It’s been a busy summer for the UCLA AWDU chapter. We’ve been hard at work on preparing for campus orientations, gearing up for our contract campaign, and supporting the fight for quality, affordable public education across systems and schools and in California! Very soon we’ll start updating this site with new material. Look forward to posts about our union, the student movement, and activism in general. In the meantime, check out the UC Student Workers Union website for more info on what UAW 2865 is up to this year at http://www.uaw2865.org.
It’s public knowledge that along with tuition hikes, pay cuts, and layoffs, the University of California’s plan for absorbing budget shortfalls includes increasing enrollment of non-resident students. “Non-residents,” or out-of-state and international students, pay about $36,000 per year in tuition alone, or nearly three times what in-state California resident students pay.* This strategy is worrisome enough to middle- and working-class Californians for whom public education is the only affordable option for college. But a recent email detailing a recruitment program that deliberately targets non-resident students may deepen suspicions that the UC is on the road to becoming an institution exclusively for the 1%.
The UC-Santa Cruz Office of Admissions recently contacted division deans via email to announce a program that encourages them to make personal recruitment phone calls especially to admitted non-resident students. Participating deans are provided a confidential list of admitted students, some tips and reminders about making calls, and a username and password. After making the calls for which they are signed up, UCSC then urges them to log onto “an on-line feedback/tracking mechanism … to ensure that callers can easily note details of the call and the Admissions Office can provide each division with an outcomes report once all calls have been completed.”
UCSC Dean of Social Sciences Sheldon Kamieniecki forwarded the admissions office request to social science department chairs, with the following note: “I have volunteered to make 20 calls to social science students. Perhaps you and/or your faculty will want to do telephone calls as well.”
The pressure to secure non-resident enrollments is coming from UC President Mark Yudof himself. UCOP has set a target of 10% non-resident enrollment system-wide for fall 2012, promising penalties for campuses that fail to meet their individual enrollment targets. UC-Berkeley has set a goal of 20% non-resident enrollment at its flagship campus.** With precious resources on the line, admissions directors are worried they may not meet UCOP’s targets if too few non-residents accept UC offers.
By all accounts, the UC’s stepped-up recruitment efforts are already showing problematic results in terms of shifting campus demographics. In the last two years, non-resident admissions have nearly doubled to 18,846 for fall 2012, up from 9,552 in 2010. This means that nearly one in four (23%) students admitted to the UC this year is not a California resident.***
While UC officials insist that the increase in non-resident enrollment is not displacing California students, undergraduate admissions director Kate Jeffrey admits that California students “are being squeezed out of some individual campuses, maybe their first choice.”**** Qualified California residents who do not gain admission to the UC of their choice are being referred to UC-Merced.*****
If UC administrators are to be trusted, college-bound Californians will see little impact from the new admissions policies. But what’s puzzling is: neither will the university’s total revenue. UC’s current non-resident enrollment is at 6% and increasing that rate to 10% would only bring in another $160 million in tuition. While this is not pocket change, it is merely a drop in the bucket for a system that has been struggling with billion-dollar budget cuts for years.
Perhaps the most striking conclusion to draw here has to do with the UC’s shifting priorities, which both reflect and reproduce the growing economic inequality in this state and country. The UC is rapidly on its way to transforming into an institution for the 1%–offering admission only to those who can afford to spend $50,000+/per year to go to college. While some new UC admits are chatted up by deans and department chairs, it’s worth asking how many California kids on financial aid are receiving the same treatment.
by John Bruning
As many in the UCLA community are now aware, on the morning of Monday, February 27, the door to students’ off-campus apartment was vandalized with anti-Mexican and sexist messages. As tragic as this isolated event was, it is more illustrative of the broader campus climate on the one hand, and, on the other, the complete inability of campus and system administrators to effectively address these situations and ensure the safety of their female students and students of color.
Before looking at the Daily Bruin editorial penned by Christine Mata, Assistant Dean of Students for Campus Climate, it’s important to rewind several years and place this event in the proper context.
