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Don’t Be Afraid to Cry Wolf!

Don’t Be Afraid to Cry Wolf!

By

Rodolfo F. Acuña

Growing up in an immigrant household, I was always aware my parents were super careful as if they did not want to make mistakes. They repeated fables were such as la Llorona and the Cucuy, the mythical bogeyman. My father’s favorite fable was “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” about a shepherd who sounded the false alarm so often that when the wolf was finally there the people did not believe him so the wolf ate him up.

The fable was to caution us not to tell lies. “Peter and the Wolf” has taken more relevance lately. Immigrants are afraid of calling authorities even when present danger is present, e.g., sexual assault and homicide. No one wants to be a cry baby or an alarmist. So we often bite our tongues, afraid to set off a false alarm.

Although caution is at times good, it can be dangerous. For the past thirty-three, for example, I have not cried wolf because the Internal Revenue Service without provocation has questioned my tax returns. What is frustrating is that the auditors repeat the same questions about work related travel. It is obvious that the auditors have no background in academic research. Professors, according them, sit in libraries.

In my case, I am a professor, author, newspaper columnist, blogger and researcher. I travel a lot. The County of Los Angeles is the most populous county in the United States. LA County is larger than 40 of 50 U.S. states. Mexican America/Latino communities are larger than most nations.

This year disturbing new facts have made it clear that wolf will not go away. The IRS hit me with a multi-year audit, asking questions resolved since the 1980s. I alerted Chicano/Latino politicos that the wolf was endangering their constituents. I wrote to Xavier Becerra whose staff told me to contact my congressman. The other saviors of the Latino community did not bother replying. Perhaps they are afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.

I learned that audits in my category were no longer conducted in LA but out of Memphis, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Red States that are culturally and geographically alien to Los Angeles. In other words, I am being evaluated by non-academicians, people who have never published, never been in Los Angeles, and are unfamiliar with my line of work. My accountant asked for the case to be transferred to LA. The IRS agreed to but then reneged.

It gets worse: Ms. Higley (IRS FOIA Office) from Atlanta, Ga who reviewed my FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request admitted she has never been in LA, but could not honor my FOIA request because I was not specific enough. She wanted dates and specific violations. This is despite the fact that the taxpayer is not obligated to keep records for more than seven years. Ms. Higley said that the IRS destroys their records after ten years. (I commented that this is a historian’s nightmare, and precisely why Donald Trump is able to avoid paying taxes; the IRS destroys their historical memory.

I have sufficient cause to believe that I am being targeted. During my last audit circa 2012, I was able to meet with the Los Angeles IRS Office. The supervisor admitted that an agent Johnson from another office had been sent to LA specifically to audit me. According to the supervision, the Los Angeles Office had a difficult time controlling him.

It is strange that I am always audited during times of political tension. So I want to know if outside sources are fingering me. It could be just a case of harassment or have more sinister motives.

I fear that the IRS is setting a dangerous precedent. A Los Angeles Taxpayer should be reviewed by his or her peers – not by someone from Los Angeles; an auditor with enough specialized knowledge to make a reasoned judgment.

It is unreasonable for Los Angeles taxpayers to travel to southern states. The cost for my wife and I to fly to Memphis or any of those Right to work states is prohibitive. Moreover, auditors should know the work backgrounds of who they are auditing

Make America Great Again

Most people do not read history so they don’t know the extremes people go to when they are desperate. The fall prey to fake news for example. Hitler said, tell a big lie and they will believe you. Fascism does not happen overnight. Mexico had a thriving nazi movement and today with the crumbling of its civil society the fascist have come into the open. The only difference today between the sinarquistas of the past and today is that they are not being driven by the Catholic Church although as in the case of PAN there are religious fanatics. Here in the United States there has been a resurgence of white nationalism mixed with Evangelicals whose energy has produced Donald Trump. In this series I am presenting a collage of images taken from Google. Many are recent and from Mexico and the US. Desperate people seeking solutions almost always are driven by a millenarian vision. Like it or not people are empowered by wearing uniforms or red caps reading “Make America Great Again.”

