BGSU Asian Student Union forms to create ‘home’ for Asian Americans

Asian American students describe their experience on campus as invisible and isolating. Two students are trying to combat those feelings with the creation of an Asian Student Union.

For Meghan McKinley, ASU creator and president, the space she wants to create is simple.

“This is going to sound corny as s— but a home, honestly. A home,” she said. “Some place where they can see people that look like them, some place where they don’t have to be the only Asian American in the room all the time. Because that happens for me, even in Ethnic Studies. A place that they feel welcomed and heard and represented.”

She has wanted to create this group for over a year, and she thinks most Asian students have felt a similar need for a group like this on campus.

A few weeks ago McKinley decided to go for it and create the ASU Instagram page, ASU_BGSU.

“I think we posted something last week. That was it, I was like ‘I’m going to create an Asian Student Union,’ and now I’m just doing it,” she said.

Her experience on campus motivated her to create ASU. She is heavily involved in the Theater Department and found a social justice community there, but it couldn’t offer everything she wanted.

“It was really isolating still, being the only Asian American student in the Theater Department, being the only one that I really saw on campus because there wasn’t an Asian American community that I was ever familiar with,” she said.

McKinley struggled to find spaces where she would be understood by those around her.

“I didn’t have anybody to go to, to talk to that could understand,” she said.

BGSU is a predominately white institution, and this reality can make campus an intimidating, and isolating, space for students of color. According to a fall 2018 student enrollment headcount on the BGSU website, there were 15,050 white students, 1,470 Black students and just 204 Asian students.

“When I say invisible, that’s the term we all seem to find. We don’t see ourselves,” said Trinidad Linares, a graduate assistant for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, who is helping McKinley and ASU Vice President Dula Perera form the group.

Perera has a similar experience, describing the lack of people like her as “difficult.” Perera believes having this group will be good for the Asian community on campus; it’s helpful to “let each other know ‘you’re not alone in this,’” she said.

Organizations like the Black Student Union and the Latino Student Union were formed for other communities. However, there has never been a group like this for Asian students on campus, Linares said.  

A similar group, Asian Communities United, was created as a space for Asian American people on campus, whether it be students, faculty or staff said Errol Lam, its former advisor and retired BGSU professor. However, it has not updated its OrgSync page since 2012.  

McKinley decided to create a different group, one related to other identity-based organizations like BSU and LSU, and focus on implementing social justice in the organization.

Perera and McKinley are currently building their member base, while creating the entire organization, including things like the constitution, from scratch. They can be reached through their Instagram or their emails: [email protected] and [email protected].

Ultimately, the goal is to “involve as many people as possible, of any ethnicity, to celebrate Asian culture,” Perera said.