The weekend of February 13, 2010, the Pi Kappa Alpha chapter at UC San Diego hosted a theme party intended to mock Black History Month, titled the “Compton Cookout.” The theme, if not immediately obvious by the name, was to caricature black culture, serving “chicken, coolade, and of course Watermelon,” and encouraging female attendees to dress and act like “ghetto bitches.” Within just a few days of the party, which black students—who constitute just 2% of a campus that is 70% non-white—protested, students on a student government-owned television station ridiculed the protests, going so far as to call the black students “ungrateful n—–s”—yes, the actual n-word, and on live television. On the 24th, UCSD Chancellor Fox planned a teach-in to discuss the racist events on campus and regain the trust of the student body, after allowing the events to spiral out of control. Reportedly 1200 students attended the teach-in before walking out en masse to do their own teach-out, leaving only a handful of administrators and loyal faculty to continue listening to Fox’s speech—which she continued even after the students left. Angus Johnson, a CUNY History professor who wrote frequently on the student protests nationally and internationally during the 2009/10 school year, wrote:
I don’t get it. Your campus is in crisis. Your students are in crisis. And your students are taking the lead in forging a response to that crisis. They’re voting with their voices and with their feet, saying that they want to discuss the situation in their own venue, on their own terms. They’re having that discussion right now, right outside the room in which you’re sitting. And you don’t follow them? You don’t join them? You don’t seize this extraordinary opportunity to watch and listen and learn?
Now, it seems like this should have been the sad conclusion to this incident. Except that it wasn’t. The night of the 25th—less than two weeks following the “Compton Cookout” party—a noose was found hanging in Geisel Library at UCSD. Students began a sit-in the next day at Chancellor Fox’s office, with UCLA students sitting in at Murphy Hall in solidarity. Throughout the day, rumors surfaced that a second noose had been found, though UCPD refused to confirm this, and calls were made to the student paper that more nooses would be hung around campus. UCSD students set a 5pm deadline for the administration to meet their demands, with about 100 students willing to risk arrest. The administration finally issued a bogus response letter which set no firm commitments to change the campus climate; however, student leaders convinced the crowd of angry students to leave the office with promises of future action, but no significant actions followed.
Earlier that same month, at UC Irvine, 11 students—8 from UCI and 3 from UC Riverside—were arrested for heckling a university-sponsored talk by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. In previous years, Zionist community members have heckled speakers brought in by the Muslim Student Union, including Green Party Presidential candidate and former House Representative Cynthia McKinney, while armed UCPD watched on. At one point, a mock separation wall erected, with permits, by a student organization preceding the MSU was burned down to the ground—again, as police watched. In another incident, a plainclothes FBI agent drove a car through a crowd of pro-Palestinian students—once more, as UCPD officers watched on. Barely a year after the 11 students were arrested, and while they and 19 other UCI students were facing criminal charges for protesting on campus, it was revealed that UC Student Regent and UCI student Jesse Cheng had been arrested for attempted rape. UCI administrators, even the campus assault resource center (CARE), circled wagons around Cheng; one administrator approached female students with the Justice For Laya Campaign protesting outside the administration building, asking “why are you doing this to him?” The CARE Director even tried to prevent Justice For Laya organizers from distributing any literature about Cheng at the campus Take Back the Night event. Eventually, bowing to student pressure, the Student Conduct Office found Cheng guilty of “unwanted touching,” and sentenced Cheng to disciplinary probation, which wouldn’t go into effect until after he graduated. This was just a slap on the wrist compared to the charges and sentences received by dozens of UCI students—primarily black, Latin@, and Middle Eastern—whose only “crime” was protesting, and the banning of the Muslim Student Union for the organization’s dubious role in the Michael Oren protest. Ultimately, as the Occupy UCI blog noted, the “conviction” of Cheng was intended to serve two functions: 1) to placate angry students, who demanded Cheng’s resignation and genuine concern from administrators, and 2) to validate and legitimize the use of Student Conduct charges against activists. It should come as no surprise that institutional racism coalesced with institutional sexism/patriarchy, just as this most recent event at UCLA combined individual racism and sexism.
