ON CAMPUS TRENDS
Where are you from?
Answering that question can be difficult for some multiracial students. Perhaps you’re inclined to believe that despite your ethnic background, you’re simply an American, born and raised. Maybe you introduce yourself with all of your ethnic background included. Uncertainty may still plague your ethnic and cultural identity.
Enter the Hapa Club at UCLA. Hapa is a Hawaiian word traditionally meaning someone of mixed Asian or Pacific Islander descent ““ but the club aims to be a place where all multiracial students can come together. As the only club which represents all mixed ethnic backgrounds, it has large shoes to fill, even more so when you take into account that there are over 70 clubs, fraternities and sororities on campus devoted to various Asian ethnicities. I don’t take issue with the existence of these clubs, merely the staggering volume of them.
Times have changed since the inception of these cultural clubs.
Multiculturalism and globalization continue to sweep over the globe, and UCLA and campus clubs need to keep pace. More multiracial clubs are needed to reflect these global trends, and although the Hapa Club is a good start, it isn’t enough.
If we are to be part of a truly diverse campus, more multiracial groups are going to have to be part of the solution.
The Hapa Club’s somewhat murky name doesn’t help matters.
“We don’t want to preach a strict definition of the word “˜hapa’ ““ it’s an evolving term and when it comes down to it, you should define it for yourself,” said Elizabeth Hurwitz, a fourth-year Italian student.
There has been much internal debate within the club as to whether the Hapa Club should be renamed to the United Community of Multi-ethnic Students.
Hurwitz, a member of the Outreach Committee, admits that the latter name would make for a more inclusive banner that would attract those who don’t consider themselves hapa but is in favor of maintaining the hapa name for the sake of continuity and uniqueness.
As someone who would never fathom joining the Hapa Club because of the word’s association to Asian heritage, I’m inclined to believe a name change may be in order. I’d be much more likely to join a club of multiethnic students.
Considering the demographics at UCLA, there admittedly should be dozens of clubs devoted to various Asian backgrounds. That there is only one club for all students of a mixed background, however, seems to be a major problem. The existing Hapa Club will need to do what it can attract more members, and hopefully more multiracial clubs will begin to pop up around campus.
As an American of Indian, Syrian and Polish descent, I hope that next year’s incoming mixed students can be greeted by a more diverse group of ethnic clubs. As it stands now, if they want to join a club they are forced to either “choose” one of their backgrounds to identify as or join Hapa Club.
Although ethnic clubs don’t outright stop nonethnic members from joining, they don’t boast a significant number of nonethnic members to attract those who may be interested in learning more about the culture despite not sharing their heritage. As it stands, only those brave enough and passionate enough about the specific culture would ever consider joining an ethnic club they don’t share a heritage with.
The singularity of the Hapa Club and the overabundance of Asian-specific clubs on campus begin to show cracks in the two great metaphors which have defined the past and future of the U.S.
Consider the melting pot. Once thought to be a metaphor for the mixing of cultures and ethnicities which would be slow-cooked into a cohesive, harmonious and thriving whole called America, the melting pot has since given way to what supporters of multiculturalism and political correctness call the mosaic.
Through this metaphor, each pane of glass, or culture, becomes an invaluable part of American culture, integral to the beauty of the mosaic. Yet each also maintains its unique ethnic and cultural heritage by being its own specific piece of glass.
Neither metaphor truly captures the essence of this nation, but UCLA exposes the problems in our mosaic. Although on the surface the campus is incredibly diverse, with a new culture and language ready to meet you at every turn, each culture seems to be segregated. Instead of forming one whole, beautiful picture, UCLA’s mosaic would be much more impressionistic.
Hurwitz’s aspirations of turning the Hapa Club into a sort of umbrella organization for various mixed ethnicity clubs on campus would help breach this barrier and turn UCLA’s mosaic into a diverse and welcome environment for more than those with a single ethnicity.
With a stronger and renamed Hapa Club, UCLA’s mosaic will hopefully begin to look whole.