“Their eyes in prayer, and when they opened them the land was gone”

“Their eyes in prayer, and when they opened them the land was gone”.

¿Mas sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo?

By

Rodolfo F. Acuña

 Protecting the gains we made as a community involves more than complaining which is what most of us do. Three years ago an agreement between UNAM and Cal State Northridge touched off a prolonged confrontation that has lasted over three years. It ended with promises made by the administration that it broke once the heat was removed from its feet. In the end it did what it wanted and encroached on our area of study.  http://www.csun.edu/node/104966. The issue was and still is governance since the Chicana/o Studies Department was never consulted.

 The same thing occurred about a year ago when College of Humanities Dean Beth Say violated governance by not consulting with Chicana/o Studies about a multi-million dollar partnership with the University of Pennsylvania to mentor Latina/o students to enter doctoral programs in the Humanities. The absurdity was that people who opposed ChS and knew nothing about the community were now in charge of mentoring it.

 Valley girl Say has been an enemy of Mexican Americans since before her arrival at CSUN. As dean she has failed miserably at protecting the ChS Department’s interests or those of Mexican American students. She has made appointments from Humanities programs servicing Chicana/o students completely by-passing the ChS chair that is a violation of the department’s governance rights.

 So far ChS faculty has turned the other cheek. Many are new faculty members and do not understand the importance of governance – it is not taught in graduate school. Many of us, however, we here before Soylent Green and remember when CSUN presidents and administrators respected faculty traditions. There was a time when the faculty senate defended governance rights.

 However, we are no longer able to hold back the tide in the era of the new neoliberal university. The truth is that Hispanics are a valuable commodity too valuable to be left in the hands of a bunch of Mexicans. That is why Beth Say and Dean of Behavioral Stella Z Theodoulou (now Vice Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs) have lied and cheated.

 What makes this urgent today is the political climate. During the culture wars of the 1980s and 90s the right had not reached the point that they were in control of higher education. This has changed: the assault on governance, the growth of adjunct faculty and the imperial administration, and privatization have all minimized an intellectual response.

 In Washington, there is an administration whose purpose it is to destroy public education. Elisabeth Dee DeVos Prince was confirmed as Secretary of Education. She is known because of her support of school choice, school voucher programs, and charter schools. She has no expertise in education other than she is a billionaire and contributes heavily to Republicans.

 (Her brother Erik Prince is a war profiteer. He is the founder of Blackwater and is meeting with Trump proposing the privatization of the Afghanistan War. In 2007, Blackwater Security Consulting, a private military company, killed 17 and injured 20 civilians in Baghdad)

 DeVos in 2001 singled out education reform as a way to “advance God’s kingdom.” She is now in a position that she can do a lot of damage since she has the money and she is well connected working with powerhouse charter school advocates such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

 In California almost everyone has said the right thing in protecting the Dreamers and undocumented immigrants. However, not everyone is happy with this. Washington and right wing foundations are an important revenue stream for the CSU and this has led by Chancellor Timothy White to be careful not to upset the xenophobes. White’s policy has been “No ‘sanctuary’ at Cal State University, but no cooperation with Trump” reminiscent of Trump’s “I think there is blame on both sides,” statement on Charlottesville.

 Many of us are watchful and concerned with the CSU’s so-called General Education Breadth Requirements— Executive Order 1100 an executive order that supersedes Executive Order 1065. It was recommended by the Academic Senate CSU and focuses on Area D Social Sciences.

 (The State Faculty Center since the 1980s under W. Ann Reynolds has become a cheerleader for CSU Chancellors and part of the Old Boys Club. See: FRANK del OLMO. RODOLFO ACUNA, “Cal State Admission Plan Makes Naive Assumption,” Los Angeles Times, Jan 12, 1985, pg. B2 pg. 5.  “Bad Teachers: Putting the University on the Spot, Too; [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times, Feb 14, 1985.  Response from the CSU Academic Senate, “Admission Standards; [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times, Feb 7, 1985, pg. 4)                

 Executive Order 1100 returns us to the culture Wars of the 1990s when Arthur Schlesinger Jr published The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society (1998). Right wing Culture warriors accused multiculturalists of being un-American and joining forces with Marxists to attack Western Civilization.