Barely 9 months after the Compton Cookout, and around the same time as the campaign against Jesse Cheng, ANOTHER racist and sexist party surfaced, this time at UCI. Instead of targeting black students, though, this party went after native students, with a “Pilgrims and Indians” party, with flyers featuring silhouettes of scantily-clad women with feathers in their hair. And, following the pattern that is becoming all too obvious and infuriating, the UCI administration did nothing to hold event organizers accountable or make students on campus feel included. While black students at UCSD make up only 2% of the student population there, American Indian students make up a miniscule 0.01% of the UCI student body. Furthermore, at the time, there was not a single American Indian professor on campus, nor were there any courses about the indigenous population; only a handful of students outside of the American Indian Student Association knew that the land UCI is located on once belonged to the Acagchemem prior to colonization.
And then, in March 2011, a UCLA undergraduate gained notoriety for releasing a video on YouTube, titled “Asians in the Library,” where she complains that Asian students disrupt her frequent “epiphanies” by loudly saying things like “Oh ching chong ling long ting tong, ooohh.” However, UCLA administrators declined to punish her in any way, and—amazingly—were more concerned with the criticisms of her video than the impact of the video itself on the Asian-American student population, and students of color on campus more generally. While Chancellor Block offered a token condemnation of the video, UCLA spokesperson Phil Hampton stated that “right now, the campus is focused on ensuring [the student’s] well-being so she can complete her finals.”
Finally, then, we can return to the most recent incident at UCLA, and the response by Mata. The Assistant Dean for Campus Climate position, created eight months ago, has been Chancellor Block’s most meaningful gesture towards addressing diversity and racism on campus; but Mata’s letter demonstrates just what an empty gesture it is, and really the lack of commitment from the UCLA administration to increasing diversity on campus and ensuring the safety and security of students of color.
Two quotes from Mata’s article emphasize this point:
“This incident was not the first of its kind but it presents the opportunity for us to engage in dialogue and identify how we can become agents of change toward making it the last time we see such hate against members of our community.”
“Combating bias begins with each of ourselves on the individual level.”
Both of these statements, representative of the rest of the article, point to two related goals of the administrative response:
1) To make this a definite incident, not something that is part of a long pattern of racism and sexism on UC campuses, as described at length here, or, more importantly, part of a larger structure of racism and sexism—or to put it another way, white supremacy and patriarchy, both of which intersect in much more profound and oppressive ways than the compound slurs written on the apartment door. If this event were to be linked to past events, students might question why President Yudof and Chancellor Block, and their administrations, have allowed this to happen over and over.
2) To make this a question of just individual action, rather than a product of systematic and institutional phenomena. An individual issue—in this case, “bias”—can supposedly be solved through greater understanding and increased dialogue; but a systemic or institutional issue requires controversial and scrutinizable action by the administration, and likely the loss of power and privilege by already powerful and privileged groups—Block’s constituency. This constituency is made up of the white super-majority in the administration, the white super-majority in the faculty, and the white middle and upper class in the student body. The appeals to “dialogue” and combating “bias” also assumes a symmetry of power between the oppressor and the oppressed that can only exist in a rhetorical situation decoupled from persistent systems of oppression and racial violence; but in the real world, where some groups and people hold structural power over others, such attempts at dialogue are meaningless.
An article by the Daily Bruin editorial board follows this campaign of distancing, individualizing, and emphasizing dialogue over systemic change in its closing call to “Join the conversation. Keep up the discussion. That’s only the first step, but it’s in the right direction.” However, a look at the demands issued by students demonstrate the very low level of accommodation that has been denied students of color at UCLA:
1) Adoption of a UCLA diversity requirement
2) UCPD accountability to students
3) Formal response from Chancellor Block condemning these actions
4) Formal apology from ASUCLA (regarding a separate incident)
5) Support for growth of Ethnic Studies at UCLA
6) Creation of a campus multicultural center
7) Greater diversity within administration and the student body
Aside from the apology from ASUCLA and possibly a statement from Chancellor Block, it seems likely that the first of these demands to be met will be greater diversity in the administration.
