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See You in September? Or Lose You to a Summer Virus?

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239

No one wants to sing that old song. And it’s time to make the tough decision. Maybe you’ll be like some bullheaded schools that insist normalcy shall take place.

Or maybe you’ll be like Rice.

But first, let me bring to your attention something I noticed in social media.

Did your school get all self-righteous about diversity when reports showed that Asian Americans were being scapegoated and attacked during the pandemic?

How about when the six Korean American women were gunned down in Atlanta? (The killer, Robert Aaron Long, makes an appearance in Fulton County, Ga., this week). 

How about when the number of hate incidents against AAPI since the pandemic began throughout the country, ranging from verbal harassment to murder, is now around 9,000? That’s a number from StopAAPIHate, a consortium run out of the San Francisco State University College of Ethnic Studies.Emil GuillermoEmil Guillermo

Given all that, did your school hire more Asian American Studies teachers and scholars? That’s causing some real buzz in social media.

Dr. Anthony Ocampo, wrote: “All these universities putting out #StopAsianHate statements last year and none of them are hiring Asian American Studies faculty this year. See how that works?”

As Ocampo pointed out, if your school is concerned about any of that did it translate into hiring AAPI faculty?

The response in the Twitterverse affirmed his concern.

“Very tired of the performance --without action that aligns with the performance­­- by universities and other organizations purporting to support dismantling systemic racism and other items, “ wrote Jen Bononi. “People in positions of power to change this should do so. Now.”

Another response proclaimed something positive.

“Vanderbilt hired two,” wrote Laura Cheifetz. She added, “But it also took them a long time to respond to surge in reported anti-Asian hate stuff. So.”

Shouldn’t be part of the give and take but that’s the way it is.

Hira Ambrosino added: “without constant and continued societal pressure, nothing changes.” We’ve been fighting the same old fights since the 1920s.”

Ah, an historian!

These are the concerns of people waiting in the wings to be summoned to teach and serve. It’s a pity that the wait too often seems interminable.  

Harvard, which doesn’t even have a formal Asian American studies major, has moved glacially on such matters, despite continuing to admit its most Asian American freshman classes ever.  I asked a friend of mine who is a faculty member and a person of color in another discipline there why Harvard is so slow. His response was tautological. Essentially, he said that institutions, especially slow ones like Harvard, just move slowly.

Doesn’t’ help. We need to get the hiring fires lit now.

Maybe if they played football

Football seems to be a higher ed priority. In most schools, the coaches make the most money. The games bring in the most income for alums. And even before its set whether a school is going live or zooming in, the football team knows what must be done to keep the contracts in order and the money flowing.

It’s not unlike the Olympics, which never should have taken place this month if people were prudent and showed a respectable “over abundance of caution.”

Instead, the dollars won out, the games took place, and medals were awarded. So was the Virus. It’s just looking for hosts, and it got what it was looking for.

Tokyo reported record virus cases after the Olympics began in July.

Now post-Olympics,  three weeks into August, Tokyo has reported nearly 5,800  new cases, with the country setting daily records with infections around  20,000.

The numbers have led Japan’s top medical advisor Shigeru Omi  to say, “If infections continue to surge at the current pace, we won’t be able to save lives that could be otherwise saved.”

The country won’t admit the Olympics has anything to do with it. But it’s extending the state of emergency just the same through Sept. 12.

Japan has about 37 percent of its population vaccinated. But its experience should be heeded by universities thinking they can plow ahead toward normality with abandon.

They shouldn’t.

Even when you think you’ve bubbled up and have all your people vaccinated, breakthroughs do occur.

In Houston, at Rice University this past week, despite a 98.5 percent vaccination rate, and mask rules, the virus broke through the Rice bubble. In a letter to the school’s 8,000 students, Dr. Bridget Gorman, dean of undergraduates wrote: “I’ll be blunt: The level of breakthrough cases (positive testing among vaccinated persons) is much higher than anticipated.”

Heed the Rice example. Heed the Olympics.

When death is the worst case, remote learning is the only answer until we get a better handle on this.

Meanwhile, go over some resumes for beefing up your Asian American Studies faculty.  They’ll be able to help explain the connection between the rise in AAPI hate and a scapegoating Republican administration in real time.  Remotely, or perhaps some time in the future, be it masked and triple-vaxed, in the flesh.   

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator who writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. You can follow him on Twitter @emilamok

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