At the University of Cincinnati (UC), the student group United Asian Advocates (UAA) has made wave after wave of change on campus. In a current culture where racism against the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community has been at a point of boiling over, UAA has found a community within their own identities to band together and demand accountability and action from UC.
One of the current co-presidents of the organization, fourth-year business analytics and computer science student Aashka Raval knows that to enact the changes that need to be made, UAA has to be focused on persistency and consistency.
“Our goal is to kind of get the momentum back for the demands that we had in spring semester, the urgency is getting intense,” said Raval. “With every incident happening on campus that has hate involved, but we’re not getting as much momentum as we did before from the student body.”
A week before the fall semester, a UC student was assaulted off-campus because of his race. 19-year-old Tyler Adams released a statement through UAA recounting the racist remarks and violence he faced. Raval notes that events like these are the consequence of racism not being addressed.
“We need students to understand and empathize with a community that is facing so much pain at that moment, like learning about Tyler’s incident, it was ridiculous,” said Raval. “He’s so young, to be learning that he had to get stitches on his face because somebody didn’t like the way he looked, these are things we can change.”
After news broke of this attack, UAA added to their demands an immediate reworking of how UC handles alerting students to hate crimes that occur on campus and in proximity to campus. Raval is proud to say they have made actual headway with this demand, but it’s only a small step to dismantling a larger beast.
UAA is constantly working, whether that be a cultural celebration or fighting to have that spot at the administration table where they’ll help create regulations that will help protect API students.
Last October, they hosted continuous awareness events and highlighted API pride and issues still being faced. They took November to rest, focusing on strengthening their internal leadership to come back in full force to keep fighting for their demands.
“It’s very emotionally taxing for us to keep working on having the university address this,” said Raval. “It’s a part of me, I live and breathe this every single day. But then I started learning that I can let lack of progress get to me, because then there won’t be any real progress.”
Real progress is hard to define at times. There’s been a sharp drop off of student support for UAA as media hype around violent crimes against the API community dies down. They challenge UC students to come out and give more than their social media voice to UAA. Real change and advocacy can be done by giving time, money, talents, and more to support a cause.
“A lot of these things are about actually showing up, you know, we can host as many awareness education workshops as we can, as much of the gender training as we want, but if no one’s showing up, they’re a waste,” said Raval.
Keeping UAA a prominent voice on campus is always at the forefront of focus for the group. Recently the group received word that their work has been the catalyst for a new Office of Identity Inclusion that is being established. This office will serve as a physical space for a multicultural center where students and groups like UAA can hold their meetings and occupy a space on campus.
UAA learned in the fall there had previously been an Asian student association that had died out before many of the current members of UAA ever had a chance to join. This information continues to highlight the need for UAA to keep working to establish its demands and presence on campus.
“We’re trying so hard to make sure that UAA lives on beyond our times, we are implementing this in creative ways,” said Raval. “But very, very short term, the more tangible goal is to get these things that make us more recognized on campus.”
The group is still actively fighting to have all their demands met and create an environment at UC where UAA will be viewed as a major force on campus to be listened to and consulted with. While their work is monumental, they are still Bearcats at the end of the day, and their work is for their fellow Bearcats.
“It’s not just about the community, it’s about the Bearcat communities,” said Raval. “I also go to the same classes as my peers, I hang out in sigma, sigma, I party at Murphy’s, those are things that we all have in common. And we have this similar experience where we share these commonalities and that should be reason enough to care.”