SIU celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, honors victims of attacks

By Elena Schauwecker, Staff Reporter

In the midst of rapidly increasing oppression against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders all across the country, SIU has chosen to recognize national Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to celebrate the cultural heritage of its AAPI students and faculty.

On March 16, research released from the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center showed 3,800 reports of racist incidents against AAPI individuals across the country in the last year, 68% of the victims being women. These incidents included shunning, slurs and physical attacks and represented a sharp increase from the 2,600 incidents which took place the previous year. 

These hate crimes have been fueled by COVID-19, as some have held Asian people to blame for the pandemic. One of the most recent instances took place in Atlanta, Ga. on March 16, where six Asian women were killed in massage parlors. 


Though SIU has celebrated AAPI heritage month for many years, these events have made it more important than ever for the university to show appreciation for its AAPI students and faculty.

Todd Bryson, the associate chancellor for diversity, told SIU News, “Nationally, Asian American and Pacific Islander Month is celebrated in May, but SIU decided long ago to move the celebration to April because it’s very important that we dedicate a full month to celebrate the nation’s tremendous Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage.”

A new event that SIU has introduced into the festivities this year is a candlelight vigil, a display that will be up for the remainder of April in the Student Center Art Gallery where the community can pay their respects to the victims of these attacks.

The heritage month kicked off on April 1, when SIU’s associate director for study abroad, Ramesh Neupane, shared his story over a Zoom meeting, talking about his journey from Nepal to Nebraska and finally to SIU, where he received his doctorate in educational administration and began working closely with international students. 

There is also a reading list available at Morris Library featuring AAPI authors and an International Cooking Fest, which can be found on Facebook. On April 30, the Center for International Education will be hosting a socially distanced International Coffee Hour. 

Such social events allow students to be able to connect and make friends, since the pandemic has limited the connection and interaction between diverse cultures which is normally present on campus. 

 Amber Ngan, a former business major at SIU who is from Vietnam, questioned whether a month was enough. She said while the Multicultural Student Resource Center offers services for Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ and female students, there is no specific center for Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders. 


“I surely hope there would be more resource centers for Asians, not only in SIU, but also more and more universities everywhere in the US. That’s essential. There are more and more young students coming from other countries to learn and live in the US with goodwill and full of hope. Why would people turn them down, showing that this country is not as ‘free’ as the label of a ‘land of freedom?’” Ngan said. 

Despite her desire for more resources, Ngan said she rarely experienced racism at SIU and always felt welcomed by her teachers and classmates. She said she appreciated that SIU was not afraid to address the violence against people of her nationality, and she hopes that in the future AAPI culture will be celebrated in all months. 

Ngan said she would like everyone who worked to make AAPI heritage month possible to know how grateful she is for their efforts. 

“Overall, I have experienced a great time at SIU, one of the most safe places in the area,” Ngan said. “You have been doing great and even better now. Thank you so much. I know all the good things I have seen there are a part of your efforts.”

Staff reporter Elena Schauwecker can be reached at [email protected].

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