CLA backs Chicano Studies department

Michelle Kibiger

Faculty members and students in the Chicano Studies department protested last week for more support from the College of Liberal Arts. They got enough relief to retain professor Dennis Valdes — who happens to comprise half of the department’s full-time faculty.
“We are delighted that Dennis has decided to stay,” said CLA Dean Steven Rosenstone. “He is critical to our plans to strengthen Chicano Studies.”
Chicano Studies only has two full-time faculty members, supplemented by five graduate student teaching assistants. Department chairman Guillermo Rojas, the other full-time faculty member, said retaining Valdes is especially important to the graduate students in the department.
“He provides the continuity to the graduate students’ work that he has supported over the last two or three years,” Rojas said. Many of those graduate students are putting together their dissertations, Rojas said, and if Valdes had left, the students would have had to fend for themselves.
“For us, it was a win-win situation that the dean was able to meet his terms,” Rojas said.
Valdes joined the University faculty in 1980. Since then he has taught and advised students not only in the Chicano Studies department, but also in Latin American Studies, history and American Studies.
“He’s a triple-quadruple threat person,” Rojas said. “He works with a very wide range of students.”
Valdes was recently offered a position at another university, but opted to stay at the University. Rojas said the fact that CLA and Dean Rosenstone came up with an offer to keep Valdes indicates a commitment to improving conditions in the Chicano Studies department.
“All departments are strapped in a similar fashion,” Rojas said. “All departments need to be supported and the Legislature needs to open its eyes. Minne-sotans always seem to want a winning team in football and basketball. Our priorities need to be reversed.”
Valdes has a book coming out next spring in which he studies migrant workers in Minnesota and focuses on the processes of assimilation and acculturation of the Mexican community into American life.