History Repeats Itself

Universities are supposed to be the bastions of liberal and reasoned thought. However, when you start to deduct the engineering schools, business administration, and the white biases of most professors the rule does not stand up. Beginning in the 1970s faculty members would complain about under prepared students which was a code phrase for minority students.  They would complain that they were less proficient in writing; I would challenge them as to what kind of exams they used to measure progress; they would generally reply scantrons.  Invariably the blamed the victim and blamed the public schools for not preparing the students.

I was brought up on John Dewey where a student failure was a teacher failure. California was once second in the nation in per capita spending per student.  By the turn of the century it ranked 34th in per capita spending and 48th in student teacher ratio. California spending has decreased since the 1970s as Latino student numbers grew in the public schools and by the ‘90s it lagged behind the nation by more than $1,000 per student.  This inequality reflects society’s pecking order with research institutions and four year colleges receiving a larger share of the state funding. In 2003-2004 the University of California system spent $17,200 per student versus $10,200 for the CSU. The lowest funding sum went to the state community colleges that received about half what the CSU’s did.  Meanwhile, California ranked 45th in spending per community college student; the system served 2.5 million students annually l spending $ 4,600 per student. The ratio of blacks and Latinos declines drastically as the student travels from community to UC. Participation at these colleges greatly depends on parent’s income with community college students drawn from poorer schools.

When Chancellor Ann Reynolds, 49, took over in 1982 from Chancellor Glenn S. Dumke there was a sigh of relief since he had been considered a puppet of Governor Ronald Reagan and was not faculty or minority friendly. However, the system had jumped into the proverbial fire.  Reynolds was an imperious person who expected deference. The daughter of missionaries I always envisioned her wearing Wellington boots.  Her reign over the CSU was controversial with the Board of Trustees urging her to mend her ways or resign.   I tried to stay out of her way until she pushed a plan to raise the admission standards to the CSU.  Her reasoning was that by raising admission requirements the public schools would be forced to raise their standards and offer more college bound courses.  I considered this inappropriate since it was putting the chicken before the egg and would have the effect of excluding minority students who came from schools that did not have the requisite number of required math and science course and did not give a damn.  It was also absolving the CSU from its duty to teach ill prepared students who through no fault of their own attended inferior schools.  This plan was a precursor to No Child Left Behind.

A Letter to the Editor on January 25, 1985 was the beginning of a struggle with the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees in which students from el Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Aztlan along with community organizations and left organizations such as the League of Revolutionary Struggle spearheaded protests.  It got so ridiculous that every time I went to the administrative offices of the CSU, I had two and sometimes more CSU campus police following me around.  Incredibly the CSU faculty senate defended the Chancellor’s plan and sent a response to my letter criticizing Reynolds to the Los Angeles Times.  Members of the senate were opportunistic saying that they wanted to improve the education of Latinos as if their high schools gave a dump if they went to the CSU.  Members like Hal Charnosky of Cal State Dominguez Hill were sincere, knew better, but were paternalistic. By 1987 Reynolds was again under fire and in 1990 she was forced to resign.

Ultimately, the CSU due to pressure from the community and elected officials was forced to modify its regulations and institute remedial courses. At the time I recommended that funding be reversed with the public schools getting the lion’s share of the funding. Meanwhile, studies were released in the 2000s that educations that showed that 75 percent of white students and 81 percent of Asians graduate while only 45 percent of Native American students, 56 percent of black students and 60 percent of Latino students finished high school.

The following documents are included to show that the as aunt. On minority students is not new. Neither is the arrogance of administrators who want to make a name for them implementing policies that they know nothing about. In the following case the chancellor tried to get me fired, calling President Jim Cleary who I often fought with but he has a strong belief in faculty freedoms telling the chancellor’s people that I had first amendment rights. However, they were not as professional and every time I went to a jam a Trustee’s meeting 3 or 4 security guards would tail me. In the end, history absolved me and the Trustees fired her and scrapped her plan. I owe a great debt to the late Frank Del Olmo, an alumni and a friend. The Times was supporting Reynolds but his presence neutralized many of their zealots.


1. Reynolds, W Ann

Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Dec 15, 1984;

ProQuestHistorical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990)

pg. B2

Admission Requirements

at Cal State Universities

On behalf of the California State University, I thank you for the strong  support  expressed in your editorial (Nov. 19), “Cal State: Quality With Equality,” of the Board of Trustees’  efforts  to improve the preparation of incoming college and  university students.

