History Prof. Resigns; Concerns Over Position Future
Asian Americanist Resigns, Position Return in Question
BY ADRIAN LEUNG
Although Assistant Professor of History Moon-Ho Jung will resign at the end of this semester, faculty, administrators and students hope a position will remain in the history department, and also for an Asian American specialist, but no one will guarantee it.
Jung will take a position at the University of Washington, Seattle in the fall, teaching similar courses as a specialist in 20th century American history and Asian American history.
Jung said his reasons for leaving are personal and that deciding to leave was not easy. “It was a tough decision. I will miss the students immensely,” he said.
He hopes the position is immediately returned to its current status, and he has spoken with other faculty and administrators about the situation. Jung said, “[I hope] that the tenure-track gets filled right away in Asian American history, next year. I’ve talked to Clayton Koppes and various members of the history department, and they’ve all conveyed to me that they are anxious to refill the position immediately.”
Koppes, dean of the College, praised Jung in his role as a professor teaching Asian American history. “I think he made a strong case for Asian American history while he was here, and I think that will be taken very seriously by the department and the college in the future. Professor Jung showed the vitality of the field and showed there’s student interest in the field. It’d be very hard for the College to turn its back on that now,” Koppes said.
Sophomore Chester Poon fully supported the need for an Asian American history professor. “Basically, I think it’s important because it’ll offer a broader and more correct perspective on American history, which, in general, is Eurocentric. Since Oberlin keeps on promoting a progressive environment, Asian American history is a step in that direction,” he said.
Junior Grace Han expressed concern over the seemingly low importance Asian American history takes in the advertised job description. She said, “After reading the job description for next year’s temporary position, I was extremely concerned, and upset, at what seemed like the history department’s lack of dedication for an Asian American historian. I want to make sure that the position is filled by an Asian Americanist, and that the history department is dedicated to that cause.”
The job description’s second paragraph reads, “The incumbent will teach courses in the general area of American history, Twentieth Century, political and/or social history with the ability to teach one or more of the following fields: Asian American, immigration, labor, women’s or cultural history.”
Professor of History Gary Kornblith explained the department’s eagerness to fill the replacement position. He said, “The department at the moment is simply scrambling to fill a 20th century position for next year. And as we did in the previous case, Asian American history is a preferred specialty.”
Kornblith also said that the creation of Comparative American Studies might reconfigure the position. “The long term position requires going back through the bureaucracy. We’re expecting, and supporting, the emergence of a CAS program, and that’s going to have to somehow play a role in what happens with personnel decisions and where the slots go. But we aren’t sure what’s going to happen. It’s all up in the air,” Kornblith said.
Kornblith did not say that he would fight for the position to go straight back to the history department. He did point out that it was the history department that made sure an Asian American specialist was hired. He said that either in a CAS program, or in the history department, Asian American history courses would be offered.
“If CAS doesn’t go in that direction, then the history department will go in that direction. I just want to make sure that we’re able to deliver these courses, teach them well and meet the concerns of the student body,” he said.
Han said the history department need to take a more concrete stance. “I feel the history department needs to make it clear that they are reserving this position for a specialist in Asian American history,” she said.
Koppes said these concerns were natural to any hiring process, “People will always be concerned until the position is in the hand, but I think there’s a very strong constituency for Asian American history,” he said.
Other professors also favor the hiring of an Asian American history specialist. Chair of the History Department Michael Fisher said, “The history department feels it’s very important to have Asian American history being taught.”
However, Fisher spoke of some other possible joint-department position configuration. “The question is how to configure these so it’s best for the institution. There, the department is working with the College Faculty Committee on how to do that. Exactly where it’s going to be and how it’s going to be configured we’re still trying to work that out. But we’re committed to having someone do Asian American history.”
When asked whether the position would be given back to history for an Asian American specialist, Professor of History Carrol Lasser said, “That would be our preference.”
Professor Pablo Mitchell spoke on how Oberlin’s consideration for the importance of Asian American historians and Asian American history attracted him here. “I think it’s vital that Asian American history continue to be part of the curriculum here at Oberlin and that the College continue its commitment to Asian American studies. I know that one of the things that really attracted me to Oberlin was the fact that I could have colleagues in the history department like Professor Jung and Professor [Rita] Chin,” Mitchell said.
The position was discussed at the last history department meeting. Senior and History Major Committee member Mika Cheng said, “[the history department] was definitely committed to getting a person in Asian American history for the tenure-track position.”
Jung discussed the demand for courses and the crucial role this position plays in the establishment of CAS. “There’s clearly a student demand for courses in Asian American history. This position will be critical for CAS, but also critical to the history department as it develops an American curriculum,” he said.
Han spoke on the dangers of the history position not being designated for Asian American history, on return. She said, “If we lose this position, we’re throwing away 30 years of struggle. There’re a lot of different consequences: CAS wouldn’t to be able to get off its feet, Asian American student activism would be delegitimized. It would clearly show that Oberlin College lacked support for Asian American students. It would cause a ruckus for Asian American students and studies.”
Next Monday, as part of a speaker series during Asian American Awareness Month, Jung will give a lecture in Wilder 115 at 5 p.m., titled “Fidelity, Ferocity, and Asian American History.”
Barnard Assailants’ Expulsion Overturned
CS Majors Upset Over New Hire
Race is On to Conserve Energy
Sexual Assault Action Week
OPD to Trace Scary Phone Harassment
Make-Over Madness Ensues at Mall
History Prof. Resigns; Concerns Over Position Future