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Oriental Studies faculty decided yesterday to reexamine the department's name after meeting with students who complained that the current name is stereotypical and derogatory towards Asians. Oriental Studies Chairperson Ludo Rocher said yesterday that faculty decided to form a committee -- composed of faculty members, student critics and Oriental Studies students -- to decide whether the name is insensitive. None of the students who have spoken out against the name are Oriental Studies majors. Rocher said he wants the committee to consider a range of opinions. "I want to hear from all the peoples in Asia from the Mediterranean to the Pacific," Rocher said. Asian-American Student Alliance member Ellen Somekawa, whose group has been one of the most vocal on the issue, said her organization wants the department to move quickly on the issue. The History graduate student said she would like the Oriental Studies department to abandon its current name now and then talk about other names. She said this would "help satisfy our grievance with the department." But Rocher said earlier this week that he does not think a change should be made overnight. Students said the faculty members were receptive and interested in the students' presentations at yesterday's meeting. Undergraduate Assembly member Dan Singer, who was at the meeting, said he told faculty that a growing number of students are concerned about this issue. "This is an issue whose time has definitely come," he said. Students have complained that the word 'oriental' evokes stereotypical images of an exotic and mysterious culture. Faculty argue that the Oriental Studies department has gained an international intellectual identity under its current name and reestablishing the department under a new name would be difficult. Students have suggested several names including Asian Studies, Asian and African Studies, and East Asian and North African Studies for the department, which offers courses on East and South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. United Minorities Council Vice Chairperson John Shu, who was also at the meeting, said he is happy with the department's decision to create a committee, but said he is taking their commitment "with a grain of salt."

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