Category Archives: Articles

Faculty Discussion: Neo-Liberal University 2

Rudy Acuña

In exploring neoliberalism it is instructive to look at the past. During the Colonial Period in New Spain, the Spanish governed through an organizing principle of racial categories, a sistema de castas. The system of castas was more than socio-racial classification. It was labelled a sociedad de castas. Today it is still used and Mexicans naively use the classification mestizo rather than Indigenous. The castas socially ranked the mixed-race people. Its attraction is witnessed by the obsession of many Mexicans  getting DNA tests.

This system of castas in the neoliberal university is subtle. I have been asked by faculty if I have a doctorate. If I say yes they then ask, “From what university?” I guess they are trying to assess the value of my brand. (I attended a night school, got my PhD from USC, the only university then that offered classes after 4 p.m.) We used to have a Dean of Students named Ed Packham, called him pecker man, who had an E.D. from Harvard who always put down Harvard but slurred over the E.D. He was an asshole.

This elitism is today called professionalism. I call it  giving value to acommodity. Invariably the first thing that appears on new faculty email addresses is the Ph.D. as if it is part of their name. It is what I call establishing a brand. A Godiva Candy Bar costs more than a Hershey Bar. Adjunct faculty is kept in line by a caste system that no longer lists them as part-time but designates them as lecturers.

Resources are distributed by the overseers. If you comply, you get rewarded. Harry Hellenbrand was a master of the patronage system. Merit has very little to do with it. One year I published two books and got a one-step merit increase. Another professor got five steps and published nothing. The president said I was not a good citizen – I sided with the students. Published two books in the past two years and not acknowledged. This is the way castes work and the neoliberal ensures professionalism.

It is similar to the way Congress operates. Be a good boy and you will come out of it a millionaire. Play the game and I will become a full professor. I should be happy that I am not a lecturer. I become a professional, not a worker.

The Neoliberal University

The Neoliberal University

Responto a colleagues question on ho the university has changed.

Martha, your point is a very good one but one that most faculty want to avoid. The neo-liberal university has changed education and ideologies. There is much less faculty governance today, the faculty senate is a sham. Because of the overwhelming number of adjunct professors the administration is able to manipulate the faculty even more. But I guess what I miss is not so much the faculty, white faculty then and now were and are racist. The most fundamental change is that even though the white faculty was hostile there were the janitors, the grounds people, the vending machine techs, the car pool people and the painters who were permanent family. You could talk to them. (Their jobs have been oursourced) The cops were always bad but you had those such as the only black cop on campus, Juanita, who came to us for help when it became intolerable. She cared about the students and would get in trouble with her department. Today the Mexican campus cops are Hispanics, they feel entitled. Then our kids were here for a purpose, today they are commodities. We knew we were outsiders, today we think we are insiders and we can can join student and faculty fraternities and sororities.

Rudy

Collective Memory

Collective Memory

By

Rudy Acuña

Somebody asked me the other day if I was from ELA, I responded that I was born there and spent the first 20 years of my life in LA. However, my home since I got out of the army has been the San Fernando Valley, I started teaching junior high there in 1957. I have always criticized people who used communities and then moved on. That was one of the big hurdles some never built any institutions not even at the university. Your community is where you live and people who yearn for something else are like married men who are always looking for greener pastures. If you live in a place become part of it.

This is what building a collective historical memory is all about. I knew that I was not an organic leader. I had a role which was to educate people. In order to do this, I had to study them and associate my self with their struggles. The San Fernando Valley deserved my respect. That is why I never left. My heart was here. Students and institutions like the Latin American Civic Association make this possible.

My new book, the Preface of my book that follows is about present-day struggles that added to the history of the people. It involves two case studies: 1) is the struggle for Chicana/o studies centering around Tucson, Arizona. 2) is about the privatization of education that is rapidly endangering the gains we have made as a people in the past fifty years. It is as if people have developed historical amnesia.

What I did learn was that some people are true heroes. Sean Arce, Jose and Norma Gonzalez, Curtis Acosta are true heroes. They won against all odds and personal sacrifice. They made mistakes but they set precedent. I also saw that like Simone de Beauvoir pointed out that it is only possible for the colonizers to stay in power through the complicity of the colonized. Cyrano de Bergerac laid at the feet of jealousy. I would like to personally thank the Tucsonenses for overcoming hurdles.

The struggles in academe will be more difficult yet. Professors, there have no community. They are no part of the community that made possible their paychecks. Ernesto Galarza once said that a people without a community have not history. We can blame no one, we have all been reduced to commodities.

