Members of the Arab Student Union and other campus activists are pushing for a new racial category to be included on the University of California application.
Middle Eastern students are currently designated as white on the university application form, and students who spoke at the ASUC Senate meeting on Wednesday said they feel this not only mislabels them but also leaves certain groups underrepresented on campus.
Independent Senator Nairi Shirinian presented and passed a bill at Wednesday’s senate meeting asking for support in making “Southwest Asia and North Africa” — or SWANA — an official racial designation on the university application. The resolution passed 17-0 with unanimous support from the members of the senate who were present.
“It’s important for people to identify themselves how they feel that they are,” Shirinian said at the meeting as she explained the need for reform of the university application.
Shirinian went on to explain that while those from the Middle East have long been considered white, they have not enjoyed the same privileges, especially after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Without statistics on “SWANA” admissions to the university, it is difficult to channel resources to the group and ensure that they are well-represented, Shirinian explained.
CalSERVE Senator Sydney Fang echoed these concerns at the meeting.
“It’s an important opportunity to challenge the university to be more accountable to our needs,” Fang said.
She went on to explain that this sort of campaign is not unprecedented and that the “Count Me In” campaign helped to create 23 new Asian American and Pacific Islander categories on the university application in November 2007.
John Wilmoth, associate professor in the campus department of demography said in an interview that “racial designations that have been used on administrative forms and the U.S. census in particular have changed radically over the years … there’s a long history of this.”
Arab Student Union President Norah Arafeh said that moving forward, the campus SWANA community first needs to finalize the list of ethnicities to be included.