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Members of Penn State's Asian Pacific American community discussed student apathy and lack of unity within their community in a panel discussion last night in Pollock Cultural Lounge.

Sponsored by Alpha Kappa Delta Phi sorority, last night's workshop, titled "Appreciating Each Other's Cultures: A Look into Asian Pacific American Ethnic Groups," is part of a series of events celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritag e month.

"There's a lack of unity within the Asian Pacific community," said Chiho Chan (junior-division of undergraduate studies), a panel representative from Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity.

Asian Pacific Americans put their ethnic backgrounds, such as Chinese or Filipino, first and their identification as an Asian Pacific American second, he said.

"We don't reach out," Chan said. "We don't see the bigger picture."

Other panel members agreed students often form cliques within their ethnic groups and do not become involved in other groups within the Asian Pacific American community.

Reigning Miss Asian Penn State Hang Zhang (senior-marketing and international business) blamed part of the problem on the size of the community.

"We're really big," Zhang said. "We're really diverse."

To combat the lack of unity, Mehul Suthar (senior-biochemistry and molecular biology), president of the Indian Students Association, suggested regular roundtable discussions which would bring members from across the community together.

"If more people came out . . . there would be more voices to be heard," he said.

Penn State already has an association designed to be an umbrella organization for the smaller Asian Pacific American groups, the Asian Pacific American Coalition. However, panel members expressed frustration with APAC and the lack of student involvement within it.

"APAC is exactly what people have been asking for," Chan said. "Yet not many people are doing anything about it."

Many students have heard of APAC but do not know what the group does or how to get involved, he said.

Zhang agreed the Asian Pacific American community needs to focus on strengthening APAC so in times of crisis the community has a strong group to turn to for support.

"APAC needs support from all the umbrella groups under it," she said. "They're going to listen to the biggest voice and that's APAC."

Audience member Kim Lanzana (senior-hotel and restaurant management), a sister of Alpha Kappa Delta Phi, said disunity between groups in the Asian Pacific American community has reached an all-time high.

"Competition between each organization is getting really intense," she said. "It's getting out of hand."

Panel members complained organizations often sponsor conflicting events, such as Asian Awakenings and Unity Days 2000 that were both held April 2. These conflicts weaken each group's event, members said.

Groups within the community need to support each other instead of focusing on their own organizations, Lanzana said. "We should put our own agendas aside and really care about the Asian community."