Chicana activist and poet speaks on diversity, identity

Cherrie Moraga spoke and answered questions about life as an author.

by Justin Horwath

Cherrie Moraga, an author and Chicana activist, brought her ideas on how to diversify higher-education curriculums and advised participants to question Eurocentrism in the classroom during events held Thursday.

Moraga’s ideas draw largely from feminist and Chicana perspectives. During a two-hour workshop, she asked faculty and graduate students to “question the paradigm of Eurocentrism,” according to a release sent out by the Office of Equity and Diversity, which sponsored the events.

Moraga said she was “trying to get people in the classroom to shift the lens” of a Eurocentric mindset during the workshop. She added that when issues of race and identity arise with students, professors should use those as learning opportunities.

University spokesman Dan Wolter, meanwhile, said in an e-mail that “these are legitimate concerns regularly raised at the University and in any rich academic environment.”

“We’re hopeful that students, faculty and staff are provoked to greater thought on the subject,” Wolter said.

Those interviewed after the workshop, “Infusing Diversity and Transforming Pedagogy in the Curriculum” said Moraga reaffirmed their opinions on how to address issues of diversity, objectivity and honesty in the classroom.

Eden Torres, interim chairwoman of the Chicano studies department, said 90 percent of the curriculum is taught from a Eurocentric perspective.

“We have to be upfront about it,” Torres said. “It’s almost something that’s invisible until we make it visible.”

Eurocentricism is the tendency to interpret the world through European and Anglo-American values and experiences. When applied to the classroom, faculty members said, it devalues minority interpretations.

Lisa Albrecht, an associate professor of social work, after the workshop said “to make believe that (a professor) is neutral is a lie,” an issue that Moraga said professors should be upfront about.

“They all come from political perspectives,” Albrecht said. “The history of higher education has become a history of Eurocentric teaching and that’s not neutral.”

The workshop was followed by a speech in the Carlson’s 3M Auditorium, which focused on Moraga’s personal development as an author. The reading was attended by roughly 200 people.

Moraga’s visit is the first in a year-long series of campus discussions titled, “Dialogues on the Intersections of Identity” to “engage faculty, students and staff in conversation about the complexity of diversity.”

Moraga responded to a question from the audience after the evening reading regarding the materials used in the University’s curriculum.

“We should only use books that would profoundly change us,” she said. “That would be my university.”