ECAASU Welcomes Dialogue on Sponsorship

The ECAASU National Board would like to respond to the issues raised by Vijay Prashad and Lai Wai Wu’s essay (see citations).  We hope to clear up misconceptions and discuss the broader issues.

ECAASU National has never tried to suppress Lai Wa Wu’s freedom to speak, by cutting off her microphone or any action otherwise. Furthermore, the military has not threatened to pull funding from the ECAASU 2011 Conference. Finally, the military has never asked our keynotes for an apology*. Of course, we are open to the fact that there may be misconceptions on our side as well. We have always been open to discussing, and we have been working with and will continue to do so with Ms. Wu and Professor Prashad to engage in direct communication. We just now had a quick phone call with Professor Prashad regarding the misconceptions we discuss here, and he has confirmed that these misconceptions are indeed based on second hand information or incomplete information.

We urge you to read both “The Military Wants Us to Say Sorry” by Ms. Wu and Professor Prashad as well as “ECAASU 2011: Lessons in Mis/Understanding Different Levels of Analysis” by Professor C. N. Le (see citations at bottom). ECAASU’s mission is to educate, not indoctrinate. We encourage everyone to read statements from all perspectives with an open mind.

Corporate and military funding has always been an option, not a requirement. The ECAASU National Board works with the Conference Board to identify sources of funding for whatever size of the conference that the host venue wishes. Nevertheless, the Conference Board is still a main driver in setting the vision and making decisions regarding the annual conference. However, after the 2011 conference to this day, the Duke University ECAASU 2012 conference board has received no feedback from anyone on this matter, and the Board of Directors has received little direct feedback as well. We hope that people will communicate with the organizers themselves to be better informed of all conference-related issues. After all, ECAASU was founded on the principles of self-empowerment, education, activism, and equally as important, communication. To get in touch with the ECAASU 2012 Conference Board, you can email them at duke@ecaasu.org.  You can reach the Board of Directors at directors@ecaasu.org.

ECAASU was founded in 1977 in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Allan Bakke’s case, in which he alleged that his denial of admission to U.C. Davis School of Medicine was due to “reverse discrimination." This decision represented an attack on the Civil Rights movement of the 1960. ECAASU was founded upon the calling that the Asian American community needed a comprehensive network for mutual support and education. Since its founding more than 30 years ago, ECAASU has been at the forefront of raising awareness, educating people about critical Asian American issues. In acknowledging the growing diversity of Asian Americans around the country and their need to be heard, ECAASU became recognized as a national nonprofit organization and thus would become nonpartisan, as mandated under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

However, nonpartisanship does not equal political apathy. On the contrary, ECAASU has remained committed to justice for all, standing in solidarity with and giving a voice to all people of color, especially those who have been marginalized. Over the years ECAASU has fought for justice in countless ways.  Members of ECAASU have:

  • Organized sit-ins, rallies, and demonstrations, including speaking out against the Hot97’s defamation of the Asian Americans
  • Denounced MTV’s fetishization of Asian Americans
  • Mentored high school students in NYC and Philadelphia who have been victims of bullying and violent hate crimes
  • Rallied against a restaurant’s chain mistreatment and harassment of its immigrant workers
  • Sponsored and lent support to the formation of ethnic studies programs in campuses around the country
  • Conducted grassroots community organizing for participation in the 2010 Census
  • Coordinated voter registration programs in collaboration with the Youth Charge Now! civic engagement campaign
  • Developed a comprehensive APIA History 101
  • Highlighted South Asian community leaders in business, the law, and fraternities through spotlighted interviews
  • Advocated for the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform
  • Raised awareness about issues that affect Asian American women, including body image and increasing rates of suicide
  • Addressed racial inequality in the workplace
  • Volunteered as AALDEF-sponsored poll monitors in particularly disenfranchised immigrant communities.

Our actions speak for themselves.

ECAASU thus has enjoyed a rich history of activism, while at the same time recognizing the new and incoming students who are only beginning to discover what it means to be Asian American. Without seeking to recruit and indoctrinate (lest we become our own worst enemies), ECAASU aims to educate, raise awareness, and let each attendee realize his or her individual ability to effect positive change. Throughout its history, ECAASU’s mission has changed with each new generation of Asian American students. Currently, we have seen an uncomfortable trend: too many students are unaware and underinformed, not knowing enough about what issues there are to even begin taking action. That is why we currently strive to educate, encourage debate and discussion, so the new generation of activists is informed and as empowered.

