March 16 shattered Asian America. That day, a white shooter murdered eight people in Atlanta spas. Six of the victims were Asian women.
This incident wasn’t surprising given the United States’ history of anti-Asian racism, such as the Chinese massacre of 1871 or the Page Act of 1875, which aimed to protect the US from “immoral Chinese women.” March 16 also fell neatly in line with the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes this past year, with the New York Police Department reporting a 1900% increase in 2020.
Just as the perpetrator is not being charged with racial motivations, UF seems hesitant to offer tangible support to Asian students. Three days after the event, President Fuchs released a lukewarm statement that UF “cherish[es]” the presence of Asian and Asian American students,” with a link to a video made over two weeks prior to the Atlanta shootings.
That same day, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Mull sent an email that appeared to be a typical weekly update with a statement on anti-Asian racism tacked on, linking Fuchs’ statement and the Counseling & Wellness Center website.
These statements make Asian students feel like an afterthought. Stating “we are here for you” without providing ways that UF aims to stand with Asian students is not support—it is gaslighting. The words of administrators like Mull and Fuchs force us to call into question whether resources and security have been there all along, even when our lived experiences clearly say otherwise.
And what do these statements mean when UF is hesitant to own up to anti-Asian incidents on our own campus?
In 2001, Delta Tau Delta held a “Mekong Delta” party in which men dressed as American G.I. 's and women dressed as Vietnamese prostitutes. At the time, the fraternity issued an apology in response to the protest of Asian American students but held a similar event the next year.
In 2014, the campus saw flyers claiming to be from a Chinese restaurant seeking to purchase a dog. While the Asian Pacific Islander Desi (APID) Affairs office did post on their website in response to it, the page has since been deleted. Details of this incident and the 2001 party cannot be found on UF’s domain anymore.
Conflicts between students aren’t the only thing encroaching on Asian presence on campus, either. In 2009, budget cuts to foreign language programs threatened Vietnamese language courses and caused Korean language instruction to cease until Fall 2019, when Korean classes returned after petitioning by student activists.
Today, as some members of the campus community excitedly await a retransition to full capacity, what does this change mean for returning Asian and Asian American students? Will our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles be safe after our departure? What kinds of new precautions will we have to take for our safety while on campus?
UF needs to put its money where it claims its values lie. In a 2019 student experience survey led by an ad-hoc committee known as the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Task Force, 81% of APIDA-identifying students identified a lack of UF support to the APID Affairs office. And while UF does offer a minor in Asian American Studies, the university does not offer more than one to two courses handling Asian American content in a typical semester.
Furthermore, UF administration’s performative, tepid statements that offer up the CWC read disingenuous given the long wait times to be matched with a counselor, and the barriers that come with being a person of color in seeking mental health support.
Asian students made up 8.11% of UF’s Fall 2020 cohort, which is a greater proportion than Florida’s Asian-identifying population of 3%. Aggregated data and the model minority myth fail Asian students and the wide range of experiences we carry, making us less likely targets of institutional support when we need it. We need more than just statistics and representation; we and all students of color need UF to create an environment where we are supported and welcomed.
Even as we acknowledge the historical typicality of events like the Atlanta shootings, it does not change the sense of anger and heartbreak we feel. March 16 shattered our communities, and we are still healing, processing and making plans to take action. Will UF help us put the pieces back together?
To UF: do better. Our communities duly note your response to incidents like March 16. And to our fellow students: keep pushing. UF is a top 6 public university, and we need to keep the university accountable for using its influence in ways that students actually need. Don’t be shy—after all, if they wanted to, they would.
The Asian American Student Union (AASU) at UF seeks to promote Asian and Asian American awareness, be a source of political and social advocacy, and foster well-rounded members who apply their talents for the greater benefit of their communities.