 It real terms Executive Order 1100 is a direct attack on women studies, ethnic studies, Chicana/o Studies, Africana Studies, Asian Studies, Gender and Women Studies and other courses designed to integrate the disparate people of this community. For them making America does not mean making America White.

 Without getting into a long historical narrative, General Education is the Monopoly Board of a college education. It encourages students to experiment and take classes outside their fields. A student learns about their neighbors. They become educated – they learn about music, art and geography. Chile is not only something you eat but a country.

 The authors are taking direct aim at other cultures and courses “designed to provide the knowledge, skills, experiences, and perspectives that will enable CSU students to expand their capacities to take part in a wide range of human interests and activities; to confront personal, cultural, moral, and social problems that are an inevitable part of human life; and to cultivate both the requisite skills and enthusiasm for lifelong learning.”

 A major target salvo is Section F, the Cross Cultural GE Requirement that would affect Chicana/o Studies eliminate Spanish for Chicanos, Spanish for Chicanos II, Contemporary Issues of the Chicana, Language and Society: Chicanas/os and Other Language Minority Children, World Migration and the Chicana/o, and Third World Women and the Chicana.

 It must be remembered that these courses are electives that were accepted after hundreds of hours of negotiations and oversight. Now a faculty senate with no representation from the other America makes a major decision without consulting them.    

 Now comes the fight. Well, the devil is paranoid. Who is going to represent the interests of the Other America?

 Dean Say cannot be trusted to lead the fight. Besides being incompetent, her malfeasance is legendary. Even the administration in private admits this. Vice Provost Theodoulou is smart enough but her ambitions trump her intelligent. President Harrison is too involved with her deals. Chancellor White is no Chancellor Charles Reed who would have probably rolled over but you knew he could fight.

 A lot of the fight is going to fall on the shoulders of Chicana/o Studies that has a very young faculty. You do not learn about governance in graduate courses. Is it capable of generating prolonged moral outrage? The tendency is to have meetings, talk about it; contact elected officials, and the university president.  This is all good, you experience multiple organisms. However, perhaps this is the time to stop praying and take care of our land. Let the drums roll.

Boyle Heights Gentrification

To Issac’s question on who the organizers are against gentrification in Boyle Heights? Frankly, I don’t know. However, it is not a recent development dating back to the 1940s. From what I can see they are organizers are from the area. There are many groups, for example, Carlos Montes is active in one group that has been doing good work among youth. Many have been active for some time. See Lydia Avila-Hernandez’ “The Boyle Heights Landscape: The Pressures of Gentrification and the Need for Grassroots Community Action and Accountable Development,” Urban Environmental Policy, Occidental Colleges, 2007, https://www.laprogressive.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Boyle-Heights-Landscape.pdf,
 
Off the cuff what is driving the desperation is the conversion of Wyverwood Apartments to middle class units, perhaps for upper scale renters and private condos. Weinstein, a billionaire from Santa Monica is developing the old Sears complex. The USC Medical Complex and the White Memorial plan to gentrify southern half of Boyle Heights. These forces are overwhelming.
 
In the meantime there is the erosion of the core that is being eroded by hipster bars, speculators buying and flipping houses (many of the latter are white). You see other neighborhoods, e.g. Echo Park, Silver Lake, Highland Park, Lincoln Heights etc being wiped out. The toxic waste dumps are dropping toxic acids on your streets.
 
Now you are a young nationalistic, idealistic an activist, what do you do? In the sixties were were fortunate, there were communist in Boyle Heights. Veterans of the the Henry Wallace Campaigns and the 1950s. Today the veteran leadership is thinner. are you going to make mistakes? The Chicano Movement was fortunate, it had its share of communists. The young organizers are on their own. They are lashing out. Have they made mistakes? I don’t see money pouring in to bring in veteran organizers. Labor taking an active role in training them.
 
