Chicano Studies is focus of student rally

Douglas Rojas

More than 50 students, faculty and members of the University community gathered outside Northrop Memorial Auditorium Wednesday to demand an increase of support and attention for the Chicano Studies Department.
During the rally, students and faculty members took turns asking University officials to give proper attention to programs that examine the roots of various minority groups in the United States.
Speakers reminded the officials of past commitments to diversity, and said the Chicano Studies department fulfills a vital part of that goal.
“That’s why we are here,” said Randy Rodriguez, a graduate student in American Studies. “That’s why we have to stay, and that’s why we have to fight.”
Members of La Raza Chicano/Latino and the Africana Student Cultural Centers were present at the rally, along with some of the Chicano Studies department founders.
Manuel Guzman, a lawyer and University graduate who helped found Chicano Studies in 1972, said establishing the department was a struggle that still continues. Nevertheless, he said he would still like to see it gain prominence at the University.
“I’m proud of being here to support the Chicano Studies Department struggle,” Guzman said.
Graduate students in the department put together a list of improvements that they want University authorities to consider. The list includes the creation of a minor in Chicano Studies.
The department not only needs money to support the celebration of its 25th anniversary, but also six faculty members to exclusively teach in the program. The University promised more faculty members when Professor Guillermo Rojas was named department chairman in the early 1980s.
Since its foundation, the department has only had two full-time faculty members, Rojas and Dennis Valdes. Valdes has been offered a position at another University, leaving open the possibility that offerings could be cut back through faculty attrition.
The two faculty members in the department advised up to 19 graduate students from various University departments at one time. The students, primarily from the history and American Studies departments, need advice on individual projects as well as entire academic plans.
Because of the lack of faculty members, graduate students in the department teach many courses. According to Rojas, there aren’t enough instructors to cover the increasing number of students taking Chicano Studies courses.
Graduate and undergraduate rally organizers set up an appointment with W. Phillips Shively, provost of Arts, Sciences and Engineering, to discuss their requests.
“We want to educate the University community,” said Anne Martinez, a graduate student in American Studies, “to let them know how urgent the situation is.”
The department funds its full-time faculty members, one secretary who splits time with the American Indian Studies department and five graduate students on a $150,000 annual budget.
The meeting is set up tentatively for 4 p.m. today. Shively was not in his office at the time of the rally and was not available for comment.
College of Liberal Arts Dean Steven Rosenstone said the college supports the list of suggested improvements. However, budget constraints at the University make the allocation of money more difficult. By July 1997, approximately $1.6 million of the CLA budget — about 2.5 percent — will be used by the central administration to retain current University faculty.
With such a budget, “not a single department has an adequate number of faculty,” Rosenstone said. “Still, we have to keep faculty and create new programs. My hands are a little tied on this.”