I started teaching at The City University of NY in 2006, as an adjunct instructor in the Asian American Studies Program (AASP) at Hunter College. Beginning in 2009, students who were minors in AAS at Hunter started a campaign to save that program and formally organized as CRAASH (The Coalition for the Revitalization of Asian American Studies at Hunter). As a result of their efforts, I was hired to direct that program, and served as Acting Director from 2008-2010 and then Director, on a non-tenure-track line, from 2010-2017. Another generation of CRAASH students had, beginning in 2015, been demanding greater institutional support vis-á-vis programmatic funding and a tenured line for the Director. Following direct confrontations between students and the College administration, my contract was not renewed.
As Director of the AASP, I grew our program's curriculum to be truly interdisciplinary and embody the critical tenets of AAS. Having access mostly to contingent faculty labor, those dedicated faculty members and I worked to ensure that students had access to the rich intellectual and political history of AAS, and that they could also benefit from ongoing developments in the field. When I left Hunter, our program had grown to include courses in Asian Americans and mental health, Asian American visual art, and the Japanese American incarceration. At the same time, courses that had languished were reinvigorated, including Asian American civil rights and the law, Asian Pacific American media studies, and Arab American literature. Additionally, our program hosted a number of important campus programs, the highlight of which was our annual APA Community Fair, organized by our College Assistant Kevin Park.
I am, slowly, working on a longer essay about my time at Hunter as well as what was ultimately an expulsion from the Hunter machine. Still untitled, the essay takes up some of the more granular experiences of academic precarity for faculty of color with commitments to the intellectual and political ethos of ethnic studies, and the toll that neoliberalism takes on the integrity of the political and pedagogical project of Asian American studies in particular. I feel an overwhelming and persistent sadness and anger about how students' very legitimate demands were countered by the Hunter administration, and about the circumstances of my non-reappointment. At the same time, I continue to be proud and happy to have worked with the remarkable students at Hunter, all of whom attempted to bring their most authentic and brave selves to their educations within and beyond the classroom. I will always move through my life with an acute sense of their courage, intelligence, and and determination, which left a deep imprint on my own political and institutional consciousness.