Last week the University notified officials in the Asian American Studies department that their budget, which was decreased for this academic year, will likely remain at the same lower level for the 2008-2009 academic year.
This decision, however, has received negative feedback from many students and department officials.
University administration cut back on the budgets of several departments, including ASAM, this past academic year to allow for certain expenses, like bringing Kalpen Modi to campus.
In discussions about next year's budget, the administration intends to work from this lower budgeted amount, instead of the higher amount from last year, according to College Dean Dennis DeTurck.
The decision was made without any formal discussion or meeting with the department, according to ASAM department administrators, who preferred that their names be withheld because of the sensitive nature of the matter.
Benjamin Alisuag, College junior and chairman of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, has started a petition to reverse the University's decision that he plans to deliver to Penn President Amy Gutmann early next week. He is one of many students voicing their opposition to the decision.
"To me, this is the University saying to students of all races that we are done learning about ethnic struggle in America," College freshman Franklin Bi said. "It's made me review whether or not Penn is still the right place for me to learn."
But DeTurck - who is directly in charge of ASAM funding - said he was confused about the reaction of the student body to the recent budget plans.
"This year's budget is less than last year's. When thinking of next year, it makes sense to use this year's as a guideline and not last year's budget. So it won't necessarily go back up to what it was previously," DeTurck said. "This isn't a budget cut."
The ASAM Undergraduate Advisory Board has already met with student leaders from APSC to determine courses of action to show the importance of the ASAM program.
"This budget cut is ridiculous, unnecessary and detrimental to those interested in Asian American Studies, be they members of the Asian Pacific American community or members of the broader Penn community," said Mary He, College junior and member of the ASAM UAB.
ASAM director Grace Kao said the department would only be able to offer one course that is not cross-listed with any others. It normally relies on partial funding by cross-listing courses with other departments.
In addition, the ASAM department is already at a point where there are no full-time staff members, said department administrators.
But whatever the case, ASAM administrators are determined to keep the department afloat.
"I can't watch the program die," Kao said.
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