A protest march and rally was held by several hundred students and community supporters on the campus of CSULA on February 4, 2014 in response to the Academic Senate voting down by 20 to 29, a proposal, made the previous week, by the Pan-African Studies Department to incorporate “Ethnic Studies” as part of the General Education (GE) requirements beginning in Fall 2016.
After being silenced and shut out last week by the undemocratic actions of the CSULA Academic Senate, students and community supporters agreed that the racist university status quo that sees “Ethnic Studies” as an unequal academic discipline had to be challenged.
Students along with community supporters began a rally at the steps of the university bookstore then began marching through the campus and onto Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall building chanting in one collective voice:
“The Students United, Will Never Be Divided”
“What Do We Want? Ethnic Studies! When Do We Want It? Now!”
Eventually, the students and community supporters made their way to the Golden Eagle Ballroom where the weekly Academic Senate was to be held. In a show of unity, students and community supporters were able to shut down the meeting and instead the students held their own meeting outside the doors of the Golden Eagle Ballroom.
As the Academic Senate began arriving for their scheduled meeting, the entrance to the Golden Eagle Ballroom was blocked by students and community supporters who locked arms. When Kevin Baaske chair of the CSULA Academic Senate arrived, students began chanting “No Clickers” reminding him of the secret vote the week before that stopped for now, the proposal to make “Ethnic Studies” a GE requirement.
Upon encountering several hundred students locked in arms, Baaske, in a condescending tone, attempted to negotiate with students by stating that he would grant 30 minutes of speaking time to the students. Well-organized and disciplined, the students refused Baaske’s terms and instead told him that the meeting would be held on students’ terms.
Ironically, at the previous meeting, Baaske somehow found himself powerless to offer speaking time to students and instead pushed parliamentary procedural rules to block student and community input, yet this week he wielded some imaginary power wand to grant 30 minutes of speaking time? This just doesn’t make sense.
As more and more Academic Senators arrived, they had no choice but to listen to dozens of students and community supporters as to why they needed to do the right thing and reintroduce a vote in favor of making “Ethnic Studies” a part of the GE requirements.
Speaker after speaker emphasized the urgent need to make “Ethnic Studies” part of the GE requirements. For some, it was one positive step towards addressing a legacy of institutional racism, which acknowledges that this country was built on slavery and genocide.
For others, “Ethnic Studies” was important for it was a tool of community empowerment and for creating a positive identity. The struggle for “Ethnic Studies” is part of the struggle for equality for Blacks and Chicanos.
Towards the end of the student protest meeting, a couple of professors spoke in favor of the proposal, which states in part: “at least one of the two diversity courses must be taken in one of the four Ethnic Studies/Area Studies Departments/Programs: Asian/Asian American Studies, Chicana/o Studies, Latin American Studies, or Pan African Studies.”
Unfortunately, the Chicana/o Studies Department has refused to support the proposal and this will be addressed in a later post in more detail.
Meanwhile, other Academic Senators, however, weren’t even paying attention to the students making their opposition to requiring “Ethnic Studies” at CSULA conspicuously obvious. Sadly, Baaske several times laughed off students’ comments in support of “Ethnic Studies.”
Keep in mind, moreover, that what is being proposed by the multi-ethnic coalition of student, faculty and community is that out of the 40 classes a student must take in order to graduate from CSULA that ONE class be in “Ethnic Studies.”