ASUC senate, community condemn Pilipinx representation in campus exhibit

This article was originally published on Thursday, October 21, 2021, in The Daily Californian. You can read an archived version at the Internet Archive.

On Wednesday, the ASUC Senate with the support of community members unanimously condemned a campus exhibit that critics say glorifies a history of racism against Pilipinx people.

At its meeting, the senate passed SR 21/22-025 to denounce the exhibit’s lack of representation of Pilipinx voices and its depictions of campus faculty who served as colonial administrators in the Philippines. According to the department of South and Southeast Asian studies, the exhibit celebrates 50 years of South and Southeast Asian scholarship on campus and is located on the first floor of Doe Library.

“To unname Barrows in the same year that this institution chooses to glorify his work along with the likes of Moses, Sproul and Kroeber in the Doe Library display is hypocritical and performative,” said Senator Stephanie Wong, who sponsored the legislation, during the meeting. “Their legacies are those of white supremacy, anti-Pilipinx sentiment, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity and xenophobia.”

Approximately one year ago, campus administration unnamed buildings honoring David Prescott Barrows and Alfred Louis Kroeber following recommendations from campus’s Building Name Review Committee.

Wong credited the legislation to co-sponsor Alex Mabanta, graduate student representative to the Building Name Review Committee and doctoral student at the UC Berkeley School of Law. According to Mabanta, Pilipinx students have lobbied the library to change the exhibit since mid-September.

“Pilipinx communities — ironically — are invisible in a display about them,” Mabanta said during the meeting.

In an October addendum to the exhibit, the campus library recognized the role of several UC Berkeley scholars in the colonization of the Philippines. The resolution also responds to this addendum, alleging it does not acknowledge or apologize for the construction of a “shrine” to American colonization of the Philippines by these scholars.

All public comments at the meeting supported SR 21/22-025 and opposed the exhibit. Senators Ashley Rehal, Sophie Morris, Jason Dones, Amy Chen and Muz Ahmad also expressed their support for the resolution.

Following consideration of other business, Wong moved to waive the public notice requirement for SR 21/22-025 and bring it up for immediate consideration. The motion, which required a two-thirds majority vote, passed 19-0. Two senators were absent due to local power outages, according to their colleagues.

After additional public comment, Wong moved to add a number of co-sponsors to the bill, which the senate accepted without objection. Among the added co-sponsors were thirteen ASUC senators, the Pilipino American Graduate Student Association and Alec Stewart, the great-great-grandson of Barrows.

SR 21/22-025 was then passed by unanimous consent.

Prior to the resolution condemning the exhibit, the senate considered SR 21/22-023, a bill to move senate meetings for the rest of the semester to 8 p.m. 

The resolution was unanimously passed following discussion of Dones’ concerns that the 30-minute pushback would confuse the public and strain maintenance staff who clean the senate chambers.

Additionally, officers and senators shared updates from their offices.

Both ASUC President Chaka Tellem and Senator Varsha Madapoosi discussed the importance of closing campus’s cogeneration power plant and pursuing full electrification as an environmentally friendly energy source.

Corrections: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Mabanta as a Pilipinx activist. In fact, Mabanta does not identify as a Pilipinx activist. A previous version of this article incorrectly suggested the library had not changed the exhibit since Pilipinx students began advocating for its alteration. In fact, in an addendum to the exhibit dated October 2021, the library recognized the role of several UC Berkeley scholars in the colonization of the Philippines.

Last updated Tuesday, October 26, 2021. Written by Gabe Classon.

Tags: Alec Stewart, Alex Mabanta, Alfred Louis Kroeber, Amy Chen, Ashley Rehal, ASUC Senate, ASUC Senator Stephanie Wong, Barrows Hall, Berkeley School of Law, Building Name Review Committee, Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence: South and Southeast Asia Scholarship and Stewardship at Berkeley 1970-2020, Chaka Tellem, David Prescott Barrows, Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, Doe Library, Jason Dones, Kroeber Hall, Moses, Muz Ahmad, Philippines, Pilipino American Graduate Student Association, Pilipinx, Sophie Morris, Sproul, SR 21/22-023, SR 21/22-025, Varsha Madapoosi