I just received an e-mail from my friend who teaches in an Asian American studies department at a university in New York. She was telling me that the university is seriously considering closing the department. What's really discouraging is that I've been hearing the same thing from other folks from other universities from around the country - not just Asian American studies but also African American studies, Chicano/Chicana studies, Native - the list goes on (same thing can be said for art, music, drama, dance...). Seems like every time matters of insufficient funding (or abundant controversy) come up at schools, the automatic response is to question whether or not these more marginalized areas of study are 'still necessary' or 'still relevant'.
And when I say marginalized, I don't mean less important. From a cat's perspective (small animals are very marginalized - think about it), these areas of study may very well be more important. Because to me, a university is one of the last places in society where alternative perspectives can truly be cultivated (I guess now I'm talking about an ideal-world scenario - I don't actually see this happening so much). And it's precisely because Asian American/African American/Native/GLBT/Other-related knowledge and experience are so marginalized, undervalued, and even attacked in society-at-large that these departments in universities become worth of our best efforts to protect them. They are absolutely essential to the well-being to our society. If university people really understood and believed this, wouldn't it make sense that they should work to protect these departments rather than periodically threaten them with termination? My humble suggestion to all you people at universities (that means you too students!):
1) Fight for the protection and development of the most marginalized areas of study. Especially in repressive or otherwise unimaginative times. Diversity of thought will help our planet and all living beings, but we can't have it if we don't fight for the structures that'll create it.
2) Fight for the redistribution of money (especially public moneys) from hurtful and exploitative practices - both national and international - that benefit the privileged elite, to practices that enlighten and benefit the majority of all living beings. Money spent on nuclear missiles means less money to pay all those hard working adjunct instructors!
Oh hey, here's an idea. If you want to save money, go after the business school - those guys have lots of other resources and their track record for improving the condition of the planet isn't so good. If you still need to cut more from your school's budget, consider shutting down or 'down-sizing' (I love that term!) your most widely respected, most deeply entrenched departments. Don't worry, people won't stop reading Shakespeare - he's had several hundred years of worship in hundreds of nearly identical departments everywhere, so his place in the world is pretty solid I think.
p.s. You can hold the hate-mail, I don't have anything against Shakespeare; I think he's awesome, blah blah.
[ note from Bunny: All over the country Kindergarden-Grade 12 schools have cut physical education, health, music, art, and other good stuff from their programs. I think these decisions are being guided by an abnormal fixation on money, work, and competition. It is no longer fashionable for human beings to explore the full range of being human. Good luck with that. ]