This school year brought monumental changes to two long-standing affinity groups on campus: Asian Student Alliance (ASA) and South Asian Student Society (SASS). As new leaders grew into their roles, conversations between the two groups sparked. From these discussions, both parties came to recognize an overarching problem: the marginalization many SASS kids felt under ASA. When asked to expand on this, SASS co-head, Zahaan Khalid ‘21 explained, “ the way that the term ‘Asian’ was being used in [ASA’s] name was not accurately representative of the group of people they were catering towards […] It felt like it was generalizing Asian identities.” ASA’s name technically encompasses every ethnicity of Asia, whereas SASS is specifically for South Asians. The distinction between the two groups inadvertently created the implication that ASA was only for certain Asian students i.e East Asians and “that [ASA] was ‘bigger’ or ‘higher’ than SASS”, ASA co-head, Yehrim Hwang ’21, said. This inaccuracy was exacerbated by the fact that each of the four ASA coheads was East Asian. This made it difficult for them to fully empathize with the experiences and culture of South Asian identifying attendees.
With these problems in mind, the process for change began. Yehrim explained the goals ASA held entering the process: “We began to think about how we wanted to divide the different regions of ASA, yet still maintain a connection across all. We wanted to make sure that this change came across as a step towards stronger engagement with the respective groups”. Similarly, Zahaan expressed that SASS wanted “to create and maintain affinity groups that were able to fully support and express the cultural identities of all Asian-identifying students of CA”. After several conversations, SASS, ASA, and C&E collectively decided on creating an Asian coalition. Though this coalition is still in the works, it would ideally be comprised of several smaller affinity groups to build a community where every student can find a group that they identify with, all under the blanket term ‘ASA’. With this change, the coheads of ASA and SASS hope that all who identify as Asian can see ASA as a safe and comfortable space.