SAN FRANCISCO — Professor Emily Lawsin was teaching Asian American studies at the University of Michigan for 18 years, but her contract was recently terminated.
She believes it was in retaliation because in 2017, Lawsin, her husband and fellow professor of the University of Michigan Scott Kurashige, sued the university under claims of racial discrimination and harassment.
“One of the top reasons they had said why they could not recommend me for renewal was because I spoke too much about Filipinos in my classes,” Lawsin said.
Filipino ethnic studies educators across the country are siding with Professor Lawsin, saying that what happened to her is a growing trend of resentment for people of color gaining strength.
“I think ethnic studies is a threat to some people because it is subverting the dominant paradigm. Our voices are now being heard,” said Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales.
Aisa Villarosa is one of Lawsin’s former students who is gathering fellow alumni to show support for her.
She says that while her fellow alumni were shocked by the news, they were also not surprised — due to their experiences with Lawsin and the school.
“I really feel like she is unfairly treated because she’s frequently the one who voices out, frequently the one who voices concerns for justice and diversity, both to the faculty and the whole campus.”
The University of Michigan’s college of literature, science, and arts administration declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Lawsin says while this is a difficult experience, it is necessary.
“The students in the midwest are hungry. They’re hungry for these classes. And that’s why we chose to fight. It’s the principal of the matter and I’m just so thankful for the support everyone has shown us.”
A petition in support of Lawsin, Kurashige, and Asian American Pacific Islander studies at the University of Michigan has almost reached its goal of 2500 signatures.
Most recently, students organized a sit-in at the office of the dean and left letters of support for Professor Lawsin.