The emphasis on policing as a solution—i.e. treating this particular incident as a matter of law and order—raised in the editorial board article and in similar articles elsewhere again removes culpability from the administration; but it also provides a stark irony given the relationship of police to communities of color. If we look at another incident on campus—when UCPD beat, tased, and arrested students, again primarily students of color, protesting a 32% tuition increase in November 2009 outside Covel Commons, then it should be absolutely clear that police will never be able to eradicate racism, and their very involvement in this case likely will further entrench institutionalized racism.
Given this long history of inadequate responses, decreasing enrollment of students of color, and lack of resources and support structures for those students who are able to attend, it’s important that we recognize that this administration is not designed to meet the needs of students, only placate when necessary. Instead, we need to start organizing ourselves to build the support structures and create the campus climate that we need, while increasing pressure on the administration to be accountable and serve us.
Since writing this, I came across an email sent from UC President Mark Yudof to all UC studentsearlier today, which again emphasized Yudof’s trademark appeals to “civility” and “discourse,” this time ignoring the constant violent response to protesters seeking to engage in discourse with UC officials and the Regents; nor does he condemn the racist vandalism at UCLA. Instead, his objection is to students engaging in political dissent against paid representatives of the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Forces; statements like “It is an action meant to deny others their right to free speech” seemingly apply only to criticism of Israel, not protests of campus policy. Never mind that heckling—up until the Irvine 11 arrests—has been considered a common, albeit occasionally unpopular, form of protest (See Occupy UCI for a long list of past heckling which never resulted in arrest). Similarly, racial and sexist slurs seem to be accepted as “free speech,” while dissent against a foreign government’s agents, brought to campus with official university sponsorship, to sell that government’s policies… well, that’s a crime. Another paragraph from Yudof’s email heightens his own bias for Zionist students (a political identity, not a religious one):
“Among other initiatives, the system’s central office has worked with the campuses and various groups, including students, to revise policies on student conduct; the new provisions strengthen prohibitions on threatening conduct and acts motivated by bias, including religious bias. We also are working with the Museum of Tolerance and the Anti-Defamation League to improve campus climate for all students and to take full advantage of our marvelous diversity.”
Is this same effort being made for black, Latin@, Muslim, or Asian students? NO. These students do not fall under his category of “all students,” otherwise they would have their concerns taken seriously. Now, this is not to say that Jewish students should not have the right to feel safe on campus; they do, the same as everyone else, and the incidents of swastikas being drawn on doors is just as reprehensible as what was directed against black students at UCSD, American Indian students at UCI, and Asian and Mexican students at UCLA. But to equate politicized disruptions of speeches by Israeli officials with racist attacks against Jewish students, while ignoring (with only passing reference to) similar attacks on all other students of color, emphasizes a desired demography for the UC system that is as hypocritical as it is racist in its own right.
The continuing appeals to “civility” are meant less to encourage open discourse–since this arguably doesn’t exist in the UC, judging by the actions of the UCPD–and more to invoke archetypes of “the barbarian,” the opposite of “civility” and “the civilized,” which have classically been used to otherize, marginalize, and derationalize primarily Arabs, but also Africans and indigenous Americans (both American Indians and Latin Americans). Thus, these appeals to civility, revived every time UC students protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine, are clearly intended to divide the student body into groups of “desirables” and “undesirables,” with the safety and speech of the former defended at any cost, and that of the latter discardable and acknowledged only to prevent their revolt.
by Andrew Newton
Two recent opinion pieces published in The Daily Bruin, Tammy Rubin’s article entitled “Apartheid wall does not facilitate healthy dialogue on Arab-Israeli conflict” and Emily Resnick’s “Bruins must promote peace, understanding”, were intended to admonish Students for Justice in Palestine and their allies for actions during last week’s Palestine Awareness Week. Both articles were rife with factual errors and rhetorical fallacies, only a few of which I can properly illuminate within this response.
by Kyle Todd
Third Year Law Student
Continuing the Legal Battle Against HB 2281
After the positive reviews of Cambium’s audit, TUSD Superintendent Pedicone and the rest of the TUSD school board decided to change its course again: they appealed Huppenthal’s MAS declaration to administrative law judge Lewis D. Kowal. Late this past December, Judge Kowal issued his decision, siding with Huppenthal and against the TUSD. Kowal’s opinion brazenly downplays the Cambium study and uses obstensibly race-blind (yet, in reality just context-drained) language to deplore the MAS program for teaching students about racial oppression, colonial domination and any other subject which he says, “promotes social or political activism against the white people, promotes racial resentment, and advocates ethnic solidarity.”