I thank the Tucson Plaintiffs, you made my day.

Rights and Illusions

For every right there is a corresponding duty. We have the right to free speech, but we also have the corresponding duty that our speech is truthful and does not limit the rights of others. “Every duty supposes a corresponding right, and every right a duty: right and duty are correlative and inseparable,” In my view privileges are softer. You have the privilege of driving, not the right. With a privilege there is a corresponding obligation (not duty).

I am going through this exercise because we should think about our rights and duties, our privileges and obligations. We have the right of free speech but like an academic paper it has to be based on fact. We have the right to write but also the duty to base it on the truth.

While I do not like the FBI, I cannot but marvel on Mueller’s methodology at getting to the truth that has nothing to do about morality but everything with what the truth is. It has nothing to do with who did it but with elections. People vote, they have the right to vote and the right to expect free outcomes. However, elections throughout the world are not free and both the Russians and the United States are trampling on the rights of other individuals. In both instances Russia and the U.S. have violated the rights of others denying them the right to vote.

It is like talking about the right to have a gun. What are the duties in carrying a gun and what is the duty of the state that gives that right? There is no denying that state has the the right to grant this right; however, what is its duty? What are the rights of people who do not have guns? I could go on and on but the truths uncovered by the Mueller investigation will go for naught if we do not admit that our elections are not free. The elections of other nation are not free because of our interference. Democracy is a hoax or at least an illusion.

Rudy Acuña

Los Angeles Herald Examiner (March 13, 1988)

From – Los Angeles Herald Examiner (March 13, 1988)

itle – “The West Side’s unfair shot at Richard Alatorre”

For the past two weeks, my West Side friends have been calling me to ask why Councilman Richard Alatorre voted against measure that would have made it easier for the City Council to revoke the ordinances allowing Occidental Petroleum to drill for oil in the Pacific Palisades. The question reminded me of my junior-high teaching days, when my white colleagues would always ask me to explain why Chicano students were misbehaving, or why Chicanos had so many babies.

Some members of the press have certainly been no help. One explanation of Alatorre’s vote has it that the councilman was angry at the West Side “political machine” of Democratic Congressmen Howard Berman and Henry Waxman because it supported then-Assemblywoman Gloria Molina, not his candidate, for the newly created Latino 1st District seat. Supposedly, Molina received machine money. Alatorre thus voted for Palisades drilling to get even with the West Side machine, and, at the same time, collect a few political chips from Mayor Tom Bradley, who didn’t want to face the issues yet again.

For starters, the account’s implicit portrayal of Molina as the little sister of the rich, white liberal West Siders is sexist and racist. She simply doesn’t need progressive white males, wherever they may live, to protect her from East Side machos. Ask Alatorre. Furthermore, Molina says that she received only a small donation from Berman, not the Berman-Waxman machine, which, in any case, is hardly preoccupied with any significant East Side concerns.

Second, I have known Alatorre for more than 20 years. If revenge was on his mind, he certainly would not have been barely audible, as news accounts described it, when voicing his “no” vote. That kind of meekness is not in his character. Alatorre enjoys paying the role of Big Daddy. He’s even belligerent at times. It is unthinkable that he would have stuck the knife in without smiling, as he did when he abandoned then-Assemblyman Berman in the latter’s bid for the speaker of the Assembly in 1980.

Why Alatorre voted the way he did can only remain the subject of speculation. Much more important is the feeling among my West Side friends, and no doubt among others who live there, that the councilman should be punished for siding with Occidental.

Truth be told, Latinos have little reason to empathize with West Side angst over Palisades oil drilling much less sympathize with the liberal supporters of Berman-Waxman. Latinos remember that Congressman Berman was one of the leading architects of the immigration laws that now threatens to keep thousands of immigrants underground in America. Neither has he nor any other West Side politician decried the toxic waste yards on the East Side or opposed dumping prisons in minority neighborhoods. Gang activity, and the economic deterioration that feeds it, in East Los Angeles is hardly noticed until gang-related violence hits close to their homes.

Moreover, East Siders remember that it was another West Side liberal machine in the 1960s, led by then-Councilwoman Rosalind Wyman, that pitted Latinos against blacks and appointed a non-Mexican to fill Edward R. Roybal’s seat on the City Council after his election to Congress, then reappointed his district to make it impossible to elect a Latino for the next two dozen years. And it was that same machine that joined with conservative business forces in Los Angeles to wipe out Latinos’ homes in Bunker Hill and Chavez Ravine.

Unlike Alatorre, I would have voted against Occidental because the company’s oil drilling plan unduly risks polluting the surrounding environment. No doubt, my motives, too, would have been fair game for a news media reflexively suspicious of Latinos who hold political power. How could I, they would ask, vote against a project that could mean more city dollars, as a result of oil royalties, going to the East Side? Regrettably, such scrutiny is never applied to the motives of whites when voting on our pet projects.

la china has a name

la china has a name

By

Rodolfo F. Acuña

Names have meaning. They tell you an awful lot about people. In my case I remember faces but have a hard time remembering my students’ names resorting to giving them nicknames. It is easy for me to rationalize the habit since I come from a culture where it seems as if everyone has a nickname. Many of these names in English would be offensive. For instance, in some places in Mexico if a person is chubby we call them la gorda or el gordo. In English it would be crude if not offensive to refer to someone as the fat one.

I could go on and on. In Spanish it is not uncommon to refer to someone as el feo or la fea (the ugly one). They are often terms of endearment. In English, however, to call someone who is not a stereotype beauty ugly could be fighting words.

While playful, this habit can be rude. My wife, Lupita, for instance resents meeting people dozens of times at events and having to gently correct people who refer to her as “Rudy’s wife.” I can almost hear her say, “My name is Lupita.”

In or relationships with other groups it is not a matter of political correctness to call them by their name. Increasingly we refer to someone as the Mexican or the Black. We increasingly generalize – every Asian son chinos. I have heard pilipinos correct people for referring to them as chinos.  “La china has a name” just like my wife has a name.

My only excuse is numbers and a bad memory for names. I cannot blame it on the culture.

This Guy, that guy or that guy

As you age your memory becomes very vivid. The other day at Marta’s home I was fascinated by the interplay between Jonathan and Anaya, it brought back memories of my childhood and my sister Teresa. My sister was in all respects the alpha dog of my family. She seemed take ownership of everything. At the photo shoot our first communion she kept pinching me and when I complained she told my father that it was I pinching her. Tere was a terror and she was always sure that my parents would take her side and blame me. As we entered our teenage years she always wanted to tag along. I did not appreciate her messing up my movidas. Tere always relied on my parents telling me, “Take care of your sister.” And I would have to take her to the movies and dances.  I knew I was losing when saw tears rolling down her cheeks as she mocked me. At the dances my sister took ownership of the floor. Like a queen she bounced to the rhythms of the cha cha, the rumba and boogie woogie. Not wanting to get into trouble I would tell her not to dance with this guy, that guy and that guy. Once on the dance floor Tere did what she wanted and danced with this guy, that guy and that guy. Heckled by my cousins and friends I found it honor bound to hit this guy, that guy and that guy. My sister walked home with the biggest smile on her face.

Appropriation of Dreams

Appropriation of Dreams
By 
Rudy Acuña

It has taken me a couple of days to get over Dump’s state of the union, especially the statement that “Americans are dreamers, too.” This is from an illiterate rich man who bought his way into college with rents his father gouged from the poor. A man who evaded military service and whose only dreams are wet.

The first record of my family members in what is in the United States date to El Paso in the 1760s and Tucson in 1776. I do not say this as a matter of pride but a matter of contrition because I realize that those ancestors were not always just and that their individual dreams often prevented others from dreaming.

I thank my parents for making me a Mexican which I believe helps me understand the dreams of others and partially makes me a better human being. Everyone has the right to dream — rich and poor– not only those who steal elections and use government as a means to accumulate capital to prevent others from dreaming.

I thought maybe Americans would be as fortunate as Segismundo en “la vida es sueño” and would realize that their dreams created nightmares for others. Then came the letter of LULAC President Roger C. Rocha, Jr of Laredo where discrimination has a history and I woke up. This is an enabler of Dump who brown noses him in search of a chamba and the ability to rob others of dreams.

I have no recourse but to recall Segismundo’s words:

Yo sueño que estoy aquí
destas prisiones cargado,
y soñé que en otro estado
más lisonjero me vi.
¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.
¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
una sombra, una ficción,
y el mayor bien es pequeño:
que toda la vida es sueño,
y los sueños, sueños son.

They awaken me to the reality that the Dumps and the Rocha’s of the world will never let others to dream. It took imprisonment in a tower for Segismundo to realize this. The Dumps and the Rochas must be taken down so others can dream.