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Protestors march at the Philly Rally for Solidarity on Mar. 23. Almost 3,800 incidents of hate crimes have been received by the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center from March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021. 

Credit: Chase Sutton

School of Arts and Sciences Dean Steven Fluharty announced that SAS will begin a cluster search to fill multiple standing faculty positions in Penn's Asian American Studies Program.

"Understanding the Asian American experience is critical to our understanding of the American experience," Fluharty wrote in his March 30 statement. "This cluster search will allow the School to build its collective strength in Asian American studies and in the study of race and diversity more broadly."

The search will occur during the 2021-2022 academic year in an effort to have the new faculty join SAS in the 2022-2023 academic year, Fluharty wrote. 

SAS will be recruiting a mix of junior- and senior-level scholars in a variety of social sciences and humanities departments, and will prioritize addressing the "pressing teaching needs in the social sciences within this field, building a long-term pipeline of faculty leaders for the undergraduate Asian American Studies Program, and enhancing the overall strength of the appointees’ home departments."

In an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Fluharty wrote that the exact number of new hires will depend on the strength of the applicant pool and the number of departments looking to hire new faculty, noting that similar recent efforts to hire professors in other programs resulted in three to four new hires. 

"We will form a search committee including faculty from several social science and humanities departments," Fluharty wrote to the DP. "To ensure the long-term vitality of the Asian American Studies Program, we know that we need to have both senior faculty who can bring their vision to lead the program in the shorter term, as well as junior faculty who can grow with the program and lead in the future."

The search is the first major faculty recruitment effort in support of the Inclusion and Anti-Racism Initiatives that SAS announced in fall 2020, the announcement stated.

Fluharty's announcement comes shortly after concerns were reignited about the future of the Asian American Studies Program in light of the impending departure of David Eng, a professor in the Asian American Studies Program, from the University. Eng is currently one of three tenured faculty members in the Asian American Studies Program. 

Students and faculty have long fought to preserve the Asian American Studies Program at the University, particularly since former Sociology professor and longtime Director of the Asian American Studies Program Grace Kao departed for Yale University in January 2017. Since her departure, the program, which was founded in 1996, has lobbied for funding, support, and more teaching space for courses.

Students have also called on Penn to provide a physical space for the Asian American Studies Program and to increase funding for tenured Asian American Studies professors.

Because Asian American Studies is a program and not a stand-alone department, Eng previously explained to the DP that the program has to appoint professors who have research expertise in Asian American studies, and who are already tenured in other departments at Penn. This requirement, Eng said, makes it difficult for Penn to appoint new faculty members to the program because the University cannot require that departments hire people with research interests in specific fields.

Fluharty's announcement also comes on the heels of recent increases in anti-Asian violence since the onset of the pandemic. On March 16, a 21-year-old man shot and killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, and almost 3,800 incidents of hate crimes have been received by the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center from March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021. 

"A core priority of these initiatives is to position Penn Arts and Sciences to contribute further to the achievement of social justice through research and teaching on race, diversity, and inequality," Fluharty's statement reads.