I for one take pride that Boyle Heights has done what no other community has done momentarily stopped the gentrifyers. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not this is their finest hour.

Charter Schools

Yaqui

Response to a dear friend regarding charter schools.
Didn’t write the article on charter schools but my beef is not so much the charters, not all are the same, but twith he privatization of education.Your school has a special mission but most charter schools do not. They are private public schools and for the most part they turn away high risk students. Neoliberalism is a cancer. I fear that charter schools will be taken over by religious nuts such as the current Secretary of Education. I also fear Richard Riordan who wanted and tried to privatize the LA Public Library. You remember Olvera Street when he said at a meeting in his office that he wanted to make Olvera Street a Taco Bell. One of the reasons that I don’t like the Democratic Party is its romance with the neoliberalism. Also look at Mexico it is eroding because of neoliberalism. Schools such as your sare valuable because they are experimental and should be incorporated within the main body that is ironically neoliberal. Finally, we are all for the preservation of the Indian ejidos. But look at the contrdictions and what is driving the privatization of the Indian lands. It is neoliberalism. The Zapatistas knew this and it is why they revolted on January 1, 1994. That is why the Yaqui has been revolting since the mid-18th century. I know that I am kooky and seen intransgient. My friends avoid me on the subject of the Dodgers; however, in my limited way I want to keep alive the collect memory of our people. Chavez Ravine was wrong, privatization is wrong and we cannot forget it. Gentrification is wrong and it is destroying that memory and our will to fight. The bottom line is that I hate capitalism — like the Pope I consider it evil.

 

T vas a volver loco

What we don’t want to know

By

Rodolfo F. Acuña

 

There is an old saying that goes “Out of sight out of mind.” If we don’t think about the shit that we live in, we won’t smell it. And if we don’t think about it, we are not compelled to do anything about it. In other words, the more you know, the more you smell the injustices.  Perhaps my grandmother was right when she told me, “Hijito don’t read so much te vas a volver loco.”

 

When in college, I learned that liberalism that was partially based on a political philosophy or worldview founded on liberty and equality.  It melded into the drive to secularize modern states in the 19th Century.  Liberals believed that individuals should have the freedom to use land and other resources in the ways they wanted, and that they should not be limited by government.  Accordingly, communal properties hampered progress.

 

This philosophy again melded into the positivist belief of the survival of the fittest.  Liberals believed in the secularization of Church property and abolishment of communal property. The individual should public properties and profit from the land and resources of a society; the individual’s freedom to exploit the land should not be limited.

 

I have always believed that micro-history better informs us best of the lessons and definitions in history. In the mid-1990s Bill Clinton spread the cult of neoliberalism. It was a blend of 19th century and modern liberalism that favored free-market capitalism. It was based on the policies of Ronald Reagan; Clinton triangulated it. Neoliberalism was also nurtured by the 1970s the ideas of Milton Friedman and Chicago University economists who popularized the myths of the free market.  Under Augusto Pinochet, Chile became a proving ground for neoliberals who spread the phenomenon worldwide; this same neoliberalism is today destroying Mexico where people are getting poorer and the number of billionaires is increasing.

 

While I have no problem understanding neoliberalism on a macro-level, my understanding is enhanced by micro events. Arizona, for example, taught us that we sometimes simplify the cause of racial conflict by blaming white racism, while true in some cases, it is much more complex. The more I studied events, the more I realized that neoliberalism was the underlying cause of the anti-immigrant and anti-ethnic studies legislation.  Arizona made possible the Trump disaster.  There was widespread profit and privatization.

 

Comparatively little literature exists on the impact of neoliberalism or privatization on higher and public education in the United States.  Articles mostly focus on the spread of charter and for profit schools. I thus found it necessary to apply my experiences in Arizona and my home university both of which are totally privatized.  The process was so rapid that it was hardly noticeable.  Within the universities the main casualties were faculty governance, a decline in fulltime faculty employment and the elimination of civil service employment.

