The University Record, April 8, 1998

Asian American students from 8 states gather here for conference

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Despite the early hour, Asian Pacific American students turned out in large numbers to hear a welcome from President Bollinger and begin their three-day conference of workshops and fun. Photo by Bob Kalmbach

Students from eight states gathered at the University last week to attend the 1998 spring conference of the Midwest Asian American Students Union (MAASU). Friday morning's welcoming remarks by President Lee C. Bollinger and Royster Harper, dean of students, were heralded by a performance of Sal Pan, the Korean American drum troupe from Michigan State University.

Small group meetings and workshops on such topics as domestic violence, the student-athlete experience, hip-hop culture, networking and affirmative action preceded a semi-formal banquet and keynote presentation by commentator and columnist Eric Liu, who also served as foreign policy speechwriter for President Clinton. A carnival of games and fun in the Michigan Union rounded out the evening.

Saturday's activities kept the students, some from as far away as Oklahoma, busy with more workshops and activities, performances by Generation APA and a music-filled evening at the Union that encompassed soothing a cappella music, some energetic dance music and hip-hop favorites.

A ceremony Sunday brought the three-day conference to a close.

In his remarks, Bollinger welcomed the students and talked about both the internal issues students face at a university and the greater issues in society--in particular, the challenge to the U-M's stand on affirmative action.

Bollinger said a challenge for students who live in a society insulated from the poverty, war and inhumane treatment in other parts of the world is to see beyond themselves and participate in the tremendous spirit of giving that he sees on campus. "I am impressed by the willingness to work for the benefit of others," he said. "Public service is one of the finest achievements."

A broader challenge is the one confronting affirmative action in higher education, he said, citing preliminary figures released April 1 that show a significant decline in enrollment of underrepresented minority students at the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses of the University of California. They are the first classes since that California's Proposition 209 eliminated using race as a factor in college admissions.

In a statement issued earlier in the week, Bollinger said:

"Removing race as a factor in admissions has a devastating effect on the ability to maintain a diverse student body. That is precisely why the University of Michigan is committed to aggressively defending its policy in the lawsuits filed by the Center for Individual Rights. Our nation's most selective public universities--including Michigan--must remain integrated."

Bollinger believes that the case of Brown vs. Board of Education was the beginning of the civil rights issue and that we are all indebted to that for the diversity we have been able to maintain.

"But is that ideal still alive and well and the end of the century, or is it just going to be given up," Bollinger asked.

"It is a critical time for you," he told the students. "There are forces that would try to turn us back many decades and it is up to us as educational institutions to argue for a diverse student body."