Hiring search for second Asian American Studies position delayed until fall 2021

Sofie Jones

The Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP) has postponed its hiring search for the second of two previously approved tenure-line positions for faculty specializing in Asian American Studies (AAS) until next fall.The religion department was the only department that originally submitted a request for the position, but later rescinded its request due to staffing needs in other areas of the discipline.

In an email to the working group on AAS in May, then-Dean of Faculty Denise Buell stressed that CAP remains dedicated to expanding the College’s offerings in the area. “The CAP’s commitment to the second approved line is not in doubt but the search cannot go forward in Fall 2020 as planned,” she wrote.

The two new tenure-track AAS positions were approved by CAP in 2019, following decades of student activism and support for the establishment of an AAS program at the College. In recent years, their efforts have included the disruption of Previews in 2018 and the “Williams Doesn’t Teach Me” photo campaign the next year. Currently, AAS courses are spread across multiple different departments, such as American studies, English, history and more. 

The first of the two tenure-track positions was filled by Associate Professor of American Studies Jan Padios, who joined the faculty this fall. The second hiring search was originally set to take place during the 2020-21 academic year after being granted to the religion department, which submitted the sole request for the hire in spring 2019.

According to Buell’s email, the department made it clear that the primary motivation for their request was to support the growth of AAS at the College. “[T]heir own curricular needs lie elsewhere, specifically in religions of south or southeast Asia, as a retirement in this area is expected very soon,” she wrote.

In the months since submitting their initial request, it became clear to the department that going through with the hire would “put its ability to fulfill its curricular priorities at some risk,” Buell said.

Ultimately, the religion department rescinded its request and asked CAP to reopen the line for other departments. Because of the yearly hiring cycle, CAP will once again invite departments to submit requests for the AAS hire and others in the spring, according to current Dean of the Faculty Safa Zaki.

Audrey Koh ’21, a student leader of the AAS movement, said she is relieved that, despite the setback, the second position will eventually be filled. “Since the CAP has reaffirmed its commitment to the second line, the only question is in which department the position will be filled,” she said. “We’ll continue to work with the College to make sure it levels its priorities with students’ interests and passions in mind.”