 

Confrontations with the administration and the idiot deans have made most Chicana/o studies faculty more aware of the threat, which brings me to my main point we cannot allow any further erosion of governance.

I was browsing the CSUN web page on my IPhone when I came across an item that said that CSUN was a leader among the Masters’ Level universities in the number of foreign students. This article which I cannot now find put the information in the context of CSUN having achieved academic stature nationwide because of this increase.  Immediately it came to mind that our campus is impacted and that students in certain majors are being turned away. The ratio of Black students has fallen to about 5 percent; it would be lower if the Education Opportunity Program had not made a special effort to recruit Black students. Lastly, it brought to mind that we have about 4200 out of state and foreign exchange students. The administration profits about $80 million dollars annually that goes into a plenary fund for the administration to use. Faculty does not get the accounting that they did in years past.

 

Another item posted on March 2 reported that “CSU Campuses Recognized Nationally as Leaders in Diversity and Inclusion.”  The number of Hispanic serving Institutions has mushroomed. This was news to me since the administration has increasingly excluded Chicana/o studies from consultations. For close to fifty years we have requested data on the number of Mexican origin professors which the administration has refused to give us. The Dean of Humanities who in the past has done everything she could to obstruct us is promoting grants, and although she knows nothing about Mexicans and indeed has an antipathy towards them, is attempting to monopolize research and Latinx programs. At one time racists like the Dean Beth Say did not want to have anything to do with Mexicans, but now that there are so many of them she sees the dollar signs. For the record, outside ChS only about one percent of the CSUN faculty is of Mexican extraction. This ratio has not changed in fifty years.

 

The last disturbing item reported in the Los Angeles Times: the California State University Trustees voted to increase student tuition.  Today increasingly minority students are dropping out of college because they cannot afford it. When I first began my trek at LA State College the state paid 100 percent of the costs. I paid $5.00 a semester. Today students pay about 80 percent of the costs of instruction. Aside from tuition students are charged $1.75 for a cup of coffee. They pay for the parking structures, the dorms where they pay $900 a month for a single bed, forced to pay for meal tickets, etc. The university is a Big Mercado; they even have a coffee shop in the library.

 

No doubt that neoliberalism has converted us from educators into merchants. The problem is that few people notice or care. Like the movie “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” we are the patients and the administration gives us our daily tranquilizers. This is unfortunate because the privatization greatly impact all students.  It will severely limit the expansion of ChS and the ability to advocate for Mexican/Latinx students. Latinx students are the new gold who because of their numbers they are valuable commodities.

 

Times have changed. In 1969 white administrators and faculty did not care about ChS because  the number of Chicana/o students on campus was small. Today Mexican/Latinos are too large to ignore, witness the growth of Hispanic Serving Institutions. The lack of faculty diversity deprives students of mentors and most of all advocates. The rising tuition limits students from the bottom of the economic ladder from enrolling in college – and finally they don’t have the collateral consume what the neoliberal college peddles.

Challenge to Be Great: The Election of Gabriel Buelna

Challenge to Be Great: The Election of Gabriel Buelna

By

Rodolfo F. Acuña

 

One of the greatest disappointments in living a long life is seeing friends who could have been great enter politics surrounded by high hopes and never achieve their potential or your hopes for them. My former student Gabriel Buelna won the recent primary election for the Los Angeles Community Colleges with over 220,000 votes. Only the mayor and countywide elected officials received more votes. Buelna received about ten times more votes than the top city council contenders.

 

In the past, candidates for the community college boards have viewed these seats mostly as stepping stones for well-paying government jobs such as the state assembly, state senate and city council with the election to congress for the limited few. Term limits made it impossible for most aspiring politicos to master the craft of governing. The days of the Jess Unruhs, Willie Browns, Richard Alatorres and Richard Polancos came to an end with most Chicana/o politicos spending most of their time accumulating a gaggle of lobbyists in order to build a sufficiently large funders’ base for them to tackle the next level.

 

This filtering process made the candidates less focused on the craft. Very few learned the issues and problems of their districts. In my more the sixty years of studying politics I found that the only city councilman in my opinion that really understood land use was Mike Hernández. Being good at anything takes time and understanding one’s district is essential especially today when developers control Los Angeles.

