#StopAsianHate Essay Contest aims to amplify AAPI student voices

Organized by a Stern alumna, the competition seeks to connect students with Asian American leaders and raise awareness of anti-Asian violence.

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Sirui Wu

Asians in the United States are wrestling with anxiety and fear following a surge in anti-Asian violence in New York City and across the United States. In light of this continuing spike, Stern alumna Gloria Li, is offering high school, undergraduate and graduate students a platform to share their stories as members or allies of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and to brainstorm solutions to combat anti-Asian violence via the #StopAsianHate Essay Contest. (Photo by Sirui Wu)

By Nina Huang, Staff Writer

The #StopAsianHate Essay Contest, organized by Stern alumna Gloria Li, is offering high school, undergraduate and graduate students a platform to share their stories as members or allies of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and to brainstorm solutions to combat anti-Asian violence. 

Asians in the United States are wrestling with anxiety and fear following a surge in anti-Asian violence in New York City and across the United States.In light of this continuing spike in hate crimes and NYU’s alleged inaction, the university community has come together to raise awareness and fight back. Li devised the #StopAsianHate Essay Contest with her husband after noticing the spike in violence.

“What we hope for is to connect students who come up with some incredible potential solutions — that others may not have even thought about at this point yet — with Asian American leaders that are very influential or have a following and can potentially help act on those solutions and drive change,” Li told WSN.

Various nonprofits — including Act to Change, Stand With Asians, Asians Fighting Injustice, Global Shapers Community Cleveland and Wu Yee Children’s Services — have partnered with the essay contest. Essay submissions are open until May 1. The contest’s organizers are also accepting applications from students interested in collaborating or volunteering.

Contestants can write about one of three topics: personal anecdotes, potential policy solutions or female Asian Americans who have broken workplace barriers like the so-called glass and bamboo ceilings. Winners will receive a $1,000 prize, a chance to meet with influential Asian American leaders and an opportunity to see their essay published in a book. 

“One of the things that kind of drove us to initiate this essay contest is that we noticed that a lot of people were already posting in relatively long posts on social media wanting to get their stories out there,” Li said. “The media has begun to cover this a little bit more in recent days, but there’s still so many stories out there that aren’t getting that same amount of attention or aren’t necessarily being heard. We really want to help bring stories to light.”

Some NYU students, such as Liberal Studies first-year Aria Young, have expressed interest in participating in the essay contest. 

“I think something important to address for the Asian community is that a lot of our voices aren’t heard,” Young said. “Asians are neglected because of the model minority myth and the false idea that we are somehow privileged. Rhetoric like that is really harmful to the Asian community because people don’t see the microaggressions that we go through and they don’t see the negligence and institutional racism that we experience.”

Young hopes this competition will cause NYU to listen to Asian and Asian American students and improve its policies to serve them better. 

“I would say negligence is a big problem for Asians in institutions like NYU,” Young said. “I’m sure competitions like this would definitely help in some way, just by raising awareness or just by having student voices heard.”

The recent anti-Asian attacks in New York City have exposed the difficulties NYU faces in protecting its Asian students.

“NYU does not have a defined campus like many other institutions, and as such, our jurisdiction is limited to our buildings and their immediate surroundings,” Fountain Walker, vice president of Global Campus Safety, wrote in an email statement to WSN. “However, we do provide a variety of services to help ensure the safety of university community members as they move about campus.”

According to Walker, these services include Green Light Buildings, where NYU Public Safety officers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week; the Safe NYU mobile application, which has a “friend walk” feature as well as the capability to directly call or text NYU Public Safety; emergency call boxes; campus shuttles running on fixed routes from 7 a.m. to midnight; and the NYU Safe Ride service running between NYU facilities from midnight to 7 a.m.

“Given recent feedback from the community, we have expanded our Safe Ride program, adding vehicles during the current service period, which should result in reduced waiting and ride times,” Walker wrote. 

In the wake of the Atlanta shootings, NYU’s Asian/Pacific/American Institute issued a statement to the university community, hosted a community check-in, and published a list of resources addressing anti-Asian violence, gender justice, mental health and solidarity with sex workers. Much of the institute’s work focuses on contextualizing anti-Asian racism. 

“At the Asian/Pacific/American Institute, we aim to provide students and the community with the historical and political contexts for understanding this racism and violence, and to think through, collectively, how to respond,” Amita Manghnani, the institute’s associate director, wrote in an email to WSN.

Both Lie and Young hope the #StopAsianHate Essay Contest will promote awareness of anti-Asian racism and educate others on how to combat it. Young believes the effects will be far-reaching.

“Whoever wins this competition could help amplify Asian voices and allow the world to see the Asian experience and the immigrant experience,” Young said. “Obviously, I think we need more way more effort than that, and I think it takes more than just uplifting Asian voices. I think it’s a start, but I do think that there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

NYU Public Safety encourages community members to report incidents of racially targeted attacks through NYU’s Bias Response Line.

Email Nina Huang at [email protected]