Elliott School of International Affairs
Statement on Diversity & Inclusion in Asian Studies
September 29, 2020
Addressing Current and Historical Issues of Diversity & Inclusion Affecting the U.S. and GW Community
In reflecting on the violent deaths and injuries suffered by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, and countless other Black Americans at the hands of police officers, the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS), the East Asia National Resource Center (NRC), and Asian Studies Program stand together with our GW community and the nation in order to condemn police brutality and systemic anti-Blackness.
We do so while acknowledging that this statement is being released late after the death of George Floyd, on the heels of the recent Breonna Taylor grand jury verdict, and not long since the resignation of Jessica Krug from the Department of History at GW for co-opting Black identity. We have done so in order to take time to reflect on our own shortcomings in addressing these issues, and to identify ways in which to address them in a substantive and meaningful fashion.
While many institutions, for example, highlight diversity and inclusion as part of their mission statements, this has not necessarily resulted in any concrete actions taken beyond issuing further statements of support and solidarity with Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC*) communities. We must renew our efforts in identifying and understanding the very real biases and barriers which members of our community experience on a daily basis.
In addition, being a major hub of Asian Studies research and education not only in the Washington, D.C. area, but also nationally, we want to acknowledge the negative impact which the COVID-19 epidemic continues to have on the lives of Asian Americans and Asians living in the U.S. According to a recent Pew Research Survey, these groups have reported adverse experiences due to their race and ethnicity. This is obviously unacceptable, and we condemn any verbal or physical abuse and harassment of individuals from these communities.
*While we use the term BIPOC as a shorthand in this statement, we acknowledge that the term does not necessarily capture the diversity and intersectionality of the multitude of communities constituting the term.
Addressing Current and Historical Gaps in Asian Studies Related to Diversity & Inclusion
The mission of Sigur, GWIKS, the NRC, and the Asian Studies Program is to increase the quality and broaden the scope of scholarly research and publication on Asia, educate new generation of students, scholars, analysts, and policymakers in Asian Studies, promote collaboration and partnerships across GW, and engage with the broader public community including K-12 educators, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), minority-serving institutions (MSIs), veterans, and journalists on issues of regional and global importance related to Asia.
Part and parcel of this mission is to ensure that prospective and current GW students, faculty, staff, and external stakeholders can engage with the field in a safe and accessible manner. However, we acknowledge that Asian Studies has traditionally not been open to individuals from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Similarly, the most robust Asian Studies programs are based at a select group of universities and colleges, including GW, who attract candidates from a select number of K-12 educational institutions.
This concentration of the highest-quality programs amongst elite universities, colleges, and K-12 institutions creates substantial barriers to entry for students who do not have the financial or other means to attend them (e.g., lack of access to technology). Without insights and contributions from BIPOC students and faculty, Asian Studies education and scholarship will continue to suffer from a lack of diverse perspectives.
Steps We Are Currently Taking to Address the Gaps
Recognizing these long-term deficiencies and gaps in Asian Studies education and scholarship, the Sigur Center, GWIKS, NRC, and the Asian Studies Program have been taking tangible steps towards addressing them in our public programming, scholarship opportunities offered, K-12/MSI/HBCU outreach, academic programming, and GW community building.
You can read more about our current efforts.
Commitments & Plans to Address the Gaps Moving Forward
We realize that current actions must be accompanied by defined commitments and plans in order to promote a more comprehensive vision integrating principles of diversity and inclusion. To this end, we are committed to the following next steps in order to continue addressing these gaps into the future:
- Integrating guidance from diversity and inclusion policies at GW into our programming visions and execution;
- Expanding our programming remit to better address issues in South and Southeast Asia, Oceania, and less-studied areas/topics in Asia (e.g. Black and Latinx history in Asia, etc.);
- Creating equitable student/staff positions which attract and hire talented BIPOC candidates to ensure that we are growing personally and professionally by integrating diverse perspectives into our team;
- Continuing conversations about diversity and inclusion internally among our staff, faculty, and students;
- Holding an annual student roundtable discussion featuring BIPOC students and alumni speaking on their experiences in Asian Studies and career options specifically available to BIPOC students in this field; and
- Holding an annual event on diversity and inclusion-related topic co-sponsored by all three departments.
As we embrace diversity, we recognize our responsibility to foster an inclusive environment which allows all members of our community to learn, work, and serve collaboratively. We strive to work together to remove barriers and address the challenges of the future, with the goal of promoting inclusion, equity, compassion, and respect.