The Asian Studies Club had a problem. Members were running to and from different rooms in Elon University’s Moseley Center to get enough chairs for the unusually high amount of people present for its biweekly meeting Nov. 5.
Some had to sit at the entrance of the Asian Resource Room where the meeting was held, as there were too many people to fit comfortably in the small space. As more attempted to file in, freshman Annie Yang spent some time guessing the room’s maximum capacity.
“It’s about the size of an office,” she said. “It can’t be any bigger than that. It probably holds a maximum of 10, I think? But besides that, I don’t think it can fit any more.”
In all, 12 people attended the meeting in the office-sized room, admittedly more than it could handle.
Although the Asian Studies Club usually meets in the larger Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education (CREDE), members said they wanted to make a point by using the Asian Resource Room that there is a need for expansion.
Many attending the meeting said the room wasn’t ideal for the growing number of Asian students on campus, or for summing up all of their different cultures.
“I feel like the room itself isn’t even representative of Asian culture,” said freshman Nikki Valente. “I feel like the artwork on the wall is very stereotypical. I don’t think that’s who we are. I think Elon’s Asian student body is more than this and can be represented in a better way.”
A couch, two chairs, a few pictures of Asian art and a large television that fits tightly in between two bookshelves make up the entirety of the room. Sophomore Barang Phuk said the books on the shelves were mostly Japanese-language texts with a smattering of Korean, not accounting for the rest of the Asian languages.
A recent addition
The Asian Resource Room isn’t outdated. It was opened last fall as a part of a second-floor multicultural redesign for the Moseley Center. A new African-American Resource Room opened up at the same time, and the Hispanic/Latino Resource Room and the Gender and LGBTQIA Center opened the year before.
According to Carla Fullwood, associate director for the CREDE, the creation of the Asian Resource Room was the result of conversations with and requests by the Asian Studies Club and faculty involved with the Asian Studies minor.
“The purpose of the room is to be a social space as well as a space of intellectual development and to raise awareness about Asian identity on campus,” Fullwood said. “So while it is not a big room, there are meetings that are happenings in the room that the Asian Studies club has used it for and general gatherings.”
Students at the Asian Studies Club meeting said they use the space mostly for quiet study because its size is not practical for events.
“If you look at the CREDE and you look at the Hispanic Resource Room or the African American Resource Room there is so much more there,” Valente said. “And it’s a comfier environment.”
Sophomore Ezequiel Espitia, a frequent visitor to the Hispanic/Latino Resource Room, said he uses that space to get work done and hang out with friends. It contains a common room with several smaller office-sized rooms. Freshman Andres Cruz shared Espitia’s sentiments.
“I’m definitely here a lot for studying,” Cruz said. “I don’t know why it’s so big compared to other resource rooms, but my friends and I use it to relax.”
Elon’s Asian Population
The Asian Resource Room is the only space dedicated exclusively for Asian students on campus, a demographic that has grown from 96 students in the 2012-13 academic year to 124 in the 2014-15 academic year, according to the Elon Factbook.
That’s roughly 2 percent of Elon’s undergraduate population, but Valente said she feels Asian students are left out of larger campus discussions. Phuk said the climate won’t change much until Elon gains a bigger Asian presence.
“I think Elon does a good job overall to try and get Asian students involved around campus and in student organizations,” Phuk said. “I think that right now because we don’t have that many Asian students, we have only a small space for us.”
Fullwood said the CREDE is actively listening to the concerns of Asian students through forums the center holds.
“We’ve been closely working with the Asian Studies Club to hold these forums for students that identify as Asian to gather together and to start naming the positives and what’s challenging here,” she said. “It helps us to consider what is important as a university and factor in these student experiences on campus.”
Melody Harter, program assistant for the Center of Leadership, said challenges for Asian-American students are common across the United States, but it largely depends on the size of the Asian population in that location.
“I think that at Elon our Asian demographic numbers are small, which can make it harder for Asian students to feel connected,” Harter said.
Students at the meeting said they hope the room will be redesigned and resized at some point to better represent the diversity of Asian culture. Phuk suggested a livelier room with more chairs and Asian paintings. Freshman Aye Aye Han said music from Asia, such as K-pop, a form of South Korean pop music, should be played in a renovated version of the room.
The top priority, however, remains getting a larger room.
“I find it interesting that we have a TV in here, but we can’t hold a movie event in here because you can only fit like seven people in here,” Valente said.
Fullwood said she isn’t aware of any upcoming changes to the current room. As of now, Asian Studies Club meetings might have to remain cozy if they continue being held in the resource room.