[EDUCATION] Rep. calls for better funding of Asian-American studies at UT
- Rep. calls for history preservation
Rep. calls for better funding of Asian-American studies at UT
By Delaney Hall (Daily Texan Staff)
June 09, 2003
Rep. Martha Wong R-Houston, the only Asian-American member of the
Texas Legislature, met with city employees Friday to discuss
insufficient political representation of Asian-Americans and the
importance of preserving cultural history.
Wong, a UT alumna, was the keynote speaker at a celebration of
Asian/Pacific-American Heritage month, hosted by the Asian-American
Employees Network, a support alliance for Asian-American city
employees. In addition to celebrating Asian culture, the event called
attention to issues facing the Asian community in Austin.
Wong emphasized the importance of electing an Asian-American to the
Austin City Council and encouraged community members to support the
Asian-American Studies program at the University.
Asian-Americans have a long history in Texas, but it hasn't been well-
recorded, Wong said.
"We need to get that history down pretty quick because many of our
elders are dying, and we're not going to have access to it for much
longer," she said.
Wong suggested adding a line-item to the budget next session to help
fund the Asian-American Studies program at the University.
"I'd like to collaborate with the Asian-American Studies program to
develop a written history of Asians' contributions in Texas. We've
got a long history here," Wong said. "The Asian-American Studies
program has had to beg, borrow and steal in order to subsist. And the
University has a very well-funded African-American Studies program
and Hispanic-American Studies program."
Although there has been a large influx of Asian-Americans into Austin
in recent years, political representation has not kept pace, said
Bhaskara Reddi, board member and co-chair of the AAEN.
"Especially with the high tech boom, a lot of Asians have been drawn
to Austin, but there aren't very many involved in city government,"
Reddi said. "Representation is still not great. The city has
developed a plan to hire 3 percent Asian-American employees. We're at
about 2 percent now; around 350 to 400 city employees."
Wong emphasized the need to have an Asian-American working at a
higher level within the city government.
According to a study conducted by the UT department of Asian-American
Studies, Texas has the fourth-largest population of Asians within the
United States and yet Asians hold few elected offices in the state.
"I encourage you to tap the resources that the Asian community has,"
Wong told the crowd of about 500. "We have outstanding professors at
UT; we have people who own companies within the city; we have
talented engineers; and yet, we've not had one Asian-American elected
to the Austin City Council."
Wong was the first Asian-American school principal in Houston, the
first Asian-American to be elected to the Houston City Council and
the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Texas
Legislature, said Vince Cobalis, AAEN committee member.
Not since Thomas Jefferson Lee of San Antonio became a state
representative in the 1960s has an Asian-American been a member of
the legislature, Wong said.
Wong also addressed the persistence of a "glass ceiling" that
prevents some Asian-Americans from reaching higher levels within