The California State University is committed to preserving educational access and academic quality. The Times is correct in its assertion that both access and quality must be maintained, and that equality need not be sacrificed to achieve quality.

Our goal is to enhance the ability of students from all backgrounds to meet college entrance requirements and to persist in the university or college once enrolled. The disparity between the proportion of minorities, especially Hispanics, who enroll in the state’s  universities and their representation in the population requires corrective ac­ tion.

Improved high school preparation is the single  most important element in expanding minority access to and persistence in higher education. Without appropriate high school academic experience, students are severely limited in their choice of major and, in partic­ ular,   may   be   unprepared  for high-technology fields.

As indicated in your editorial, the CSU is seeking budgetary support for a comprehensive program that• would, among other things, help us to encourage minority students  in grades 6  through  9 to remain •in school,  to  advise students   long before they come to the university about  what knowledge and study habits are expected of them, and to improve support services for eligible students who are talented but educationally  disadvantaged.  We feel that these programs would be cost-effective and are in the tax­ payer’s best interest.

Other than to include more under-represented minority students among those eligible for admission, we are not changing our commitment to provide education for the upper one-third of California high school graduates.  This is a long­ standing provision of the State’s Master Plan for Higher Education. We simply want to ensure that the top one- thi rd students are better prepared as they enter the State University.

With better preparation, more students of all backgrounds will have access to what all California universities offer. It is in the best interest of the state that every segment of California’s population have  full opportunity  to develop talents and abilities essential to participate fully in our culture and economy.


Reynolds is chancellor of the California State University


2. Educators Hail Deukmejian for Keeping Pledge

Savage, David G

Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File);  Jan 11, 1985; ProQuestHistorical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. B1

Educators Hail Deukmejian for Keeping Pledge


Times Education Writer

SACRAMENTO-Less than two years ago, Gov. George Deukmejian was labeled a “Scrooge” by one teachers   union official, reflecting the view of many in the education business that the governor was a tightwad who cared little about the problem of California’s schools and colleges.

But now, after proposing another double-digit  increase in funding for public schools and state  universities, Deukmejian was being  hailed by  most school officials Thursday as a man who has kept his promise to make education his highest budget priority.

Education expenditures account for 56% of Deukmejian’s budget proposal, up from 49.2% in 1982-83, the last budget prepared by former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Increase of $5 Billion

The $18.9 billion that the state plans to spend for education in the1985-86 school year represents an increase of  more than  $5  billion over the 1982-83 total.

“No matter how he got there, the facts are that   (Deukmejian)   has backed up his pledge to make education his top budget priority,” said state  Supt. of Public  Instruction Bill Honig.

Next year, the state will spend an estimated $3,065 per child in the public schools, an amount that should bring California up to the national average  in school spending, Honig said.

Please see SCHOOLS, Page 31


3.  Rodolfo Acuña, “Cal State Admission Plan Makes Naive Assumption,” [Home Edition], Los Angeles Times Jan 12, 1985. pg. 2

I am appalled at Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds’ Dec. 15, 1984, letter thanking The Times for its editorial support (Nov. 19), “Cal State: Quality With Equality.” In essence, the Board of Trustees of the California State University System wants to improve quality by requiring stiffer admission requirements. This proposal naively presupposes that it will improve high school training by requiring more solid subjects for admission into the state university system. This assumption represents a total ignorance of history, a retreat from the 1960 commitment to ensure equal access to the state university system for minority students, and a return to hypocritical racist policies which have traditionally excluded minorities from higher education.

When I began teaching at California State University Northridge (then San Fernando Valley State College), fewer than 75 students of Mexican extraction attended CSUN. Two years before this, only seven Mexican-Americans studied there. Because of the civil rights struggle, the Cal State system was forced to recruit and create retention programs for minority students.

Today 1,300 Mexican-American students attend CSUN (out of a student body of 28,000. This is less than 5% of the students).  This is in spite of the fact that more than 40% of the Los Angeles Unified Schools are of Mexican extraction (this figure excludes other Latino groups).

While we are not satisfied with this record, Chicano faculty and staff realize that without special programs, i.e., special admissions and retention, that this record would be even worse. We can document success stories of students who came ill prepared to CSUN and, through their dedication and that of a small number of faculty, staff and administrators, have overcome obstacles to become medical doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers, business persons, teachers etc.

Throughout this struggle, most of the CSU System was dragged along. It fought almost every innovative proposal that was made and refused to institutionalize proven programs. Its record toward blacks was bad, and toward Latinos, it was even worse. Now Chancellor Reynolds, a newcomer to California, who has had no previous track record with Latinos, states that the system wants to correct “the disparity between the proportion of minorities, especially Hispanics, who enroll in the state’s universities and the representation in the population, requires corrective action.”

