angry reader of the week: rohan grover

Welcome to another edition of the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Rohan Grover, student at the University of Pennsylvania.

Who are you?
Rohan Grover.

What are you?
I'm an Indian American student-activist.

Where are you?
I'm a senior at the University of Pennsylvania.

Where are you from?
I was born in Australia and raised in the New Jersey suburbs... never too far from Oak Tree Road, of course.

What do you do?
At Penn I've led our Asian Pacific Student Coalition, advocating for causes such as the 2010 Census and ethnically disaggregated student data, and organized ECAASU 2010, which was the experience of a lifetime. But right now I'm getting ready to graduate!

What are you all about?
Linguistic activism and honest panethnicity. I don't hyphenate my citizenship, and I only say "APA" when I truly mean pan-Asian

What makes you angry?
The very public petition against ECAASU. At this year's conference the two keynote speakers, Lai Wa Wu and Dr. Vijay Prashad, used their time on stage to express disapproval of the military's sponsorship and large presence at ECAASU. This is an important debate for the community to engage in because these funds enable many of the conference's more expensive features but some claim it contradicts the conference's fundamental values. After all, ECAASU was created in 1978 to defend civil rights gains such as affirmative action and organize Asian Americans around social and political issues across the east coast.

In today's debate, there seems to be misunderstanding and miscommunication on several fronts. First Ms. Wu and Dr. Prashad, and then ECAASU's Board of Directors, released statements clarifying their positions on military sponsorship, and then the Asian American Resource Workshop circulated a petition two weeks ago that included a demand for a public apology from the Board. In fact one of ECAASU's founding members signed the petition and commented that the current leadership "should have the decency to change its name" for departing so far from the organization's original purpose.

But really, what is the underlying cause of all this tension and misunderstanding? Perhaps if we understand that, we will realize that the problem is not the Board of Directors, the conference boards, the attendees, or anyone else in particular. By now it seems clear that this organization, with such critical roots and wide reach, cannot continue to grow without a genuine appreciation for its history, or else we risk isolating its initial purpose and founding members. If that's the case, then the core of this debate is a lack of continuity somewhere between 1978 and 2011.

So who should fix the problem? Should we, as students, have taken more classes and read more books? Should the conference boards or Board of Directors have reached out to ECAASU alumni? Perhaps, but we need a high-level, long-lasting solution. We need to find communication voids in our community - between founders and current leaders; between artists, academics, and activists; between attendees and conference boards - and just start talking earlier. If we form real relationships then maybe disagreements don't have to be argued through unexpected keynote speeches and Facebook petitions. Perhaps they don't have to occur at all.

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