Last month, citing the opinion, Huppenthal again ordered the TUSD to end the MAS program. He threatened an immediate $5 million loss of funding, and another $15 million loss by the end of this year if TUSD did not comply. On January 10, the TUSD school board voted 4-1 to end the MAS program.
That same day, federal district judge A. Wallace Tashima refused to issue an injunction of HB 2241 in the court case of the eleven TUSD MAS teachers (and now two students who have joined it). Tashima found that the teachers do not have standing (a legal requirement that plaintiffs have sufficient personal stake in a case). However, the opinion stated that the two student plaintiffs can go forward with a challenge based on First Amendment grounds.
In the federal case, the teachers pointed to their own jobs as a sufficient interest in the elimination of the MAS program. Tashima found it unclear that they would lose their jobs, saying the MAS program could be preserved through reforming its curriculums. Meanwhile, Huppenthal himself has hinted that such is a remote possibility. “We would find it nearly impossible for them to cure the program,” he told The LA Times. “The problems are so widespread and so deep that it would be very difficult.”
As if intended to remind us all of the political atmosphere from which HB 2241 sprouted, late in January, Arizona State Representative Cecil Ash suggested Arizona should have a holiday celebrating white people. Ash was responding to a proposal to create a state Latino American holiday. “I just want them to assure me that when we do become in the minority you’ll have a day for us,” Ash said.
Action: The Way Forward
Despite the legislative vitriol emanating from the Grand Canyon State, there is hope through action. Ever since Tucson students formed a human chain around then-state superintendent Horne during his visit to TUSD right after HB 2281’s passage, ethnic studies advocates have been raising their voices against the oppressive law. One example is UNIDOS: United Non-Discriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies!, “a new youth coalition of students from local Tucson high schools, alumni and community members, demanding our educational human rights. Along with many other activities, UNIDOS is organizing their own Tuesday evening Chicano Studies classes, picking up the pieces of personal and community heritage that Horne, Huppenthal and other HB 2281 advocates tried so hard to shatter.
At the same time, advocates on the ground in Tucson have called on supporters to engage in solidarity actions. Supporters can schedule a screening of Precious Knowledge, a beautiful documentary highlighting the stories of MAS program students since the passage of HB 2281. Or, they can donate to the continuing legal battle here: http://www.saveethnicstudies.org/donate.shtml. Another option is to do a fundraiser: both to spread the word and to get others donating money to the cause.
Here at UCLA, myself and other Occupy UCLA! activists are starting a Tucson Banned Books Reading Group. We plan to read a chapter out of as many as possible of the books listed below, all of which have been banned from Tucson schools as a result of HB 2281. Our reading group meets each Wednesday, from 12-1pm in Dickson Court North. All are welcome to join us.
Banned Books List
- Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years (1998) by B. Bigelow and B. Peterson
- The Latino Condition: A Critical Reader (1998) by R. Delgado and J. Stefancic
- Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (2001) by R. Delgado and J. Stefancic
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2000) by P. Freire
- United States Government: Democracy in Action (2007) by R. C. Remy
- Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History (2006) by F. A. Rosales
- Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology (1990) by H.
- Occupied America: A History of Chicanos (2004) by R. Acuña
- The Anaya Reader (1995) by R. Anaya
- The American Vision (2008) by J. Appleby et el.
- Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years (1998) by B. Bigelow and B. Peterson
- Drink Cultura: Chicanismo (1992) by J. A. Burciaga
- Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings (1997) by R. Gonzales
- De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views Multi-Colored Century (1998) by E. S. Martínez
- 500 Años Del Pueblo Chicano/500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures (1990) by E. S. Martínez
- Codex Tamuanchan: On Becoming Human (1998) by R. Rodríguez
- The X in La Raza II (1996) by R. Rodríguez
- Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History (2006) by F. A. Rosales
- A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (2003) by H. Zinn
- Ten Little Indians (2004) by S. Alexie
- The Fire Next Time (1990) by J. Baldwin
- Loverboys (2008) by A. Castillo
- Women Hollering Creek (1992) by S. Cisneros
- Mexican White Boy (2008) by M. de la Pena
- Drown (1997) by J. Díaz
- Woodcuts of Women (2000) by D. Gilb
- At the Afro-Asian Conference in Algeria (1965) by E. Guevara
- Color Lines: “Does Anti-War Have to Be Anti-Racist Too?” (2003) by E. Martínez
- Culture Clash: Life, Death and Revolutionary Comedy (1998) by R. Montoya et al.
- Let Their Spirits Dance (2003) by S. Pope Duarte
- Two Badges: The Lives of Mona Ruiz (1997) by M. Ruiz
- The Tempest (1994) by W. Shakespeare
- A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (1993) by R. Takaki
- The Devil’s Highway (2004) by L. A. Urrea
- Puro Teatro: A Latino Anthology (1999) by A. Sandoval-Sanchez & N. Saporta Sternbach
- Twelve Impossible Things before Breakfast: Stories (1997) by J. Yolen
- Voices of a People’s History of the United States (2004) by H. Zinn
- Live from Death Row (1996) by J. Abu-Jamal
- The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven (1994) by S. Alexie
- Zorro (2005) by I. Allende
- Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1999) by G. Anzaldua
- A Place to Stand (2002), by J. S. Baca
- C-Train and Thirteen Mexicans (2002), by J. S. Baca
- Healing Earthquakes: Poems (2001) by J. S. Baca
- Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems (1990) by J. S. Baca
- Black Mesa Poems (1989) by J. S. Baca
- Martin & Mediations on the South Valley (1987) by J. S. Baca
- The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools (1995) by D.C. Berliner and B. J. Biddle
- Drink Cultura: Chicanismo (1992) by J. A Burciaga
- Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States (2005) by L. Carlson & O. Hijuielos
- Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing up Latino in the United States (1995) by L. Carlson & O. Hijuelos
- So Far From God (1993) by A. Castillo
- Address to the Commonwealth Club of California (1985) by C. E. Chávez
- Women Hollering Creek (1992) by S. Cisneros
- House on Mango Street (1991), by S. Cisneros
- Drown (1997) by J. Díaz
- Suffer Smoke (2001) by E. Diaz Bjorkquist
- Zapata’s Discipline: Essays (1998) by M. Espada
- Like Water for Chocolate (1995) by L. Esquievel
- When Living was a Labor Camp (2000) by D. García
- La Llorona: Our Lady of Deformities (2000), by R. Garcia
- Cantos Al Sexto Sol: An Anthology of Aztlanahuac Writing (2003) by C. García-Camarilo et al.
- The Magic of Blood (1994) by D. Gilb
- Message to Aztlan: Selected Writings (2001) by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales
- Saving Our Schools: The Case for Public Education, Saying No to “No Child Left Behind” (2004) by Goodman et al.
- Feminism is for Everybody (2000) by b hooks
- The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child (1999) by F. Jiménez
- Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (1991) by J. Kozol
- Zigzagger (2003) by M. Muñoz
- Infinite Divisions: An Anthology of Chicana Literature (1993) by T. D. Rebolledo & E. S. Rivero
- …y no se lo trago la tierra/And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1995) by T. Rivera
- Always Running – La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. (2005) by L. Rodriguez
- Justice: A Question of Race (1997) by R. Rodríguez
- The X in La Raza II (1996) by R. Rodríguez
- Crisis in American Institutions (2006) by S. H. Skolnick & E. Currie
- Los Tucsonenses: The Mexican Community in Tucson, 1854-1941 (1986) by T. Sheridan
- Curandera (1993) by Carmen Tafolla
- Mexican American Literature (1990) by C. M. Tatum
- New Chicana/Chicano Writing (1993) by C. M. Tatum
- Civil Disobedience (1993) by H. D. Thoreau
- By the Lake of Sleeping Children (1996) by L. A. Urrea
- Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life (2002) by L. A. Urrea
- Zoot Suit and Other Plays (1992) by L. Valdez
- Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert (1995) by O. Zepeda
- Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
- Yo Soy Joaquin/I Am Joaquin by Rodolfo Gonzales
- Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
- The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
by Kyle Todd
Third Year Law Student
Passed with the intent of destroying the Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD’s) Mexican-American Studies (MAS) program, Arizona’s HB 2281 prohibits Arizona public and charter schools from offering courses “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or which “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
The law has immeasurable implications not only for Latino students in Arizona, who constitute nearly half of the State’s pupils, but for all education and racial justice advocates as well. What follows is a synopsis of the HB 2281 fight, from its roots in Arizona’s vitriolic political atmosphere, to the legal challenges which have aimed to halt its implementation, to activism which may just provide hope for ethnic studies advocates everywhere.
