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Caucus at UCF encourages APIA students to speak out

A new caucus under the College Democrats at the University of Central Florida is encouraging Asian Pacific Islander American students to make their opinions on social and political issues heard, something that caucus leader Stephanie Slater said they don’t often do.

Slater said that, from her perspective, Asian culture doesn’t involve talking about one’s problems. “But I think that needs to change because nothing’s going to get better if we don’t talk about it,” she said.

Slater, a sophomore criminal justice major at UCF, got the idea for the caucus as a member of the College Democrats in the spring of 2015, but didn’t act on it until she had more Asian Americans join her.

“I wanted to do one [a caucus] for Asian Americans but last spring I was the only Asian in the club,” Slater said. “And then Devi [Mody] and Sai [Chowdhury] came to the club and I was like, ‘We should do this.’”

College of Democrats at UCF Asian American Caucus Leaders (left to right) Saiyara Chowdhury, Stephanie Slater and Devi Mody. Photo by Johnna Gracik

College of Democrats at UCF Asian American Caucus Leaders (left to right) Saiyara Chowdhury, Stephanie Slater and Devi Mody.
Photo by Johnna Gracik

Although they are under the College Democrats at UCF, the caucus leaders don’t want potential members to be turned off by the thought of politics.

“I know it’s a very ugly word and a lot of people don’t even know what it means…and when they hear that they get a little scared about the whole idea of politics,” Chowdhury, a junior psychology major at UCF and one of the caucus leaders, said. “We’re not trying to be very intensely politically outgoing or anything like that. We just want people to be interested in what we’re doing by showing them that it’s okay. We’re just going to be talking.”

Some topics that the caucus leaders want to address are internalized racism, low voter turnout and lack of representation in the media. They hope to cover more serious topics than the social clubs they’ve attended on campus, and they want their members to take away knowledge and understanding, according to Slater.

Although the caucus is catered toward Asian Pacific Islander Americans, the caucus leaders stressed that anyone can join.

“You don’t even have to be Asian or Asian American to be part of the group,” Devi Mody, a film and criminal justice double major and caucus leader at UCF said. “We encourage all types of races to join to experience different cultures.”

The caucus is not restricted to just democrats, either. The caucus leaders want to encourage people with differing political beliefs to participate. “We’re not biased. We don’t have any party affiliation toward anyone, either,” Chowdhury said.

This is the first caucus at UCF to focus on APIA students’ voices and opinions, and it comes at a crucial time: election season. According to the United States Census Bureau, only 47.3 percent of Asian Americans voted in the 2012 election — less than any other ethnic group.

The caucus will kick off with an event about breaking cultural stereotypes. According to Mody, the event will involve students writing “their stereotype down on [a] piece of wood” and breaking it.

The Asian American Caucus’s break out event will be on Feb. 10, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the Student Union patio at UCF.

Featured image courtesy of Lindsey Slater