Skip to content
Inside Beat

Rutgers Asian Student Council provides community for students hoping to make change

The Rutgers Asian Student Council offers space for its Asian population to get together, contribute to campus activism and participate in group activities.  – Photo by

Asian American discrimination has had a long history in the U.S. from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to the 1965 Delano Grape Strike to present-day discrimination against East Asians due to the emergence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). While the continued efforts of Asian American activism have proved successful, the community is still largely fractured. 

As an Asian American myself, it has always been hard for me to define my identity in the larger sphere of the Asian American community. Growing up, I was never considered Asian due to my Indian heritage and never felt included in the larger conversation surrounding diversity. It always felt like there was never a space where all groups of Asians could coexist and talk about the issues affecting them.

Tucked away in a small, unassuming and almost shed-like structure near Livingston Apartment Building C on the Livingston campus lies the meeting space for the Asian Student Council (ASC).

With the space's comfy chairs, snacks and warmth, the council invites you to indulge in the shared space of diversity. I recently had a chance to speak to the president, Jeremy Eng, and the external vice president, Anhiti Dharmapuri about the ASC’s mission, initiatives and goals for the future.

Eng, a Rutgers Business School junior, said he joined the ASC when it was going through quite a few structural changes, with the previous president of the council implementing different strategies in order to reach out to the Asian American community at Rutgers.

"I signed up (for) a position called the community chair intern, where I was dealing a lot with communicating with other organizations on campus, and so far, the experience has been really good," he said. "I learned a lot (from) my time in my previous position, like networking with different organizations, seeing how (the organization) does its events and overall just improving our own network."

He stated that as president of the ASC, he is now focused on building upon the foundations that the previous president had established. Eng wants to create a stable, long-term structure for the ASC to ensure its success in the future.

Dharmapuri, a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences, said that her experience as external vice president has been absolutely wonderful so far, though she didn’t initially even have plans to join the ASC.

She was a peer mentor for the Asian American Images and Identities Living-Learning Community and initially got in touch with the ASC because members of her community were looking to be more involved.

"I wasn't really familiar with it at the time, but you know, as we kind of got to talking more, I realized that ASC’s message and mission were really down to Earth and really what I wanted to do here at Rutgers," Dharmapuri said. "I decided to talk to the president at the time about joining, and she was very welcoming to that idea, and so that began my journey with ASC back in (my) junior year."

Eng talked about the challenges of managing a diverse executive board of 18 people. He said that assuming the position of president was a huge learning curve as he not only had to manage the executive board but also had to communicate and collaborate with other departments.

"In terms of challenges, (the first I encountered were) trying to solidify how I wanted to lead ASC, what direction I wanted to lead it and also how I can make the experience worthwhile for my team," Eng said. "I realized that the direction of ASC shouldn't reflect what I want, but more so what each individual's goals are."

He added that as a team, the ASC is currently trying to figure out how to unify the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) community at Rutgers. The organization hopes to find a way to foster an inclusive community and build relationships between different cultural organizations.

Dharmapuri spoke about how the ASC has taken steps to ensure that Asian representation both within the organization and outside is holistic, stating that the council wants to ensure that everyone feels included.

"We really try our hardest to make sure that our representation is holistic and diverse, and one of the ways we do that is to sort of, you know, identify which groups even are in the APIDA community," she said. "We work a lot with the Asian American Cultural Center so some of the discourses that we've had with them sort of center around intersectionality between the LGBTQ+ community and being Asian."

Dharmapuri added that her role as external vice president has involved reaching out to organizations for co-sponsoring events and that the ASC wants to ensure that the representation of every group is included in the organization.

Eng believes that the ASC is included in the larger conversations with other student government organizations on campus. He talked about his involvement with both the Asian community at Rutgers and the University as a whole.

"I'm also invited to the Vice Chancellor Student Advisory Committee (meetings) ... each major council’s president at Rutgers comes together to discuss how we are providing or how we are benefiting Rutgers," Eng said. "That's something that I really enjoyed because I got to meet presidents of other executive boards, discuss how we are running things, how I can possibly improve our operations and, in general, share stories and similar events."

Dharmapuri said that while they feel the ASC is included, it has had to establish its place among the larger student government organizations at Rutgers. She stated that the ASC has had to constantly advocate for more funding and wishes it was more included in the University's government organizations as a whole.

Eng spoke a bit more about his favorite moments from being part of the ASC, recalling a mystery presentation night that made him feel like he had bonded with the council more. Dharmapuri stated that every moment in the ASC feels like it’s her favorite.

"To have the ability to joke around, to see the lighter side of things and enjoy each other's presence in a position of leadership is such a rare and awesome thing, and I think that's my favorite part of ASC is how casual all of the executive board is with each other," Dharmapuri said. "Especially after our executive board meetings, and I think that that's something that I have never found myself having in any other (organization) that I've ever been a part of, so, to me, that's definitely very special."

The ASC meets from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays in the Asian American Cultural Center on Livingston campus.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe