ASA Criticizes President Newkirk for Night Market Absence

On March 11, the Asian Student Association (ASA) hosted their second annual Night Market in the Orton Center. Student organizers worked tirelessly to put on the event, which in total lasted three-and-a-half hours. The event featured foods from various Asian cultures as well as performances showcasing a variety of student, alumni, and professional dances and songs. 

The performances included “Tari Pendet,” a Balinese welcoming dance performed by the Indonesian Consulate of Los Angeles; a cover of “Hype Boy” by New Jeans performed by the University of Redlands Dance Company; and a performance of “Liu Yang He” on the Chinese Zither by alumna and former ASA President Wenmei Bai.

Shortly after the doors opened, the line to enter extended beyond Williams Hall. Hundreds of students, faculty, and community members were in attendance. But perhaps more notable to ASA members was who was not in attendance: University President Krista Newkirk. 

At the end of the night, cabinet members from ASA gathered on stage to thank the attendees and to chastise Newkirk and the university administration for their supposed lack of support. 

“We as Asian Student Association, like, like, we put in so much love, work, effort, blood, sweat, and tears, whatever you want to call it, to make this event happen. It’s very difficult for us to put something like this together because we simply do not have support from our university,” said Dylan Jin-Seok Chae, ASA’s recreation chair. 

Dylan Jin-Seok Chae making the speech criticizing President Newkirk.

He pointed out that President Newkirk did not attend the event, which spawned boos from the crowd and students on stage alike. In the video, which was uploaded to ASA’s Instagram account, some of the ASA cabinet members on stage can be seen doing thumbs down gestures and making “L” signs with their hands, apparently suggesting that President Newkirk is a loser.

Responding to the Bulldog’s inquiry, President Newkirk said her immediate reaction to the video was that she was sad because she wanted to be there. Newkirk had already previously arranged to attend the School of Performing Arts’ production of Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and the Town and Gown reception. Newkirk had committed to attending the play and reception on Feb. 16, and ASA did not contact her regarding the Night Market until Feb. 22. 

“I try to do everything, but if I cannot do one event, it’s not because it’s a lower priority. It’s typically just a scheduling conflict, and I don’t want people to ever read into that because that puts me in the position that I either can’t do any events for fear of offending somebody, or people have to understand that I do try to pick and choose and often it’s kind of a first-come-first-served situation,” Newkirk said. 

The Tuesday following the Night Market, ASA released a statement on Instagram further criticizing the university administration and President Newkirk. The message claims that ASA “has not seen any improvement made by the university thus far for the [Asian Pacific Islander Desi American] community,” and maintains that Newkirk’s absence demonstrates the university’s lack of care for the APIDA community on campus.  

Newkirk, however, said that she felt the whole thing was a “misunderstanding” and that she was “disappointed that they hadn’t asked why I wasn’t there versus just assuming I didn’t care, which was far from the truth.”

In a private, two-hour meeting between President Newkirk and members of ASA on March 28, the students continued to request general support at the meeting but also voiced more concrete solutions including: semesterly meetings between Newkirk and cultural organizations on campus; securing ASUR funding that was promised last year but never distributed; increased storage space; a food handling license from Harvest Table; and university observation of Lunar New Year. 

Newkirk said she thinks they made “really good progress and gained a better understanding from each perspective,” adding that she thought it was “really helpful.”

Attendees’ reaction to the speech made by Chae.

The Instagram statement also argued that the greater Southern California community, including the Indonesian Consulate of Los Angeles, has been more supportive than the university administration. However, President Newkirk shared that the University of Redlands Communications Office had reached out to ASA to provide support in marketing their event, but were turned down and told their help was not needed. 

The conclusion of ASA’s statement demanded “significant change going forward and clear communication between ASA and our administration going forward,” arguing that, without action by the administration, their community is becoming more invisible and forgotten by the University of Redlands. 

In response, President Newkirk said she looks forward to discussing the concerns of the APIDA community and how the administration can best support them in their continued Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. 

President Newkirk pointed to numerous efforts undertaken during her tenure to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus in general—including the Anti-Racism Committee—prior to the ASA Night Market. Going forward, Newkirk said she is “committed to working with the Asian student community on campus and trying to meet their needs and make sure they have the support they need to do the events that are important to them to feel respected and supported and part of the community.” 

Finally, President Newkirk wanted students to know that she is not the administration—she is just one person—and that “there are other administrators who are here to support them.” 

She pointed to the fact that “a number of issues [ASA] had were issues that [administrators] were trying to meet with them earlier on but they wanted to meet with me on and those were things that were really best handled through our Student Affairs Division or CDI as they’re looking to provide greater support.” 

The Bulldog reached out to the University of Redlands Asian Student Association for comment. They chose not to issue another statement, but referred back to their Instagram post as the statement they stand by. 

Photos by Photo Editor Kyle Eaton.

Author

  • Cameron Kelly

    Cameron is a fourth-year student from Sunnyvale, California, double majoring in History and Political Science. He occasionally follows current political events and enjoys covering issues local to the university community. Cameron plans to attend law school following graduation.