Students rally, criticize U’s lack of Chicano studies professors

The College of Liberal Arts dean said the program attracts too few students to justify more faculty.

Molly Moker

More than 100 students organized by the Chicano studies department gathered Friday on Northrop Mall protesting what they claim is mistreatment by the University.

“We’re doing this so people know the importance of making ethnic strides a priority at the University,” said Alondra Espeljel, a University student and event organizer.

Rally participants – also part of a three-day National Association for Chicano and Chicano Studies Midwest Regional Conference – said they were upset because the University has not hired any new full-time faculty to the Chicano studies department in 20 years and the department currently has half a full-time faculty member.

But Steven Rosenstone, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said there is no demand for another faculty position in the Chicano studies department because the department’s course enrollment is a third lower than the college’s average course enrollment.

“The enrollment in these courses has not been adequate for an increase in faculty positions,” Rosenstone said.

He said a main consideration in hiring new faculty in a department is how many students are in the major per faculty member, and Chicano studies has only eight majors per faculty member – less than half of the 18.8 average for CLA departments.

“I have a responsibility to worry about the needs of all the departments in this school,” Rosenstone said. “Chicano studies is being treated no differently than other departments.”

Departments such as global studies have as many as 100 majors per faculty member.

Rally participants, however, still hoped to make their voices heard.

“By having a presence like this, it will indicate that this is something that is really important,” said graduate student Roxanne Ornelas. “By not having (ethnic studies programs), it is a loss for all of us.”

Rally and conference lecturer Susana De Leon – a University Chicano studies graduate and full-time lecturer in the department – said the current department faculty level is inadequate.

This summer, the department dean quit, and the one full-time faculty member is working part time because of phase-retirement, so the University hired De Leon as a full-time lecturer while it searches for a new dean.

“I leave my law practice twice a week to come and serve our community,” De Leon said. “There is no one else to teach these courses.”

De Leon said she wants to develop her professional career, but she said the University’s conditions leave her no choice.

“(Students) need to be educated,” De Leon said. “Someone has to guide them, and I guess it is going to have to be me.”

Rosenstone said he is conducting a nationwide search for a department head and will fill the full-time faculty position once a new dean is hired.

He said the department is lucky to have escaped cuts in light of the 25 percent of the school’s funding the state cut in the last 15 months. He said everything from technology to classrooms have suffered – but not Chicano studies.

CLA also gave the department $3,000 for the recent conference, which featured panels and discussions about ethnic issues.