Culturally starved

Story by Amelia Kimball, Staff Writer

Students are making some noise now that a Hmong humanities class has been eliminated, making Hmong language at the 101 and 102 levels the only classes related to Hmong culture at UW-Eau Claire.

On Oct. 11, a proposal was submitted in hopes of adding a Hmong history class to the Eau Claire curriculum.

Ong Xiong, senior biology major and student representative for the Hmong Student Association, said lots of communicating and processing has been going on between advocates for a Hmong history class.

The process has taken a while, but the students wanted to outline exactly what they wanted in the proposal.

Students collaborated with Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, an associate professor of history who is writing a Blugold Commitment grant for funding for a visiting scholar to teach Hmong history at Eau Claire for three years. On the fourth year, the scholar will
potentially be offered a permanent position.

“Currently there isn’t really a professor in the history department who is capable or familiar enough with the topic to teach it … we kind of need a new history professor in that area,” Xiong said.

Recently, advocates have started attending student senate meetings to show the desire and need for Hmong history, Xiong said. Xiong said it will not be known if the proposal is accepted until about a year from now, as the process is very long and extensive.

“Oftentimes Hmong history is just touched on briefly in other classes and the problem with that is that it’s not comprehensive or complex enough to acknowledge … Hmong history,” Xiong said.

Xiong said this is why there is such a strong need for one class on Hmong history.

Gerardo Licón, an assistant professor in Latin American studies, said the Hmong population is a big part of the Eau Claire
community so curriculum would be beneficial. Anything the university can do to includes Hmong curriculum would be a step in the right direction, he said.

Charles Vue, associate director of the office of multicultural affairs and current professor of the Hmong language courses, said this is a time where students are searching for cultural information on the Hmong.

“Particularly Hmong students are making their voice heard in their thirst for information on their own background. Most students feel they’re the representatives of Hmong history and culture when they don’t know it themselves,” Vue said.

Vue said times were hard for the Hmong before, but now the difficulty has doubled or tripled what it was.

Students are speaking up because they feel they’re being cheated, Vue said. This is what their money goes toward.

Vue doesn’t believe the lack of Hmong curriculum is intentional.

“Some people just don’t look at the big picture,” he said.

Currently, 30 students are enrolled in Vue’s Hmong language course, but the capacity is set at 27. Last year, Hmong history month was celebrated for the first time in Eau Claire’s history, Vue said.

There hasn’t been a strong individual pushing for this until now, he said.

No matter what happens with the proposal, Xiong said she believes students will keep working to achieve their goals of having Hmong curriculum in Eau Claire.

Xiong said students will come back after graduation to see how everything is developing. In the meantime, advocates are motivating underclassmen.

Piecing the dominating culture of society with the minority helps people better understand the world as a whole, Xiong said, adding that Hmong history provides an eye for that, and that’s why it needs attention.