of our curricula today. We believe that enrollment pressures and student demand over the past 27 years indicates that there has been a sustained, significant interest in Asian American Studies at Williams College. 

4. Who are we? What are we asking for?

We are a group of Asian American students at Williams College who are fighting for the establishment of an Asian American studies program at Williams. Our supporters include the two largest student body governments on campus, College Council and Minority Coalition, as well as Davis Center and many AAPI & non-AAPI students, faculty, trustees, & alumni. Our demands include:

  • A link on the course catalog for cross-listed discipline in Asian American Studies immediately.

  • The immediate hiring of one tenured or tenure-track Asian Americanist professor in the event that a current Asian Americanist should retire or otherwise leave the college.

  • The allocation of 1.0 new FTEs in Asian American Studies by the end of a 3-year period (for a total of 2.0 FTEs on average)*

  • The written and public commitment towards the establishment of Asian American Studies by the end of a 5-year period

  • The allocation of 2.0 additional FTEs in AAS by the end of a 5-year period (for a total of 4.0 FTEs a year on average)*

*Please note that a 1.0 FTE is a total of four classes in a given year; even if additional Asian Americanists are hired, their FTE allocations must be geared towards Asian American Studies rather than other courses. Our request for 4.0 FTEs in Asian American Studies is nearly impossible to be completed without the hiring of more visiting or tenure-track professors to contribute those FTEs. Please see Terms & Definitions for more details.

We believe that the establishment of an Asian American studies program is a crucial step towards getting the college to meet its dedication to completing our Williams curriculum and naturally increasing diversity of its faculty.

5. How has Williams responded to similar movements in the past?

On March 12, 1969, African American students occupied Hopkins Hall for several days in order to prompt administrative action for 15 demands on the establishment of an Afro-American studies department. 34 students occupied Hopkins while over 300 allies surrounded the hall to rally and guard the building. Due to this occupation, Williams agreed to meet 12 of the 15 demands proposed by the Williams Afro-American Society [WAAS], which included the addition of African American studies into the curriculum and the hiring of more Black faculty.

In 1991, three students went on a four-day hunger strike to create the tenure-track post in Latinx Studies. In 1993, a group of 75 Latinx students and their supporters held a rally to outline their three demands to the college and announce a hunger strike intended to continue until the demands were met. Three days later, 24 people were participating in the fast. The hunger strikes occurred out of frustration after attempting a variety of other tactics, including several petitions, articles in the Record, and letters to the administration. To this day, in LATS 105, students read the letter of demands issued to the administration during the 1993 hunger strike. In 2001, with the hire of Professor Whalen, the College finally began to seriously consider the creation of LATS, resulting in the hire of 5 professors in the LATS program over the course of 6+ years.

6. Where are we now?

We have demanded that Williams make a public commitment to establishing an Asian American Studies program at the end of these five years. However, the College has made no public commitment towards AAS, and thus once again ignores the demand of their underserved students. They have granted a yearlong study through the Curricular Planning Committee (CPC) and a cluster for Asian American Studies on the course reader. These steps make no tangible efforts towards establishing AAS; thus, we are standing for what we believe in to show the College that this matter is vital for the entirety of our campus. We will no longer stay quiet while the College denies us our histories and lived experiences.

7. How can YOU support the Asian American Studies Movement?

See Take Action for more!