There is a silent injustice taking place at the campus of California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) that is a microcosm of the historical struggles Chicana/o Studies and Chicana/o students have faced on campus since at least 1966.
On the one hand, there is a lack of institutional support in providing genuine academic opportunities for Chicana/o students to succeed at CSULA due in large part to so-called educational budget cutbacks, which cause tremendous negative impact on our community’s access to equitable education and thus the inability to have access to equitable economic and political representation in the county and city.
There is also the failure of Chicana/o Studies to rightfully defend itself or the community from these racist budget cutbacks or worse from the right-wing assault against the discipline.
In particular, on the eve of the 45th Anniversary of the first Chicana/o Studies Department established in the United States at CSULA, there has been a complete failure by both CSULA and the Chicana/o Studies Department to commemorate this historic milestone.
45 years of struggle and resistance seemed to have been conveniently forgotten by the racist “business as usual” attitude that permeates relations between CSULA and Chicana/o students.
Earlier this year, students from Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán (MEChA) de CSULA organized several community and campus cultural events to highlight the importance of Chicana/o Studies to the surrounding community of East Los Angeles.
The need to build and strengthen Chicana/o Studies at CSULA was apparent to the students. Yet, these community and campus events were student-led and unfortunately organized without the support of the Chicana/o Studies Department at CSULA.
Chicana/o students, community activists, and supporters have attempted to build bridges of collaboration and communication with the Chicana/o Studies Department at CSULA in the hopes that Chicana/o Studies return to its roots of resistance and self-determination as the intellectual arm of the movement. Yet, student concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
In the current anti-Chicana/o Studies climate that pollutes the country, Chicana/o Studies at CSULA has been complicit in its own weakening by failing to address legitimate student and community concerns, such as lack of classes or the large-scale recruitment of Chicana/o students from neighboring East Los Angeles high schools.
While it is understood that institutional racist structures are in place at CSULA, it should also be recognized that Chicana/o Studies has remained silent on many issues impacting students and community.
The lack of a Chicana/o Studies accountability is an insult to those students who created the department in 1968 on behalf of the community. If Chicana/o Studies has raised concerns in recent years, then, it has failed to work collaboratively in securing student and community input and support.
Chicana/o students at CSULA must be compelled to raise its voice to address the institutional neglect of Cal State L.A. and the complicity of Chicana/o Studies for its failure to remedy racist institutional practices that maintain Chicana/o Studies and the surrounding community in a state of flux.
A weak Chicana/o Studies program equates to a weak Chicana/o community. It is apparent that Chicana/o Studies at CSULA has shifted its emphasis of self-determination to other things that are not readily apparent to the students nor the community.
Chicana/o Studies at Cal State L.A. has a long history of struggle and we find ourselves in the midst of another critical moment in the history of the department. Chicana/o Studies, in its current structure, seems not willing to fight for its survival.
Meanwhile, the petty bourgeois Mexican American and Hispanic/Latino middle-class has been falling head-over-heels over Eva Longoria’s academic achievement: graduating with a Master of Arts degree in Chicana/o Studies from the California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
Yet Eva contradicts everything Chicana/o Studies stands for. Eva clearly positions herself to profit from her “degree.”
In other spaces, some organizations, such as MALDEF and certain individuals continue to celebrate mythical victories in Arizona by using their platform for self-aggrandizement while doing absolutely nothing for the movement.
Similar to Eva, these folks position themselves as the voice of a new Pan-Latino civil rights movement, but are merely confusing everyone with their false talk of “unity” and “resistance,” when in reality they only show up when the cameras are there.
Yet, on the front lines of the struggle, Chicana/o students have been fighting to reinstate Chicana/o Studies in Tucson and fighting to keep Semillas’ Anahuacalmecac School in Los Angeles open for future generations. Eva and the Hispanics are nowhere to be seen in the struggle taking place in the streets.
With no concern for commemorating 45 years of existence and resistance, Chicana/o Studies at CSULA has become the Brown Tower it was feared it would become when it was first established. Despite being in the heart of the Chicana/o community, Chicana/o Studies at CSULA has tragically become another lost opportunity in the struggle against Empire.