Charles Lai and Patricia Eng, East Coast Asian Student Union Collection

Date Range: 19781987
Survey Conducted: Mon, 2010-05-17
Creator: Lai, Charles and Eng, Patricia; East Coast Asian Student Union

History: Charles Lai was a founding member of the East Coast Asian Student Union (ECASU), a network of Asian American student groups based at East coast colleges and universities. Presently known as the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU), ECASU formed at the Asian Student Unity conference held at Princeton University in 1978. Though it was established in the late 1970s, the organization claims roots in the protest movements of the 1960s – when the Civil Rights Movement and anti-Vietnam War protests inspired Asian Americans on campuses across the country to engage in political action. In its early years, ECASU promoted student activism among Asian Americans on various campuses. In addition, ECASU organized social and cultural events, worked to establish “Asian in America History Week,” and hosted College Days (college application informational and financial aid sessions) for high school students.

In December 1978, ECASU split into the New York-based Mid-Atlantic Region and the Boston-based New England Region. The split occurred over disagreements about the level of influence that community groups such as the CCPA and PCPA, among others, should have on the direction and activities of ECASU. The Mid-Atlantic region maintained that ECASU should focus primarily on student issues and concerns, while the New England region believed that the influence of such groups was beneficial to the organization. ECASU sponsored several conferences including “Asian Students Organizing for the ’80s” and “Asian Women, Myth and Reality” in the 1980s, and released the first issue of its journal Asian American Spirit in 1981. In 1983, the organization surveyed 25 university and college admissions offices, comparing the number of Asian American applicants to the number of Asian Americans accepted. This study claimed to reveal the disproportionately low admissions rates for Asian American students compared to other groups and was one of several of its kind in the early to mid-1980s.In 2008, ECAASU obtained 501(c)3 status and established a national board to oversee various campus chapters. Currently, ECAASU leads public service initiatives including voter registration campaigns, organizes student retreats on the East Coast, and hosts various conferences, workshops, and panels.

Sources: East Coast Asian American Student Union. “History.” Accessed February 3, 2015.

Lai, Charles. Interview by Nancy Ng Tam. New York, NY, May, 17, 2010.

Takagi, Dana Y. “From Discrimination to Affirmative Action: Facts in the Asian American Admissions Controversy.” Social Problems 37 (1990): 578-92.

Summary: The collection measures 0.25 linear feet and spans in date from 1978 to 1987. The bulk of the collection documents the founding and early years of ECASU and includes posters and flyers from the Asian Students Unity Conference at Princeton in 1978, meeting minutes (1978-1979) from both the Coordinating Committee and the Mid-Atlantic Regional meetings, and a copy of the ECASU constitution and by-laws. Also part of the collection are documents summarizing ECASU’s split in 1978 into the Mid-Atlantic Region centered in New York and the New England Region based in Boston. Additionally, the collection contains materials documenting ECASU’s “Asians in America History Week,” including leaflets and slideshow scripts on Chinese American history and the history of the Asian Student Movement. There are also drafts of a brochure on the history, mission, and activities of ECASU and a few meeting minutes from the Intercollegiate Liaison Committee (ICLC), the forerunner of ECASU, as well as a couple of ECASU newsletters and handwritten notes on events and activities. The most recent material is a press release and conference packet for 7th Annual ECASU Conference held at Boston University on Feb 13-15, 1987.

Total Size: 0.25 linear feet
APA-related Size: 0.25 linear feet
Languages of materials: English
Location: Private office
Bibliographic Control: other
Conditions Governing Access: Currently inaccessible to the public.

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