Johnny Ly: A UW-Madison Hmong student leader speaks
By Heidi M. Pascual
that are brought up, our side is never presented accurately," he said, citing the UW-Law School-Kaplan incident as only one of the issues. "We have been struggling for representation; for the university to listen to the students' needs."
      Ly thinks that the UW hasn't been responsive to the needs of students of color. "They have always put their priorities first: like the priority of maintaining its image as a good university or as one of the top universities in America," he said. "The priority is not for all students to be comfortable in the classrooms."
      While Ly isn't sure whether any of the students' demands has reached the chancellor, he emphasized that the UW leadership should strive to make sure all students on campus have the tools to discuss race. "How do you give students the tools to discuss diversity?" he asked, "and is looking at ethnic climate adequate enough to achieve all these? I think the university doesn't want to deal with any politics that come into play in Wisconsin. That is one example that has never been met."
      Re-segregation of students is one big issue Ly is complaining about. "I would say that the university has re-segregated us," he said without batting an eyelash. "It's not how you treat people; it's the act of re-segregation itself. It's what's wrong with this university. I'm sure everybody would like to discuss diversity; it's just that it's being done without some authority to facilitate it. I think the university's so called 'Diversity Oversight Committee' has been missing in action and hasn't been doing its job. These people are being paid to do something, and that comes out of my tuition money. I feel that they're very inadequate and it's a waste of my tuition money to pay for these people who aren't doing their job to facilitate discussions."
      Ly reacted strongly to the 8th Annual Diversity Plan 2008 Campus Forums, expressing hope that the Hmong wouldn't be taken as a token of diversity in the future. "This event has chosen to focus on the Hmong, and the reason for that, I believe, is that they're extolling the Hmong students," he said, "to try to calm the Hmong students because the university lacks efforts to adequately address the law school (Kaplan) incident. Because the Hmong students were angered by their lack of action, the university decided to throw this bone at the Hmong students."
      What would Ly have welcomed instead? "If they wanted to highlight the Hmong students, they should have involved the Hmong students in the planning process," Ly said flatly. "They should have asked: 'Can you guys create a workshop? Can you guys help pick a speaker to bring in?' They didn't approach us until a month before the forum. If we had a month to do this, I don't think we would be ready. We don't want to be a statistic at this annual forum, and I think a lot of Hmong students thought that way and they didn't attend because of that."
     As chair of the UW-Madison Asian Pacific Council, Johnny Ly has the distinction of being the spokesperson for a group of students of Asian descent at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A senior political science major and a Hmong, Ly doesn't mince words, speaks from the heart, and grieves at why students of color are treated differently at his school./"It's been a constant struggle," Ly said in an interview with Asian Wisconzine. "First of all, it's been a struggle, as an Asian American and as a student of color, to be recognized just as a regular student on campus." He quickly added that it's doubly hard for him as a Hmong. "I want to maintain my identity as well," he stressed.
      As to specific instances why he feels that way, Ly replied that the university is going against them. "When there are issues
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December 2007 Issue