 

The challenge for Buelna will be that few of his colleagues are educators, they know very little about pedagogy. Consequently, the dropout and the transfer rates to four year universities are of concern. When I transitioned from the secondary education division (high school and junior high) to Pierce College the majority of the social science faculty came from that sector. For example, I had eight years teaching experience and had trained teachers.

 

Every three years of so about 300 social scientists would take history and political science exams and the top scorers would be given interviews. I wanted to go to East Los Angeles College or Valley College, but was hired at Pierce. Very few of the community college instructors had doctorates. The truth be told, doctorates at this level are not essential. After teaching history and political science for eight years you pretty much knew the field. The important thing was to know how to teach and in reality very few PhDs know how to do that.

 

When I had the good fortune to form the Chicana/o Studies curriculum and hire the first faculty I was frankly fortunate that there were few PhDs available. The two that were hired had PhDs but they had also been high school teachers. In retrospect the best teachers, not necessarily the most popular, were credentialed teachers. They met our needs because most of the students came from high schools that had not prepared students for college. Our mission at the time was teaching of identity (motivation) and skills.

 

Gabriel has it right when he says that the biggest challenge for the community colleges is to tackle the dismal transfer rate. It is true that the two year colleges are severely overcrowded and suffer from years of neglect. Although they teach most of the students in higher education, they have received the least financial support and oversight. With that said, I would urge Gabriel to consider the role of teaching. This is not a popular proposal since the teachers’ union will take the position that the teachers are already professionals and doing a good job. The unions say that they should not be blamed for the failure of students to go to four year universities. It is, however, a shortsighted view because no one is blaming them; the blame goes to those who run and fund the schools. No one objects to medical doctors having to attend seminars and take proficiency exams. That is what professionalism is about.

 

It is also vital that something be done about the LACCD structure. It is in bad shape administratively. It needs to be turned around and we cannot afford for it to serve as a stepping stone for Latinx political aspirants. Gabriel is facing the greatest test of his life; however, he is capable and has the tools to succeed. But he must focus on the task ahead. He does not want to end up like the washed-up boxer turned longshoreman, Terry Malloy, in “On the Water Front” muttering “I could have been a contender.” If he seizes the moment and makes a difference in the LACCD he could be a champion. The most tragic words when you grow old are “I could have been.”

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vA6t68f3bg

Still can’t say the “M” Word in Dubious Battle

Still can’t say the “M” Word in Dubious Battle
Rudy Acuña: In the 1970s like most Chicanas/os of my time I was intrigued by huge agricultural strikes of the 1930s particularly the 1922 San Joaquin Cotton Strike involving 18,000 strikers and their families. The state in collusion with the growers intentionally starved nine Mexican babies and short down Mexican strikers on the picket line. The strikers in their majority were Mexican. Similar strikes took place throughout California. In reading John Steinbeck and other authors the general impression was that the strikes were generated by white Oklahomans. Steinbeck was a political man who loved Mexican History so he knew better. However, he was also an author who wanted to sell books and above all sell a message. He feared that white readers would not relate to Mexican protagonists. In Dubious Battle was based on the Tagus Ranch peach strike in August of 1933 and a cotton strike throughout the San Joaquin Valley that October. The protagonist was Pat Chambers, the lead communist organizer of both strikes. Pat was a short man who is probably one of the most sincere and dedicated men I have interviewed and whose insight of the strikes I used in my book Corridors of Migration. He along with Caroline Decker were the lead organizers of the San Joaquin Strike. (Also see Loftis, Witnesses To The Struggle, 2, 45-65. Jamieson, Labor Unionism, 15, 19-21, 36, 93. Pat Chambers interview, April 19, 1978—the latter available in my papers in special collections CSUN). My point is that last year James Franco made a movies titled In Dubious Battle and could have gotten it right and given Mexican workers and their families their due. But again the role of Mexican workers and families don’t sell.
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2008/08/john-steinbeck.html