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Concerning Mahmoud

You can hear it in the air... it's the calm before the storm. President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes to campus this Monday.

And the beauty of this? As a club (maybe not as individuals), the Asian American Alliance just doesn't care. The political tsunami descending in two days upon this campus, in this particular instance, means little for us. We see the controversy surrounding the presence of Ahmadinejad an issue based in international politics, with few ramifications for Asian Americans.

We do invite Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans - also Asian Americans - to voice their thoughts about how this event impacts them.

It might be ironic that the brunt of our work is typically battling what we see as apathy and ignorance on campus. While trying to break the stereotypes of the politically apathetic Asian American student, we try to encourage participation and engagement from our peers in the issues unraveling around us.

But at what point do our politics meet that of our peers? If all communities (especially communities of color) have unique issues important to them, is this one out of our reach? Or are we indeed expected to make this issue relevant to us?

Last October when the Minutemen protests turned into a political incident, AAA had a pretty obvious stance. Our natural concern with issues of immigration necessitated a stance against the presence of Jim Gilchrist. Our ties to the students in protest reinforced our position. This weekend, we cannot say the same for Ahmadinejad's arrival on campus.

This does not mean that we'll have nothing to say. (Seeing a Middle Eastern woman rip down flyers near Low Library yesterday made a powerful impression on us.) What we will say, however, will probably concern more the reactions of our own peers than the objections to the presence of this Iranian president.

So keep posted. If your reaction to Ahmadinejad is indeed closely meshed with your identity or your views as an Asian American, feel free to share in the comments. We'll also do our part to make pertinent observations about this campus in the few days ahead of us.

Apathy is never a great thing, but sometimes it's the only thing that makes sense.


Below is our statement about Mahmoud's coming:

On Thursday, September 20th, a representative from the Asian American Alliance participated in a discussion with members of the administration (including President Bollinger) over Ahmadinejad's arrival at Columbia on Monday. The discussion examined the impact that his presence would have on the student body and on many student groups that AAA has worked with in the past.

As a result, AAA sees the need to inform students who care about this issue of what their options are:

If you would like more information on this event, to be informed on what's been going on, or to view this event via webcast, please e-mail the AAA chair at: aaachair@gmail.com.

If you wish to submit questions to Mr. Ahmadinejad in advance of the forum on Monday, please e-mail: worldleaders@columbia.edu. A few of these questions will be randomly selected and asked among questions from audience members during the forum.

If you feel more strongly about this issue and are planning to personally attend this event on Monday (whether it be inside during Ahmadinejad's speech or outside at the rally) and would like to be fully informed of your options as supporters or as protestors, you can also email the AAA chair at: aaachair@gmail.com



AAA recognizes that there historically exists a great disconnect between the Columbia administration and students. We observe the administration's not hearing students' demands when large campus events are programmed. The ways in which this problem manifests itself are evident in many groups' current struggles: the Manhattanville expansion, ethnic studies, racial profiling, and financial aid -- AAA recognizes that these issues affect the students of the general body.

Since it is important that the students' voices are not lost or ignored when greater matters are involved, the aforementioned disconnect was brought up prominently in Thursday's discussion with President Bollinger. The administration's is improving its ability to listen to the student body, which is a step towards bettering relations by opening up lines of communication between you, us, and the administration during this momentous event.


  1. Nhu-Y said...

    who wrote this?  

  2. David said...

    I wrote the top, Calvin and I wrote the bottom...  

  3. Anonymous said...

    the first thing that Calvin Sun ever did that didn't make him look like a snub nosed douchebag. Yay!  

  4. Marilla said...

    note: that statement was heavily edited.  

  5. jay said...

    I disagree. AAA has endorsed a stance of apathy regarding events that resonate throughout the world with Alma Mater at the center. This sort of aloof attitude only furthers the isolation of Asian Americans from society, much of which is impassioned by these events. Indeed, this is contrary to the supposed mission of AAA.

    I can see how this stance may have begun as an attempt to remain a dispassionate 3rd party in the midst of a heated debate. However, by proactively dismissing this week's events, AAA has only further distanced itself from the community at large.



  6. SoHo said...

    Hey Jay, you're right about how AAA has endorsed a stance of apathy in its past. But I have problems in how you didn't take your time and read a little bit closer to the fine print; instead you write us off so quickly as some group that doesn't care at ALL about what's been going.

    I think the point of our blogging has been to show that although Ahmadinejad may not apply directly to our politics (and thus resulting in our particular "we don't care" statement), the bigger picture here was to demonstrate how we nonetheless have taken the time to still closely address the issue on this blog. It's Ahmadinejad's effect on the student body and what topics his arrival has brought out in the Columbia community that represent the other facets of minority politics that can apply to what AAA stands for. That in itself shows how we recognize AAA's need to be involved, in some capacity, with ALL issues regarding the student body at our alma mater.

    The statement we wrote does explictly mention how members of AAA have directly participated in the events surround Ahmadinejad and acted as key figures in advising the administration on how to approach the student body on these issues. That fact alone is historically progressive for AAA concerning its lines of communication with the administration and the greater Columbia community.

    I apologize if our point wasn't clearly explained in first posts and that it seems that our "we don't care" resonates more strongly than what we would have wished. But allow me to also clarify that although AAA doesn't care about an aspect of Ahmadinejad the same way that Hillel or LionPAC or CURepublicans do, AAA nevertheless maintains that it is still part of a crucial campus dialogue: That is why we wrote about it in the first place (you have to admit that AAA a few years ago wouldn't even BOTHER to address the issue); that is why we met with the administration on it, and as you will see, AAA will continue to pursue those goals despite a history of apathy.

    If anything, AAA's statement is largely similar to that of the bipartisan statements that all the student councils at Columbia University have recently released. You can go ahead and call them out for distancing themselves from society.



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