What is her corrective action? To return to the exclusionary racist policies of the pre-civil rights days when unrealistic requirements (in view of society as it was) effectively kept minorities out.

Reynolds offers rhetoric in place of substance. She assumes that the high schools in the black and Latino areas will upgrade their offerings because the state universities will it. She assumes that the public will fund an upgrading of minority high school programs. She ignores the fact that before standards can be raised in those schools, teachers’ salaries must be professionalized, the student-teacher ratio must be drastically reduced, curriculum offerings must be enriched, and the students’ parents must have jobs generating a decent wage. It is also necessary to have more minority teachers in the schools in order that students have proper role models.

Reynolds ignores the fact that present programs such as Student Affirmative Action, which was created specifically to recruit Latinos into the CSU System, have failed. In the case of CSUN, only 40 Mexican-American students were recruited this year. At many campuses, more students from Southeast Asia have been recruited into SAA than Chicanos.

Reynolds’ plan spells doom. If it is implemented, it will reduce equal access to the CSU System. In turn, minority group members are not ready to sell out their people and worsen the present caste system. Chancellor Reynolds’ proposal will force many of us to resume agitation to 1960 levels to prevent the exclusion of our peoples.

Universities play an important role in stratifying society, and history has not proved that the state system is a friend of the economically and politically disadvantaged. When the CSU system had higher requirements in 1967 than it does today, it had dramatically fewer minority students.

I recommend that Chancellor Reynolds and The Times study history and accept society as it is. Moreover, Reynolds should study the function of the CSU system which she heads. It is not a Big Ten university and it is not the University of California. She had better pay more attention to improving conditions for students and professors within that system before making assumptions about matters she knows nothing about and that may very well damage what little minorities have gained.


4. Letters to The Times: Admission Standards

Goldstein,  Bernard. is chair  of the executive committee of the Academic  Senate of the California State University. The letter also was signed by James Highsmith, vice chair; Hal Charnofsky, secretary, and Carol Barnes and Nicholas P. Hardeman, members at-large.

Los Angeles  Times (1923-CurrentFile); Feb 7, 1985; ProQuest Historical  Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. C4

We strongly disagree with our faculty colleague Prof. Rodolfo Acuña’s criticism (Letters, Jan. 12) of the California State  Chancellor Ann  Reynolds  and  the  board  of trustees for their efforts to raise admission standards. We believe that the chancellor and the board of trustees are wise in their move toward more demanding high school course preparation for entry to the CSU, and that minority and other students will be more likely to attend and be successful in college if   they have been given solid preparation in  high  school. We do a disservice by admitting poorly prepared students who are likely to fail.

Furthermore, it is of critical importance that those students who decide not to attend post­ secondary institutions have an exposure to basic subjects in high school.

The Legislature, Gov. George Deukmejian and Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig have taken much the same view as Chancellor Reynolds and the trust­ ees  by  requiring  more  rigorous high school graduation standards for all California high school stu­ dents. As a result of these new requirements, most high school graduates will already meet the projected CSU standards. More­ over, high school students and counselors have been given ample time to prepare for these new requirements.

The California State University and, we believe, Superintendent Honig, the Legislature, and the governor are committed to work­ ing with the high schools in recruiting  students  from  all  un­ der-represented  minority groups and to assuring that they have a successful college experience. Examples of  their ongoing efforts include academic partnership legislation, budget proposals to recruit minority students, creation of a CSU Remediation Task Force, and a major study and recommendations  concerning   Hispanic   underrepresentation in the CSU.

In his preoccupation with predictions of “doom,” Acuña failed to note the foregoing points. He also failed to point out that any student not admitted to the CSU can attend a community college and have every opportunity to qualify for later transfer to a university. No minority students will be denied access because of the proposed strengthening of admissions requirements; rather, they will enter the CSU with strong academic preparation and maximum chances to succeed.

We believe that the faculty of the CSU share Acuña’s concern over the challenges posed for mi ­ nority students by higher admission standards and intend to do all that we can, in cooperation with Chancellor Reynolds, her staff and the board of  trustees,  to  assure solid preparation in the high schools, continued access to the CSU, and  increased success once students gain entry.


