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The Dartmouth
May 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

‘These deaths feel like a death in the family’: Dartmouth Asian American Studies Collective hosts vigil to grieve victims of mass shootings

In the aftermath of three mass shootings in California that primarily targeted Asian Americans, DAASC hosted speakers and a series of community-building events to honor the victims on Monday.

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The Dartmouth Asian American Studies Collective hosted a Lunar New Year Vigil at Collis Patio on Monday “to collectively grieve and honor” the victims of the Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay and Oakland shootings that occurred in January, according to a Jan. 28 email from the organization. 

The vigil, structured in three parts, featured nearly a dozen speakers — including Dartmouth students, faculty members and a student representative from Hanover High School. DAASC members and vigil co-organizers Jessi Yu ’25 and Lance Sunga ’26 read the names of 18 recent mass shooting victims aloud, along with remembrances released by the victims’ families.

The outdoor portion of the vigil continued with a candle-lighting ceremony and a series of call-and-response affirmations, and concluded with an indoor “healing circle” in Collis. Approximately 80 to 100 people attended the event, according to DAASC member Daniel Lin ’23.

“It is political that [DAASC] had to do this last year, and the year before that — every year since the beginning of COVID — and before,” DAASC member and vigil co-organizer Anh-Ton Nguyen ’26 said. “It is political that an organization like DAASC has to organize this, and not the school administration.”

Lin said that DAASC, founded in the summer of 2021, advocates for the creation of Asian American studies at the College. Currently, students are able to major or minor in Asian Societies, Cultures, and Languages, but Dartmouth does not have an independent Asian American studies department. Several DAASC-affiliated speakers at the vigil advocated for a greater focus on Asian American studies on campus in their speeches.

“We believe that it matters, not only because it legitimizes the field, which is important, but also it sets an example for other institutions to also incorporate Asian American studies into their curriculums —  because historically, Asian Americans have been marginalized,” Lin said in an interview after the vigil. 

DAASC member and vigil co-organizer Rachel Kahng ’25, who spoke at the event, said in her speech that the organization’s mission extends beyond educational reform and having Asian American studies classes at the College. 

“By demanding for Asian American studies, what we’re really demanding is that the individuals of this institution face its role in the deep-rooted exclusion of Asian people in this country,” Kahng said. “We demand that this institution acknowledges histories … and the hostile environments and violence we face today, some of which has been unveiled by the pandemic.” 

Three faculty members from the women’s, gender & sexuality studies department — Eng-Beng Lim, Mingwei Huang and MT Vallarta — echoed similar sentiments in their speeches at the vigil. 

In his speech, Lim called for “the radicalization of Asian America” through “solidarities and coalitions,” in addition to the development of Asian American studies.

“We’re talking about racial, genderqueer, classed solidarities that have fragmented the U.S.,” Lim said in an interview after the event. “The work isn’t assimilationist — where we try to fit into the mainstream — but to think about…the struggle for more equitable futures for all.”

Dean of the College Scott Brown, who attended the vigil, wrote in an email statement that the event was important as a way “to come together in community.” In response to several speakers’ demands for institutional reform, Brown wrote that the Dean of Faculty Office “have put a great deal of thought into how to best support the Asian and Asian American community.” 

The Dean of Faculty Office is in the process of developing “curriculum and programming related to Asian American studies,” according to an email statement from associate dean of International and Interdisciplinary Studies Matthew Delmont. While the Dean of Faculty Office has the goal of forming a steering committee to establish, among other features, an Asian American studies major and minor, such a committee has not yet been formed, Delmont wrote. 

In the meantime, DAASC continues to organize. Lin said that while it “shouldn’t be the students’ job” — but rather the College administration’s responsibility — to make vigils possible, such events give the group a platform.

“I think any act of taking up space, or organizing an event, or showing people that we exist and that we care and that we’re pushing for something — I think that’s a show of activism and furthers our mission as a student group that is trying push for the institutionalization of [Asian American studies],” Lin said.

Correction appended (Feb. 2, 12:30 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to DAASC as the Dartmouth Asian American Students Collective. The article has been updated.