Arizona: A Breeding Ground for Hate
Understanding Arizona’s own brand of hateful politics helps us to uncover the political circumstances that led to Governor Jan Brewer signing HB 2281 into law.
Let’s begin in the 1992, when Arizona became the last state to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That year, lawmakers finally caved to global pressure from musicians, civil rights activists, and even the NFL. 1997 saw the shooting of a Democratic county supervisor by a vengeful conservative activist. The Phoenix New Times was caught red-handed as it laughed at and celebrated the shooting.
Then came the new millennium. 2003 saw an Arizona militiaman convicted of soliciting to pay for the murder of a federal judge. And 2007 saw Maricopa County, Arizona’s Joe Arpaio and CNN’s Lou Dobbs agree on air that it was “an honor” to be affiliated with the KKK.
After Obama’s election in 2009, the political vitriol only intensified. The president had his life threatened at an Arizona Tea Party rally. Around the same time, bands of white supremacists could be seen stalking day laborers around the state. And, that summer, a cowardly group of Minutemen murdered 9-year-old immigrant Brisenia Flores and her father Raul in cold blood.
Also in 2009, John Roll, the federal judge later assigned to hear the federal case brought against HB 2281, was threatened extensively by anti-immigrant activists. As a result, U.S. Marshalls were assigned to provide day-and-night protection for Roll. In 2011, gunman Jared Lee Loughner would shoot down Roll, killing him and six others, as well as causing permanent brain damage to Democratic U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. National controversy ensued when it was uncovered that former U.S. Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin had created a map with crosshairs on Giffords and other Democrats targeted for election defeat. For his own part, Gifford’s political opponent Jesse Kelly had staged a “Get on Target” gun-shooting rally just six months before the shooting.
In the late-Spring of 2010 when SB 1070 and HB 2281 were passed within a few weeks of each other, folks outside of Arizona, including people of conscious around the world, were outraged. For those following Arizona politics, these laws were but two new cogs in the state’s political hate machine.
The Passage of HB 2281 and Early Legal Developments
Passed on April 11, 2010, HB 2281 (Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) §§ 15-111 and 15-112, as enacted but hereafter continually referred to as “HB 2281”) was a brainchild of a man named Tom Horne. Horne, then Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, admitted that HB 2281 was the culmination of a long vendetta against the TUSD’s MAS program. Prior to the law, Horne had already attempted to ban the MAS program by way of a Homeland Security bill.
Immediately after HB 2281 passed, the president of TUSD’s governing board indicated the district had no intention of ending the MAS program. The MAS program itself was supported by a court-ordered desegregation budget and for years was seen as a mainstream program for creating Latino equal access to educational opportunities. This is because it has consistently been credited with gains like higher graduation and college attendance rates for Latino and non-Latino students alike.
In October 2010, eleven ethnic studies teachers filed a lawsuit challenging HB 2281. The suit asserted both that their classes were not out of compliance with the law, and that the law itself is unconstitutional.
On December 30, the TUSD suddenly switched its stance, ordering all employees to comply with the law even while deploring it as unconstitutional.
