“MCAE Forward” moves MCAE backward

On Aug. 21, Juavah Lee, former assistant director at the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, ended his 24-year run as a key leader of the Hmong, Southeast Asian and Asian-American community at the University of Minnesota. His contract was set to be renewed in mid-June but was then quickly terminated by the Office of Equity and 
Diversity.
 
Since Lee’s termination, a new coalition, APIs for Equity and Diversity, formed as a way to unite voices of the Hmong, Southeast-Asian and Asian-American communities impacted by this loss.
 
What OED failed to consider when they decided to push Lee out of MCAE was that he not only served as the assistant director of the center, but he was also a role model, a mentor and a father figure. He was the bridge connecting generations of Hmong and Southeast-Asian families to the University experience.
 
Furthermore, Lee’s non-renewal brings to light other changes that OED has begun to implement, particularly with MCAE. These changes were made abruptly and with little to no tangible input from the student body, bringing into question issues of transparency within the OED. The office’s actions demonstrate that its staff members care little about
the input of the student body they claim to serve.
 
The new vision for MCAE, “MCAE Forward,” is one of the structural changes OED has implemented. We believe that the new model is in line with the University’s paradigm of institutional change founded on a crippling colorblind diversity and an equally damaging black-white binary that further marginalizes our communities, as well as other communities of color that don’t fit neatly into those two binaries.
 
Ultimately, we firmly believe the leadership of the OED is thoroughly disconnected from the everyday experiences of Hmong, Southeast-Asian and Asian-American students at the 
 
University. We have yet to see any concrete plans or discussions on how to develop Hmong-, Southeast-Asian- or Asian-American-specific initiatives. For a University whose student body is comprised of nearly 10 percent Hmong, Southeast-Asian and Asian-American students, we see this as a problem.