Rally supported more than just Chicano studies

It is important to clarify misrepresentations made about the educational rally and Chicano studies in an Oct. 13 Daily article. The rally was part of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies 26th Midwest FOCO Regional Conference.

It is a disservice to University students when the Daily does not thoroughly research the subject of its articles. On behalf of the Ceviche student group, the conference organizers, we need to give better insight into the rally and Chicano studies.

On Oct. 10, more than 100 students and community members gathered at Northrop Plaza to strengthen coalition-building among ethnic studies departments; people of color; and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities at the University. A committed group of individuals addressed the crowd about the importance of strengthening diversity.

The educational rally was not simply an act to criticize the lack of Chicano/Chicana professors at the University. The rally was, at its core, a statement of how ethnic studies departments, people of color and GLBT communities are in solidarity with one another while sharing marginalized realities.

African-American and African studies professor Rose Brewer said it best when she declared, “If Chicano studies dies, then African-American studies will die and then American Indian and Asian studies will also die.”

Disappointingly, the article veered away from the rally and relied heavily on statements by College of Liberal Arts administration regarding the situation of Chicano studies. The administration’s remarks concerning the relationship between the low numbers of declared majors as not warranting faculty hires continues to draw attention away from the administration’s responsibility to the department.

As Chicano studies student Jennifer Caron affirmed, “It keeps people fixated on the conundrum of which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” The University has not hired a Chicano/Chicana studies professor in the last 20 years. If one was deciding on a major, would you choose a department that only has one half-time faculty member? To attract majors, the University must first have a department that can support them. The resources for Chicano studies students are not at the University, and this is one reason for low numbers of Chicano studies majors.

A national search is under way for a department head (not a dean). However, that hire will not guarantee a viable Chicano studies department. In 2004-05, the department will, with this new hire, begin the school year with a mere one and a half tenured faculty.

Securing a chair will not deliver the necessary resources for the recruitment and retention of Chicano studies majors. A viable department requires more than one fulltime tenured faculty member.

The University climate needs to be characterized: quick to discuss diversity, but unwilling to take measures to ensure it. Put simply, the Chicano/Chicana and related communities continue to be marginalized at multiple levels within the University. For this reason it is necessary to clarify the purpose of the educational rally, which fostered coalitions, demonstrated solidarity and advocated for viable and autonomous ethnic studies departments. The ethnic studies departments and other underrepresented programs at the University have and will continue to stand together in this struggle.

¡Si se puede!

Fernando Aguirre-McKibbin, Jr., and Alondra Espejel are members of the Ceviche student group and welcome comments at [email protected]