5. Bad Teachers: Putting the University on the Spot, Too


Los Angeles Times (1923-Current  File); Feb 14, 1985;

ProQuest Historical Newspapers:  Los Angeles Times (1881-1990)

pg. C5

Bad Teachers: Putting the University on the Spot, Too


In  1969 I  was one  of   a  handful of Chicano students attending  San  Fernando  Valley State  College who persuaded a respected Mexican-American historian to give up his job at  a private college in order to build a Chicano Studies department at our school.

We all believed that if anyone could make valley state ­ or Cal State, Northridge, as it is now called-more sensitive to Latino students  it was Rodolfo Acuña. After all, Acuna, who holds a Ph.D in Latin American history, was as well known for his political activism as for his academic research into the history of the Southwestern United States and the Mexican-Americans who helped build the region.

Fifteen years later I know that we made the right choice, but I am just as sure that university officials wish that we had picked someone else.

For despite his academic credentials, Acuña also is a gadfly who freely criticizes the shortcomings of the system that nurtures him. Only his reputation as a teacher and the fact that he has tenure protect him when he gets  into internal brouhahas with his academic peers and superiors. The latest round began when Acuña criticized Chancellor Anne Reynolds’   proposal to  raise  student   admission standards for the state university system.

Rcynolds believes that Latinos and other minority students will have a better chance of success in higher education if they are better prepared by the state’s high schools before they arrive at Cal State’s 19 campuses. She sold the idea to the university board of trustees who decided that, starting in 1988, high-school students applying for admission must have completed at least four years of English, three years of mathematics and social sciences, two years of science and foreign languages and one year of fine arts.

“Improved high school preparation  is the single most important element  in expanding minority access to and persistence in higher education,” Reynolds wrote recently. But when they try to explain how their new admission requirements will get the state’s high schools to improve the quality of instruction that they offer, state university officials never seem to mention one important fact: The state university produces 50% to 70% of the teachers now working in California’s schools. If those schools are doing a less-than-satisfactory job, one wonders if   part  of  the problem might be that the institution training most of our teachers also is doing a less-than-satisfactory job.

Acuña said as much in a recent  letter  to The Times. Warning that the new requirements might keep many otherwise-qualified Latino students from getting into the state university system, Acuña acerbically suggested that Reynolds “should pay more attention to improving conditions for students   and   professors within   (her) system” before trying to improve schools that are someone else’s responsibility. Now he is getting flak from fellow faculty members and haughty letters from the chancellor’s office.

In one of those letters  Associate Chancellor John  W. Bedell cites some “decisive steps” that Reynolds has taken to improve the quality of teacher training in the Cal State system, “such as raising the requirements for completion of the programs, adding incentives for master teachers and strengthening the student teaching experience.”

I find it sadly  revealing  that  Bedell’s letter  does not mention other steps that would be just as useful in helping student  teachers prepare to deal with minority students, who have now become a majority in Los Angeles’ public schools as well as in those of other large cities.

How about ethnic-studies classes to sensitize teachers to the hard realities of life in this nation’s barrios and ghettos? The Chicano Studies Department was set up at Cal State, Northridge, precisely because state colleges train so many teachers, and those future teachers  must be prepared to work in Latino communities.

Or how about teaching them foreign languages? Perhaps it would lessen Anglo teachers’ hostility toward bilingual­ education programs and for the bilingual teacher aides who work in many schools with large immigrant populations.

Acuña has been arguing for such remedial steps for years, and he’s still fighting the good fight despite pressure from his peers, and on high, to keep quiet.

When he was hired at Cal State, Northridge, the school had fewer than a dozen Chicano students. University officials cite the fact that 1,300 are now enrolled there as a sign that things have improved. But that represents less than 5% of a student body of 28,000.

Meanwhile, statistics  released  last  week  by  the  Los Angeles  Unified School  District  indicate  that  Latinos represent   52%  of  the   public-school  students   in  Los Angeles and 63% of those in kindergarten. In light of those numbers, 5% is not good enough. And when Acuna raises the discomforting question  of  whether   new  admission requirements will keep the number of Chicanos in the Cal State system low, he deserves  more than icy, pro forma letters in response.

Cal State officials had  better  be sure  that  their  own house is in order, as Acuna suggests,  before shifting the responsibility for improving public education to the state’s high schools.

Frank del Olmo L.A. Times editorial writer.


— by Rodolfo F. Acuña

This entry was posted in Aztlan, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Studies, Chicano Movement, Community, CSUN, Cultura, Decolonization, East Los Angeles, Education, History, Knowledge, Language, Los Angeles, MEChA, Mexican, Movimiento, Politics, Quotes, Racism, Resistance. Bookmark the permalink.

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