Diermeier, Wente and Churchwell release statement in support of AAAPI community

In the wake of recent acts of violence towards the AAAPI community, Diermeier, Wente and Churchwell released a statement explaining how the university plans to support AAAPI students in the future.

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Anjali Chanda

Kirkland Hall, as photographed on Nov. 5, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Anjali Chanda)

Sally Johnson, Staff Writer

In an April 19 email sent to students, Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, Provost Susan R. Wente and Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion André Churchwell expressed their support for Vanderbilt’s Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAAPI) communities. 

The email cited recent acts of violence against the AAAPI community as background for their statement. 

In the midst of the ongoing public health crisis, we are witnessing an abhorrent wave of racism and violence in this country,” the email said. This violence includes the murder of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta last month.”

Diermeier, Wente and Churchwell wrote in the email that the university condemns these acts of racism and stands united with the AAAPI community. 

Racist acts and harassment towards the AAAPI community stand in stark contrast to Vanderbilt’s core values of equity, diversity and inclusion and will not be tolerated,” the email read. 

Per the email, Vanderbilt administration has reached out to the university’s AAAPI community to determine how best to provide support for students.

“We are actively working on ways the university can more fully acknowledge, celebrate and support the AAAPI community while also educating others,” the email read. “We are exploring and planning initiatives in academics, programs and support services, and we will update the wider Vanderbilt community as these come to fruition.” 

Vanderbilt’s Asian American Student Association (AASA) President Wesley Wei said in an email to The Hustler that he was encouraged by the administration’s statement. However, he hopes to see Vanderbilt take more active steps towards supporting members of the AAASI community in the future. 

“The email is appreciated, but this is something that is arguably overdue,” Wei said. “We hope that the administration will remain in communication with AASA and members of the community to go beyond words and work toward common goals.” 

Wei added that AASA has a number of goals that it would like to achieve in collaboration with the university. 

According to Wei, these goals include “continue[d] discourse in Vanderbilt-led events on topics related to anti-Asian sentiments and xenophobia”, “[institutional] recognition and support for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month” and the development of “a staffed Inter-Asian Identity Center to support campus initiatives and community development for Asian and Asian American students.”

Per Wei, AASA would also like to see the hiring of more Asian and Asian American faculty and staff and the creation of an Asian American and Asian diaspora studies department. The month-old Vanderbilt Asian American Studies Initiative also calls for the creation of this department in a petition, which has accumulated more than 1,000 signatures.