Home » Students Open Letter on Ethnicity Data – Aug 2017

105 students signed the following open letter, clarifying the rationale and reaffirming support for the collection of detailed data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

An Open Letter from Asian American & Pacific Islander Educators and Students
in Support of Collecting Detailed Data on Asian Americans

August 9, 2017

As Asian American and Pacific Islander educators and students in K-12 schools, colleges and universities across the nation, we are deeply alarmed by growing opposition to the collection of detailed data on Asian Americans.

This opposition has emerged from within our own Asian American communities.  Recently, a group of about 50 Chinese Americans in Rhode Island (including many children) protested the state’s All Students Count Act, a policy change championed by the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) and Asian American youth groups like PrYSM. This new state law requires the department of “elementary and secondary education to use separate collection categories/tabulations for specified Asian ethnic groups in every demographic report on ancestry or ethnic origins of residents.”

The protest in Rhode Island follows similar protest actions by Chinese parents in California, first when data disaggregation was being debated in the state legislature, and subsequently as school districts began implementing detailed data collection to better serve their student populations.

Opponents in both California and Rhode Island have used incendiary and misleading language to describe the potential consequences of the law, comparing it to data collected by the Nazis to persecute Jews and single them out for genocide.

This assertion is outrageous, and ignores the history and purpose of collecting detailed data on Asian Americans.

Collecting detailed data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) means that data are separated into different ethnic categories. While Asian Americans can report their identity as “Asian,” they are also able to volunteer an additional category, such as “Chinese,” “Korean,” or “Vietnamese.” They may also select more than one ethnic category. Data disaggregation is a mainstay of U.S. Census data collections, and is critical for AAPI communities pushing for greater ballot language assistance, bilingual education, mental health assistance for students, and culturally competent care by county hospitals.

For the last three decades, Asian American & Pacific Islander community leaders, elected officials, researchers, educators, and students have called for further collection of these detailed data.  The call for detailed data emerged most powerfully after 1965, when the United States ended its restrictive quotas by national origin. As the AAPI community grew, government agencies, schools, and the larger population failed to distinguish between different national-origin and ethnic groups, with distinct histories, experiences, and social needs, lumping all people of Asian origin together.  This lumping resulted in inadequate recognition of the unique challenges among different ethnic groups in the Asian American and Pacific Islander population. Consequently, educational institutions, healthcare providers, and social service providers often misunderstood and overlooked these growing communities’ needs.

As educators and students, we strive to better understand the challenges faced by our populations, and to better serve and support varied educational needs.  We cannot do this without high-quality data. For example, Cambodian, Laotian, Native Hawaiian, and Samoan Americans have among the lowest rates of graduation from community college.  Mental health issues also vary across the Asian American population, with some groups such as Chinese American women showing higher rates of suicide than other Asian American groups.  High-quality, detailed data is essential to understanding student challenges in all communities, and is vital to securing public and private resources to help students in need.

To compare the current effort to collect data on Asian Americans to the tactics of Nazi Germany is irresponsible. Historically, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including Chinese Americans, have been at the forefront of calls for detailed data collection. The purpose of these data is not to single-out a group for persecution or surveillance, but to better recognize and support all segments of our community, and to ensure that all students count in education.

As educators and students, we believe it is imperative to continue the push for high-quality, detailed data that can serve the diverse needs of our Asian American and Pacific Islander populations.

The undersigned (institutional affiliation provided for identification purposes only).

