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Opinion: Reaction to proposed ethnic, gender studies budget cuts

Students for a Democratic Society have started an online petition demanding budget cuts to these departments not be made.
Image by Sarah Mai

On Thursday, April 20, the Council of Chairs of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) reached out to the University of Minnesota’s Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapter with concerns about massive budget cuts to the ethnic studies and gender and women’s studies departments that the University intends to implement. These budget cuts would not only considerably limit the content available to all students by cutting courses and programs, but they would also seriously endanger the jobs and livelihoods of faculty in these departments, if not threaten the existence of the departments as a whole.

The cuts include:

  • 50% cut to the Department of American Indian Studies
  • 30+% cut to the Department of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch languages
  • 30% cut to the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies
  • 27.5% cut to the Department of African American and African Studies
  • 22% cut to the Institute of Linguistics
  • 10% cut to the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies (GWSS)

As a whole, ethnic studies programs only exist at the University because of the Morrill Hall Takeover in 1969: a Black-led student occupation of Morrill Hall, which has historically housed the office of the president. Students fought for decades to establish ethnic studies programs, and we will not give them up without a fight! Administration is attempting to place the burden of budget cuts onto these departments instead of cutting the six-figure salaries of top administrators..

These budget cuts are also an attempt to erase ethnic studies and gender and women’s studies programs altogether and attack the enrollment and rights of Black, Chicano, Latino and Native students at the University. The scale of these budget cuts would not only lead to the removal of many non-tenured faculty and graduate assistants in many of these departments, but they would further overwork the already overburdened remaining faculty who are disproportionately responsible for doing diversity work for the University.

National SDS has been pointedly combating attacks on ethnic studies, diversity programs and student cultural centers happening across the country. One way these attacks materialize is what we see happening in states like Florida and Texas, where the existence of DEI programs is being directly threatened on a legislative level. In Tampa, our fellow SDS members were attacked by U of Southern Florida (USF) police officers and are facing felony charges and potential expulsion for protesting the financial gutting of the DEI office at USF and demanding administration speak against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ HB 999 bill attempting to eliminate Black history, ethnic studies and DEI programs.

We are also seeing these attacks arise in so-called “progressive” states through more subversive budget cuts on the university level that still end up gutting these programs. This can be seen in the massive cuts made by the University of Connecticut in which they are trying to combine all of their ethnic departments into one, which severely restricts the resources available to students and staff.

SDS demands an immediate increase in the budget and a prioritization for the continuation of ethnic studies and GWSS programs. We demand these cuts be immediately halted, and any cuts the University makes from its budget be made from the salaries of overpaid administrators. Alongside the CLA Council of Chairs, we stand in solidarity with Black, Chicano, Latino, and Native students and faculty and demand the work of these underfunded departments be seen as vital to the University, just as it is to the students who invest their time and money into studying them.

We call on students to join the fight, to sign our petition to demand University administration fully fund these programs and to stay tuned for further actions as we work with other student groups and unions to fight back against these attacks. Facing these cuts, we – students, staff and faculty – will not give up. We will not back down. We will unite and fight back!

Defend Ethnic Studies!

Defend Gender and Queer Studies!

Chop From the Top!

Sign the petition to demand that these budget cuts are not allowed to happen.

Midori Van Alstine is a third-year student in the College of Liberal Arts studying biology, society and environment and minoring in plant biology. They are a proud member of Students for a Democratic Society.

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  • Nah
    Apr 26, 2023 at 10:27 am

    SDS is for weirdos and losers