Then in January 2011, on his last day as Superintendent, Horne himself declared the TUSD MAS program in violation of HB 2281. The declaration was made pursuant to authority to do so granted by the law, and it set of a 60-day clock for TUSD to come into compliance, yet failed to expressly say just how to do so. After Horne was succeeded by John Huppenthal, an adamant supporter of HB 2281, the eleven ethnic studies teacher-plaintiffs issued the TUSD an ultimatum: join us as plaintiffs, or we will name you as defendants.
TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone announced that the district would not join the lawsuit. The TUSD then offered a compromise to make ethnic studies legal as electives, rather than classes fulfilling core requirement classes. The compromise went virtually un-noticed by state education officials. Meanwhile, Superintendent Pedicone continued to denounce TUSD students for engaging in civil disobedience and protest against the law.
In June 2011, Huppenthal issued his own declaration that the TUSD’s MAS program violates HB 2281. He called on the district to end the program within 60 days, or face a 10% reduction in state funding, as authorized by the law. Yet, the very next day, a privately-conducted audit of the MAS program found that it did not violate the law. Interestingly, the audit was ordered by Huppenthal himself. Rather than echo his assertions about MAS, Cambium Learning Group, Inc.’s $110,000 audit found that “no observable evidence was present to suggest that any classroom within Tucson Unified School District is in direct violation of the law.”
Instead, the audit confirmed what prior studies had shown: that those enrolled in MAS did better than their peers on tests and were more likely to graduate high school. “[Student] achievement is due to the sense of pride that develops through their accomplishments with highly effective teachers,” the audit found.
by Erin Conley
It’s hard to imagine that only a few months have passed since I sat down to write this essay about my political activation at UCLA. Since November, student-activists and union organizers across the UC have experienced a number of exhilarating successes in the public education movement. Though it seems like every day the Regents find new ways of undermining the mission of this university, we’ve put them on the defensive and forced them to confront students and workers head-on about the Regents’ conflicts of interest, their abysmal management of UC finances, and their penchants for ordering police brutality against students.
Like many of the campuses that played host to Regents for the scattered November meeting, at UCLA we interrupted deliberations, declared the November Regents meeting an unlawful assembly, and conducted our own Regents meeting by the people and for the people. When the Regents resumed business as usual at the January meeting in Riverside, hundreds of protestors from all across the UC and other area schools opened an intense new chapter of this movement. We stood toe to toe with UCPD, Riverside PD, and a squadron of sheriffs even as they shot at us with pepper-ball rounds and circled us with a low-flying helicopter. Again we disrupted the Regents and forced them to end their meeting, but this time we managed to make the police leave, too.
It’s safe to say we’re winning, but my impulse is to be cautiously optimistic. Small narrative shifts in the media and big losses on legislative items like the Millionaire’s Tax could set us back if we aren’t aggressively growing the movement. A strong union for academic student employees—a fighting union—remains critical to the sustainability of public education and the movement in California. We know there’s a link between the quality of life of educators and the quality of education that they provide. We know this because we live with the reality of overcrowded classrooms and meager pay every day. Our union is one of the very few forces upholding the mission of our public university, and it does so through forcing the UC to acknowledge our worth as educators and students. Because we do hold this power, however small, our union is capable of growing the movement by winning stronger contracts and increasing active membership.
But even if every single eligible academic student employee in the UC system were to sign a membership card and take to the streets, it wouldn’t be enough to guarantee long-term wins or a sustainable public education movement. We need to reach beyond the scope of our campuses and build cross-system and cross-sector solidarity with folks fighting against austerity measures in every arena of public services. How many students do you know at a CSU school? At a community college? At a technical school? How many workers from other unions do you know? How many government employees? Nurses? Janitors? Whatever the answer, it’s not enough.
I’ve directly organized with the ReFund California Coalition, OccupyUCLA, and UAW 2865, and through those avenues I’ve been a UCLA community liaison for Justice for Janitors and participated in the exciting new student-focused Southern California Education Organizing Coalition. I’m committed to building these relationships. It takes time. A lot of time. But it’s the most important thing we can do to save public education. If you want to join me, if you think the hours are worth it, take a look at the websites for these coalitions and organizations below. Only by standing together will we effect change.