“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?


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.