An organization for all Asians

By Hayat Norimine
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Unleashed! (Photo by Jeff Sitthi)

Each year, the Associated Students of the University of Washington Asian Student Commission (ASC) spends weeks organizing the ASC Talent Show, finding student organizations to participate and trying to equally represent the more than 10,000 Asian and Asian American students on campus.

“There’s a pressure to make it the best,” said Melissa Yang, ASC director. “The talent show is what the student organizations expect every year. There’s always the challenge to really gauge what they really want to see.”

This year marked the talent show’s 25th, which showcased a wide array of talent, from spoken-word poetry and hip-hop, to a cappella and traditional dance. The ASC Talent Show, hosted in early March, featured 11 performances from 10 registered student organizations (RSOs) under the ASC. Filipino American Student Association members Nicole Masangkay and Troy Osaki, who performed spoken-word poetry, won the talent show and took a $500 prize for the organization.

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Fighting Dreamers (Photo by Jeff Sitthi)

Yang said the challenge is to come up with a show that’s new and refreshing to the Asian community, which continues to have high expectations for the event.

Today, more than 26 percent of the University of Washington’s student body identifies as Asian, and the large Asian communities are represented through the memberships of the organizations under the ASC.

ASUW, the University of Washington’s student government, has eight commissions with the goal to represent the diversity on campus.

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UW Awaaz (Photo by Jeff Sitthi)

The commissions feature historically underrepresented communities, such as the Women’s Action Commission and the Queer Student Commission. The ASC, which encompasses 31 RSOs, is the largest.

“It’s interesting to be the voice for the biggest commission on campus,” Yang said. “Being the Asian Student Commission director, you’re representing the largest body on campus. You have to balance representing so many groups. … What I really like about ASC is that you acknowledge the diversity of the groups, but your job is to unite them and bring them together.”

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Sayaw Dance Troupe (Photo by Jeff Sitthi)

While some ASC members say the commission’s strength is in its numbers, there have also been concerns about whether the organization can fully represent the diversity of the Asian community on campus.

In the past, these concerns have effected change within ASUW. One of the ASUW commissions, the Pacific Islander Student Commission, was established as a branch off of ASC in 2000 to better represent communities from Fiji, Guam, Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, and the Philippines.

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Julian Bossiere (Photo by Jeff Sitthi)

Last year, students came forward with the idea for a South Asian Student Commission, though students have yet to follow through. Two years ago, traditional Indian dance group Natya won the ASC Talent Show — the first time a South Asian organization had won.

The Chinese Student Association (CSA), the largest RSO in ASC and one of the largest on campus, has seen subgroups develop within its organization.

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Troy Osaki (Photo by Jeff Sitthi)

“There’s definitely a big divide between international students and American-born Chinese,” said Diana Zhou, CSA president and UW senior.

Of the 400 registered members in CSA, about 40 percent are international students. The organization, which has 40 officer positions and thousand of students attending events, has seen subgroups split off to form their own organizations, including the Hong Kong Student Association and Taiwanese Student Association.

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Nicole Masangkay (Photo by Jeff Sitthi)

Zhou said that while it may be a challenge to try to represent the diversity in CSA, like Yang, she said the organization’s main goal is to showcase all cultures and try to unify them.

“I think with CSA, we just try to bring them all together,” Zhou said. “It makes me really proud that CSA is one of the largest organizations on campus. I know some people are like, ‘Oh no, it’s Humans vs. Zombies.’ I think we’re up there, though.” (end)

Hayat Norimine can be contacted at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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