Loyola’s Program Narrows its Focus

Until this year, Loyola University Chicago’s Asian and Asian American Studies program was praised in national academic circles for its focus on Asians in the United States.

But in late October an advisory committee suggested dropping “Asian American” from the program’s name and literature.

“We looked around the table and asked, ‘Who’s going to teach these courses?'” said Tracey Pintchman, who became director of the program this fall. Students can receive a minor through the program.

The committee, which includes university staff and faculty who teach the program’s courses, decided to “reconfigure” the program, Pintchman said. If Loyola administrators approve the changes, the program will be known as Asian Studies, she said.

The change is a direct result of former director Yvonne Lau leaving Loyola, said Pinchman. Last spring, Loyola’s acting dean, David Slavsky, told Lau that her position as director of Asian and Asian American Studies would be eliminated by summer because of budget cuts, Lau said. Slavsky offered her the choice of taking severance pay or remaining in her position no more than one year. Lau left Loyola to join DePaul University this fall. (She is a member of The Chicago Reporter’s editorial board.)

Lau taught the program’s two classes focused on Asian Americans, Pintchman said, and few faculty are available to teach them.

The change is also a part of a larger plan to make the program more appealing to students, Pintchman said.

Loyola administrators have said that programs that attract more students should receive more funding and faculty.

The committee’s decision formalizes what was already happening “de facto,” Pintchman said. The program’s core classes–those with an Asian American focus–were not offered this semester. A part-time professor will teach them next term, but they won’t be offered next year, Pintchman said.

Pintchman said the change is necessary, but she isn’t happy with it.

“Even in a time of fiscal tightness, I would give the highest academic priority to non-Western subjects,” she said. Pintchman offered her opinion to Loyola administrators, but they did not agree, she said.

John Frendreis, Loyola’s vice provost, said he could not comment on the changes at this time, but added that Loyola is “committed to offering a diverse set of course offerings for its students.”

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