Various Asian student organizations formed the AAC to combine resources.
Asian student organizations across Main Campus have teamed up to create the Asian American Council, but the groups are united by more than their similarities.
“It’s not just what we have in common that brought us together,” said AAC President Tyrone Penserga, who also serves as the president of the Temple University Asian Students’ Association. “It’s also about what makes us different, and instead of those differences pushing us apart, we realized that those differences are complementary to some if not all members in the council.”
As of Sept. 24, the Temple University Korean Association, Temple University Philippine American Council, Vietnamese Student Association, Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Delta Chi Psi, Beta Pi Phi, Alpha Sigma Rho and TUASA formed the AAC.
“Take for example, the fact that some members are Greek. This is a very clear and strong difference from everybody else. But it occurred to us that we have a lot to learn from these Greek organizations. We need them as models – to help us, in the ways that they have perfected, to become stronger organizations,” Penserga said.
“TUKA in the past had instituted a social system that was very different from the rest of ours. They created what they called ‘TUKA families,’ to encourage community-building within their membership base,” Penserga added. “Now, instead of some of us being envious or in competition with TUKA, we are now collaborating with each other to help improve and implement a stronger system of community building.”
Penserga said the new organization will have a public relations committee, share in the cost and profit of collaborative events, create a unified calendar to avoid overlapping or competing events and appoint a secretary to this body.
The vice president of TUASA and chairwoman of AAC’s new public relations committee is Ha Nguyen.
“I’m really excited about AAC. AAC is basically starting from scratch, and our main source of resource is [using] each other as a resource. Each individual Asian-interest group is so unique and, from what I can see, has so far brought an important contribution to the overall group,” Nguyen said.
“It’s exciting to bring together people who share a common interest, especially when it comes to race. It’s important to be reminded of where you come from, to know that you share a commonality with a lot of other people right on this campus, and to feel proud to represent yourself,” Nguyen said.
“Besides helping each other, improving lines of communications and building a stronger Asian-American community on campus, no reason trumps our collective need to form a political force,” Penserga said. “It’s not just a verbal commitment of support, but what we have done is to build the proper foundations and mechanisms so there will be tangible [improvements] we can all see.”
Penserga referenced recent incidents in which Asian students in Philadelphia public schools were the target of discrimination and violence.
“The question stands – who is there to stand up for these kids? Unlike other minority groups in this country, we just don’t have the same kind of political backing as everyone else,” Penserga said.
“We may just be college students, but let’s not forget that we are connected to these kids in one way or other,” Penserga continued. “Many of us are from these high schools, experienced similar environments of hostility and unease, and many of those students are siblings of some of my friends or that they’re friends of my friends and so forth. It’s so easy to ignore a problem when it’s so far away from you, but the truth is, this is close to home for everyone.”
The AAC hasn’t planned any specific events yet, but eventually, AAC members expect to see the organization’s reach extend off campus and across the city.
“We have many short-term goals to accomplish,” Penserga said. “But the long-term goal is to form a political force and not just on this campus, but also all throughout Philadelphia. We may be a young body, but we have the combined resources of thousands of students, collectively speaking, and many more throughout the city.”
“This idea to bring all Asian-American groups on Temple’s campus together makes me feel very empowered as a member of Temple’s Asian student association, as well as a student, and most importantly, as an individual,” Nguyen said. “However, we’re just not an Asian-interest group. AAC’s goal is to be an activist. We want to be involved and serve our community. I’m looking forward to this year and have great hopes for AAC.”
Penserga said he hopes the organization will attract other Asian-interest groups as it grows.
Valerie Rubinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.