FilAms petition Stony Brook University to reinstate Asian studies official

wang 1 Filipino American writers and artists came out in support of a Stony Brook University official after her position as director of Wang Center’s Asian and Asian American Programming was eliminated in a reorganization.

“It is with much wistfulness that I inform you that my Directorship of the Wang Center’s Asian and Asian American Programming is being terminated effective February 28th,” wrote Sunita Mukhi in an email sent to friends and her network of contacts. The FilAm was among the recipients of her email.

“The programs and I have thrived through the last decade because of your unwavering support, warm presence, ardent loyalty, and stalwart sense of community. It has been an absolute pleasure to conjure and animate over 500 programs which I hope have been inspiring, enlightening and enjoyable to you,” said Sunita, an Indo American writer, performance artist, scholar and a dear friend to the FilAm community.

Sunita was one of SBU officials responsible for coordinating the “Singgalot: The Ties that Bind” photo exhibit in February of 2012 at the Wang Center. The traveling exhibit chronicled the history of Filipino immigration to the U.S. and the community’s contributions to American society through murals, images and a cultural program.

Her Philippine connection goes a long way. She was born in the country and got her education in Manila: high school at St. Scholastica’s College and college at De La Salle University where she majored in Sociology, Anthropology and Literature.

She would receive her MA from the San Francisco State University, and her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University.

“She is an amazing human being who is committed to Asian American Studies and social justice,” said Dr. Kevin Nadal, president of the Filipino American National Historical Society of Metro New York, in a Facebook comment. It was FANHS who brought Singgalot to the university. “It would be an injustice for her to be let go.”

Filipinos promptly passed a petition calling on SBU to reinstate Sunita and save the Wang Center, which the statement alleged was being “defunded.” Among the 1,300-plus signatories (as of March 2) are artists, writers, students and scholars, such as Jessica Hagedorn, Luis Francia, Ma-Yi founder Ralph Pena and former president of the Association for Asian American Studies Rick Bonus.

The petition cited the reason behind Sunita’s dismissal: “We view Dr. Sunita Mukhi’s non-renewal of contract as a case of racial and age discrimination. (She) is the only administrator at the Wang Center who is of Asian descent…and is over 50 years of age,” said the petition.

The SBU denied it was defunding the Asian studies program and explained in a statement an ongoing reorganization led to changes at Wang Center.

“It has been determined that the job of leading Asian American programming at the Charles B. Wang Center requires the attention and detail of a full-time administrative employee.

“A national search for the full-time position of Associate Director will soon be underway. The incumbent will devote 100 percent of his or her time to ensuring the best possible programming is delivered. All qualified candidates will be reviewed and considered on merit…The University created an Advisory Council consisting of faculty members, staff, representatives from the University Asian community and students. This Advisory Council’s main function is to ensure that the Wang Center’s programming matches the needs of the Asian community. The new Associate Director will work closely with this Advisory Council.”

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