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ACC serves as advocate, resource for students

By Scott Tibbs, February 16, 2010

Note: I am taking a journalism class this semester. This is my first article for that class. Any articles I publish on ConservaTibbs will not be timely, as I will not post them until after I turn them in and get my grade.

Created as a result of a protest by the Student Coalition in 1997, the Asian Culture Center serves as a means to educate the community about Asian and Asian-American culture as well as advocating for Asians and Asian-Americans on campus. So said Melanie Castillo-Cullather, director of the ACC, in a meeting with J200 students on Thursday, January 28.

When about 400 students protested at the Sample Gates in January of 1997, one item on their list of demands was for an Asian Culture Center. Castillo-Cullather said that the center was still getting established when white supremacist Benjamin "August" Smith murdered IU student Won-Joon Yoon in a drive-by shooting in front of the United Methodist Church on Third Street, according to the July 6, 1999 Herald-Times. Castillo-Cullather said that the murder made it clear that the center had to engage in the community.

Approximately 40 percent of her time is spent doing community outreach, Castillo-Cullather said. The ACC serves as a way to help people understand Asian and Asian-American culture and deal with cultural conflicts. Castillo-Cullather explained that after an Asian immigrant couple left their child in their automobile at Kroger, the ACC provided a translator and helped foster communication between the police and the family and help the family understand that is not allowed in the United States.

Part of the center's educational efforts is to help people understand that difference and deal with the cultural bias that people of Asian descent are often assumed to be from Asia even if they were born in the United States, Castillo-Cullather said. The two groups are "markedly different" in many ways and the ACC helps people understand the difference between the two groups, she said.

"It is very important to be able to distinguish between the experiences of an Asian-American and an Asian international student," she said.

The ACC also provides educational programs throughout the year.

"We try to come up with programs that will enlighten and bring a sense of awareness about people of Asian descent," Castillo-Cullather said.

These programs include the ACC Film Series, which "brings films showcasing Asian themes, subjects, and issues," according to the ACC web site at www.indiana.edu/~acc. Other programs include "Asian Cultures Around Campus" and a monthly discussion called "Monday Table Topics," according to the ACC Web site.

The ACC is attempting to convince Indiana University to treat Asian and Asian-American students as other minorities for purposes such as outreach and scholarships, Castillo-Cullather said. Because there are more Asian and Asian-American students at Indiana University than their percentage of the population, they are not considered an underrepresented minority group, Castillo-Cullather said.