  1. Aastha Uprety, Student, College of William & Mary
  2. Abigail Wang, Medical student, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
  3. Aeriel Ashlee, Doctoral Student, Miami University in Oxford, OH
  4. Ajay Mohan, Student, Irvine Valley College
  5. Alex Au, Rad Chinese
  6. Alvin L.J. Kim, University of Pennsylvania
  7. Alvyn Dimaculangan, University of South Florida
  8. Amberly Diep, Student
  9. Amy Miao, Student at Brown University
  10. Anatolia Hodson, College of William and Mary
  11. Andrea Ayres, College of William and Mary
  12. Andy Pham, Student at Brown University
  13. Anh-Tu Lu, UC Berkeley
  14. Anne Zhao, Student, Brown University
  15. Arika Thames, College of William and Mary
  16. Beatrice Jin, Student, Cornell University
  17. Brian Kohaya, UCLA
  18. Brittany Tabora, Student, Cornell University
  19. Bryan Dosono, PhD Student, Syracuse University
  20. Cara Davis, Student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  21. Carlos Quezada, Graduate Student at Stanford University
  22. Carolyn Choi, graduate student, USC
  23. Catherine Lumintang, UCLA
  24. Chris Chen, UCLA
  25. Christina Chu, Student, Brown University
  26. Christine Kim, College of William and Mary
  27. Danica Lee, Appalachian State University
  28. Daniela Pila, Graduate Student, University at Albany SUNY
  29. Daphne Cheng, University of Michigan
  30. Dorothy Jiang, Student, Brown University
  31. Elaine Chen, University of Missouri
  32. Elaine Jessica Tamargo, Ph.D. Student, UCLA
  33. Emilie Tumale, Ph.D Student, New York University
  34. Emily Yoshioka, Brown University
  35. Eva Tang, Student at Stanford University
  36. Felicia Wong, The College of William & Mary
  37. Hanh Pham, Student, Wesleyan University
  38. Hannah Lee, MSW Student, UIC
  39. Helen Ngo, Student – University of Massachusetts Boston
  40. I-Ling Hsiung, Graduate Student, Stanford University
  41. Israel Tovar, Student at Stanford University
  42. Jacqueline Mac Fallon, Doctoral Student, Indiana University
  43. James Huynh, UCLA Graduate Student
  44. Jamie Atschinow, Student, Brown University
  45. Jason Buell, Graduate Student, CU Boulder
  46. Jason Fong, Student
  47. Jason Fong, Wesleyan
  48. Jessica Lee, The Ohio State University
  49. JingJing Zeng, Student, University of Pennsylvania
  50. Joliana Yee, Doctoral student, Loyola University Chicago
  51. Juliana Wong, Master’s Student, University of Maryland, College Park
  52. June Kim, The College of William & Mary
  53. Justin Nguyen, Medical Student
  54. Kathley LeTran, UC Davis
  55. Kelilah Liu, University of Missouri Columbia
  56. Kelly Truong, M.Ed Student, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  57. Ker Thao, Graduate Student, NYU
  58. Kevin Nguyen, Graduate Student – Cal State Long Beach
  59. Kharl Reynado, Student at the University of Connecticut
  60. Kimberly Le, Student, Brown University
  61. Krista Grajo, University of Florida
  62. Kristi Bui, Northeastern University
  63. Lilianne Tang, Grad Student, Loyola University Chicago
  64. Linda Nguyen, Student, UC Davis
  65. Linh Dang, Doctoral Student, U. of Rochester
  66. Lyn Rafil, Student, New York University
  67. Mari Bugayong, Grad Student, Johns Hopkins / Brown alum ’17
  68. Marissiko Wheaton, PhD Student, University of Southern California
  69. Mary Nguyen, Student, University of Oxford
  70. Melinda Wang, Student, University of Pennsylvania
  71. Melissa Chen, Undergraduate Student, Stanford University
  72. Michelle Nguyen, Student, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  73. Michelle Yang, University of Chicago
  74. Mike Hoa Nguyen, PhD Student, UCLA School of Education
  75. Monica Chan, Seattle University
  76. Natasha Jones, Graduate student, CSU Fullerton
  77. Natasha Saelua, Doctoral Student – Higher Education, Indiana University”
  78. Niko Schultz, Student, University of Maryland
  79. Nisha M, Harvey Mudd College
  80. Niuniu Teo, Student, Peking University
  81. Nurul Quratulaini Abd Salim Nast, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
  82. Othelia Jumapao, University of Florida
  83. Phoebe Pan, Student, NSU College of Optometry
  84. Porntip Israsena Twishime, Graduate Student, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  85. Raymond Fang, University of Chicago
  86. Richard Ho, Temple University
  87. Rose Ann Gutierrez, PhD Student and University of California, Los Angeles
  88. Rudmila Rashid, Student, University of Pennsylvania
  89. Sabrina Cheung, UNC-Chapel Hill
  90. Sabrina Ko, Student at Smith College
  91. Sam Gomes, Johns Hopkins University
  92. Sejung Yim, PhD student, CUNY Graduate Center
  93. Soua Xiong, Graduate Student, San Diego State University
  94. Stella Chong, Ms. Stella Chong, First Generation College Student at Brown University
  95. Sydnee Viray, UVM – Doctoral Student
  96. Trace Hernandez, The College of William & Mary
  97. Van Anh Tran, PhD Student, Columbia University
  98. Vanessa Na, PhD Student, Indiana University Bloomington
  99. Vu Tran, PhD Student, Ohio State University
  100. Weily Lang, College of Mount Saint Vincent
  101. William Ho, Graduate Student of the Stanford Graduate School of Education
  102. William Hsu, Graduate Student, SUNY Binghamton University
  103. William Rhee, University of Chicago
  104. Yen-Yen Gao, Student, University of Pennsylvania
  105. Yu-Hui Lin, Graduate Student, UC Berkeley

(other versions of this letter)