Pan-Asian Council a model for other schools

by Sarah Betts | 11/5/02 6:00am

While ethnic organizations at many colleges and universities are often separate and function independently of one another, Dartmouth's Pan-Asian Council has adopted a model that brings together the College's diverse Asian populations.

At the Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education Conference last weekend, PAC members gave a presentation highlighting the council's success at Dartmouth in an attempt to help other schools bridge difficulties in forming similar organizations.

PAC was founded in 1997 by leaders of Asian student groups who "saw the need for an umbrella group to facilitate communication," member Alan Cheng '03 said.

The organization brings together various student groups such as the Dartmouth Chinese Culture Society, the Korean American Students' Association and the Dartmouth Japanese Society to discuss issues affecting the Asian community. The group also works to accomplish goals that would be difficult for a single organization to tackle alone, Cheng said.

"We do coalition-building with other organizations," Cheng said. "We advocate for professors' tenure and organize speakers."

At the conference, Cheng gave a speech with fellow PAC member Serena Chang '05 outlining the council's structure and history at Dartmouth. The conference, held at Columbia University, also gave them the chance to hear about comparable groups at other campuses.

"A lot of similar organizations exist, but they tend not to be very well"defined," Cheng said.

It was inspiring, Chang said, to see Dartmouth's success in an area where other schools had failed. Other schools had experienced difficulties bringing together so many different and diverse groups, she said.

At some schools, South Asian students became alienated from similar organizations because they tended to be dominated by East Asians, Chang said. But both she and Cheng emphasized that Dartmouth's PAC has not experienced such problems.

"Because they have an outlet to host more specific events, council meetings facilitate cohesion more than anything else," Cheng said.

Pallavi Manvar '03, a PAC intern, works with Milan, Dartmouth's South Asian students' group. According to Manvar, the South Asian community is very small, and is somewhat segregated. This segregation has lessened over the years, however, and Milan members participate thoroughly in PAC, Manvar said.

"It used to be much more vivid," Manvar said. "Now, though, the segregation is definitely less."

Another pitfall that PAC has avoided, Chang said, was becoming an organization primarily concerned with social events, as did coalitions at many other colleges represented at last weekend's conference.

The College's other pan-Asian student group, the Dartmouth Asian Organization, concerns itself more with social activities, Chang said.

"They plan formals and do mentoring," Chang said. "Whereas PAC has representatives from each organization come and discuss things."

Dartmouth Japanese Society president Marc Akashi '03 said that PAC exists to help Asian organizations.

"It is a place where you can discuss relevant issues," Akashi said. "We don't necessarily interact all the time, but we can come together."

Cheng is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.