Guest Opinion: The U Needs an Asian Cultural Center


The Block U on the University of Utah Campus in Salt Lake City on Oct.9, 2014. (Photo via The Daily Utah Chronicle Archive)

By U of U Asian Collective


The rhetoric that Asian Americans are the “model minority” and the consistent practice of excluding Asian Americans from people of color placed together is a dangerous combination — the essence of racial valorization and civic ostracism that feeds into anti-Asian hate and discrimination.

According to Stop AAPI Hate, “from March 19, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021, a total of 10,905 hate incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) persons were reported.” Utah is no exception. The state has a history of anti-Asian racism and hate toward Asian immigrants, including a history of hosting Japanese internment camps, where individuals of Japanese descent were forcibly relocated and incarcerated. Former state Rep. Kim Coleman faced charges of racism after writing on her campaign page that the COVID-19 virus came as a “courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party” and was condemned online by people who said she was encouraging xenophobic attacks against people of Asian descent.

Most recently, the University of Utah’s Asian community was also met with anti-Asian racism. Two anti-Asian hate incidents occurred in October 2022, four days apart from each other. Not even a month later, another anti-Asian hate incident occurred. These were verbal harassments that consisted of “go back to your country,” “ching chang” and being called a “ch**k.” These also occurred in public places: the USC football game, the Stadium Trax Station and the J. Willard Marriott Library. All were examples of how those of us who experience Asian diaspora are harmed by xenophobia when we are trying to harmonize our dual/multi-identities.

At the U, 1,929 of 33,081 undergraduate students identified as Asian or Asian-American as of 2020. This makes Asian/Asian-American the third largest specified racial group at the U, and yet our community receives little resources or support. During the height of the pandemic, when America and the rest of the world saw a surge of anti-Asian hate and xenophobia, other universities and colleges took the initiative to offer support and resources to Asian and Asian-American identifying students like creating Asian Cultural Centers. The U has yet to address Asian-targeted racism and bias specifically.

These stats and incident reports all spell out simple but devastating news: racism and hate crimes towards Asian and Asian-American students on campus continue to plague not only our nation but also our very campus community. This pandemic, unlike COVID-19, does not disappear or die down with time or vaccinations, but through community engagement and activism.

But how can the students and community members alike participate in helping combat this issue? The solution is to urge the U to allocate Asian and Asian-American-identifying students a space on campus to call home. A space to feel safe and loved. A space to congregate and share each other’s experiences. A space that we desperately need.

This is the essence of what the U of U Asian Collective wishes to achieve. The purpose of the Collective is to establish an Asian Cultural Center on campus to offer resources and support not only to Asian and Asian-American students, but also to staff and faculty that identify as such. Through this network of love and understanding that is built around the Asian Cultural Center, the campus community can actively engage in disrupting the “model minority” and the monolith myths, among other anti-Asian thoughts and sentiments. This way, the original mission of the Asian Cultural Center grows twofold.

Despite all the benefits and the need for an Asian Cultural Center, the Collective faces harsh pushback and is bombarded with bigotry and racism. We were all aware of what it would take to establish a center at the U. Still, the reality of the situation was a lot worse than what any one of us could have braced for. The difficult burden of striving for equity and justice should not however be carried by the few nor just the BIPOC community. Equity and justice are only achieved through collective understanding and love, and this piece serves not as a call for help but as a call for action. Solidarity and allyship are required to help break this cycle of intolerance.

At the end of the day, no matter how daunting and isolating this line of work may be, we will continue to shield the fire that warms the hearts and minds of those who dare to dream and hope, and this eternal warmth will forever be cemented at the U.


— U of U Asian Collective


The Daily Utah Chronicle publishes guest op-eds written by faculty, elected officials and other members of the public on topics relevant to students at the University of Utah. The Chronicle welcomes guest op-ed pitches here.