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UCI Lecturer, Mentor Out ‘to Change Society’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Officially, Daniel C. Tsang is listed as a UC Irvine lecturer and as bibliographer at its massive main library.

But the university guide doesn’t mention Tsang’s controversial politics, his alternative radio talk show on campus, or his role as friend and confidant to Asian American students on campus.

“To me, he’s a mentor,” said Julie Chaicharee, 23, a senior political science student. “If I need to know more about the Asian community, I go to him because he talks to me. He doesn’t talk at me.”

His newest project, a one-hour radio talk show on KUCI, the student radio station, is billed as an “alternative view of what’s behind the Orange Curtain.” Guests and subjects have included supporters of gay teen-agers at Fountain Valley High School, decriminalizing prostitution, and gang hysteria in Orange County.

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“This is a call-in format,” Tsang, 44, said. “I’m asking critical questions of my guests, and people get to call in.”

The program doesn’t attempt balance. “I don’t do the other side,” Tsang said. “All my shows are like that.” After all, he said, the 4 p.m. Tuesday show is titled “Subversity.”

Tsang also is adviser to RicePaper, an alternative quarterly produced by Asian American students, and he has published numerous articles with a militant bite.

He was a student during the radical ‘60s and took an active part in anti-war protests.

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In 1969, he joined anti-war marches on Washington and in New York state. He met Jane Fonda, former presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, and U.S. Sen. Charles E. Goodell, a New York Republican opposed to the war who was appointed to the Senate to replace slain Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

“I was 19 at the time,” Tsang recalled. “I remember marching around, holding placards with the names of dead Vietnamese soldiers with a candle in another hand and we shouted out the names of dead Vietnamese. As an Asian, I didn’t especially see why we should be bombing these people in their own country.”

The year 1969 also was pivotal for personal reasons for Tsang, who is gay. It was the year of the Stonewall riot in Greenwich Village between police and gays, which helped fuel a national movement for gay rights.

Born in Hong Kong, Tsang attended British schools. His mother, a library assistant, and his father, a physician, moved the family to the United States when Tsang was 17.

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His goal, he said simply, is “to change society.”

He has published articles against the police practice of taking pictures of suspected Asian gang members, and has received death threats because of it, he said.

“It was scary,” Tsang said. “I got a death threat after I wrote that piece for the (Los Angeles Times opinion section) and a vicious anti-Asian letter saying I was probably a faggot. One Anglo guy whose wife is Vietnamese said they hated me because I was Chinese and someone called my phone and said I deserved to be shot.”

While many of his friends have moved to San Francisco, Tsang said, he “stayed in Orange County because I believe this is like pioneer territory. . . . I’m an outsider and I see things differently from the general public.”

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As part of that belief, Tsang last year helped found a new countywide Asian American civil rights organization called AWARE, Alliance Working for Asian Rights and Empowerment.

On campus, where students call him Dan, his classes include the Politics of Sexuality and Asian-Pacific American Alternative Media, involve a healthy exchange of ideas between lecturer and student.

Lilly Chow, 20, a senior in Women’s Studies and Comparative Literature, said: “I think Dan is very young at heart and people can sense that about him. We have only a few Asian Americans here teaching on the faculty. Dan isn’t a professor and I think he comes across as less intimidating and more approachable.”

Julie Chaicharee said Tsang’s alternative media course was illuminating. Tsang assigned her research on Vincent Chin, a young Chinese American draftsman who was chased in the street by two unemployed Detroit Anglo auto workers and beaten to death in 1982. The attackers had mistaken Chin for Japanese and blamed him for their joblessness.

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“I had never heard about the Vincent Chin story before Dan assigned it,” Chaicharee said.

Profile:

Age: 44

Born: Hong Kong

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Marital status: Single

Current residence: Costa Mesa

Current employment: UC Irvine bibliographer and lecturer, adviser to RicePaper, UCI’s Asian-run alternative quarterly.

Education: Master’s in political science and master’s in library science from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Studied government at University of Redlands in California.

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Goal: Seeks to empower Asians and non-Asians; has started the Alliance Working for Asian Rights and Empowerment (AWARE).

Militant/leftist credentials: In 1969, as an antiwar activist, he attended a Washington rally where he met then presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. While at Michigan in 1975, he was part of a monthlong teaching assistants’ strike for non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Quote: “I’m interested in social change.”

Source: Daniel C. Tsang; Researched by DAVID REYES / Los Angeles Times

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