In our inclusiveness of both activists and and those who there are to learn, ECAASU has grown tremendously over the recent years. From about 500 students in the early 1990s, attendance at our conferences has blossomed to more than 1500 students in the last three years. As a result, the cost of such conferences has become more demanding. Especially in light of the unforgiving economic circumstances, the increase in students that continue to get involved, and ECAASU’s commitment to including all enthusiastic participants, the capital required to administer a conference like ECAASU has become ever more imposing. The option of choosing the support of our armed forces has allowed the conference to expand under challenging circumstances, and it must be made clear that accepting their money does not mean that they have control of our programming. For many students, this support has enhanced their conference experience. On the other hand, we understand that many other students may find the military’s presence to be uncomfortable, given the foundations on which ECAASU was built.

There is no such thing as a perfect organization, we ECAASU strives to continously grow and develop. We open the floor to you: in a few days we will be sending out a survey to our members -- the Asian American community and its allies -- to better understand what you want. We will consider these results seriously when making decisions about ECAASU’s continuing mission and sponsorship, so we hope you will give us your opinions.

Finally, we have been highly encouraged by the recent level of passion the Asian American community has demonstrated over the direction of ECAASU. We are glad that sponsorship-related questions are finally getting the attention they deserve. ECAASU stands by freedom of speech, and we are committed to providing a forum in which all parties come to share their opinions and to discuss. At the same time, ECAASU also believes in the pursuit of truth and fair representation. We hope the following facts will clarify any misconceptions that may have arisen in the recent heated dialogues:

First, to our knowledge, the military has asked neither Professor Prashad nor Ms. Wu to apologize*. The National and Conference boards were never requested by the military to have the keynote speakers apologize. And even if such a request were made, the National Board would never ask invited guests to retract their statements.

Also, ECAASU National has never asked anybody to cut off a keynote speaker’s microphone, nor has ECAASU National sought to silence speech. The National Board is appalled to hear of how anyone would suggest cutting off Ms. Wu’s microphone. None of the members of the National Board made such a request. It goes against ECAASU’s commitment to free speech, and thus we applaud the sound engineer for refusing to give in to such a request. This information was given to Professor Prashad or Ms. Wu by a backstage engineer, who did not specify who exactly made the request.

Furthermore, ECAASU is sponsored by a variety of organizations, not just the military. ECAASU works tirelessly to seek out college funding -- past sources from the most recent conferences include:

  • Academic/Campus Units: Asian American Studies Programs, Sociology Departments, Economics Departments, Public Policy Departments, Anthropology Departments, Education Departments, Johnson Graduate School of Business, Office of the University President, LGBT Resource Centers, Office of Social Justice Education, Women’s Resource Centers, Multi/intercultural Organizations
  • Non-Profit Organizations: Organization of Chinese Americans, Japanese American Citizens League, Korean American Community Foundation, the Fox Leadership Program, the Civic House

To the best of our knowledge, our sponsors have never expressed a wish to silence any keynote speaker’s opinions. Although they have conveyed disappointment in the way the opinions were expressed, they also conveyed interested in engaging with these issues in panels or in other open forums. We do not seek to defend anyone.  We simply want to state the facts.

ECAASU National has never sought to silence anyone’s opinions. On the contrary, we have welcomed all our keynote speakers to speak with us directly, as well as anyone else who has had questions about our sponsorship or had any feedback related to ECAASU. We share our contact information with all the registrants and welcome discourse and debate.

We have asked to meet in person with Lai Wa Wu and Vijay Prashad, and are currently working with them to set a time and place. We are working to improve communication between them and our organization. We are disappointed to see the spread of misconceptions, the lack of true understanding, and the absence of dialogue. We look forward to solving these problems together.


ECAASU has a continuing commitment to student activism and justice for all. Because attendance at our annual conferences continues to burgeon, and because we are eager to welcome any student willing to join us, the growing variety of voices and views on sponsorship decisions may have diverged somewhat. While many students enjoy the expansion of conference programming, others may question the appropriateness of the funding sources.

Therefore, ECAASU wants to hear from you. And with the purpose of learning how to become a better organization and offering empowerment to our members, we would like to receive both your criticisms as well as concrete ideas for solving the problem. The direction of ECAASU stands on its commitment to its membership -- the Asian American community --  and so we invite everybody to contact us at directors@ecaasu.org or to comment here. To speak is to be heard.

signed, The ECAASU Directorate & National Board Nancy Liang, Calvin Sun, Allen Pan, Andrew Lee, Tiff Su, Michelle Horikawa, and Derek Mong

* We got in touch with Professor Prashad and he informed us that his statement "The military wants to say we're sorry" was meant as a figurative statement, not a literal assertion of fact

Citations

Le, C.N. 2011. "ECAASU 2011: Lessons in Mis/Understanding Different Levels of Analysis" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2011/02/ecaasu-2011-lessons-mis-understanding-different-levels-analysis/> (February 25, 2011).

Wu, L.W., Prashad, V. 2011. “What Has Happened to the East Coast Asian Students' Union?: The Military Wants Us to Say We're Sorry” Counterpunch. <http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad02242011.html> (February 24, 2011).