Members of the Chicana/o Studies Department at California State University at Northridge met with Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at his office to discuss miscommunication regarding the CSUN-UNAM convenio. The meeting was cordial, and we resolved to continue communication on the issues and concerns raised at the meeting. We appreciate the Mayor’s support of our program and his willingness to work with us and the University to ensure its continued success.
The concerns expressed by the Chicana/o Studies faculty are:
· The negative impact that the said agreement will have on students who already pay in excess of $3200 a semester. Tuition fees will support the Center. The mayor shared our concern that high tuition is impacting all students, dramatically limiting the access of students in the lower half of the socio-economic ladder.
· Students pay 75-80 percent of the cost of instruction so logically new programs have an impact on their tuition.
· These accords impact students on both sides of the border where they are being denied admission to higher education. We recognized that education is the key to social mobility.
· Chicana/o Studies expressed concern about the failure of the UNIVERSITY/CSUN administration to consult with it. Chicana/o Studies is the only department at CSUN that focuses on the importance of Mexican history, art, musicology, and literature. Professor Margarita Nieto has brought more Mexican guest speakers to the campus than the entire university combined, e.g., the novelist Carlos Fuentes, the artist, Rufino Tamayo, the Nahuatl scholar Miguel Leon Portilla, and the journalist Elena Poniatowska. Chicana/o Studies is the Mexican presence at CSUN.
· As a point of further information, the department regularly offers at least a dozen courses that focus exclusively on Mexico and half a dozen more that touch upon it. By contrast, Anthropology offers 2, Geography offers 1; History: nothing. Guest speakers have included legendary masters such as Lino Chávez and Mario Barradas (son jarocho), Rolando Hernández and Wilebaldo Amador (son huasteco), Zeferino Nandayapa, Conjunto Erandi (son abajeño & pirecua song), Elías Torres (guitar), Miguel Pacheco (psaltery), and Fernando Lozano (former director, Mexico City Philharmonic). This is a partial list; it does not include a listing of the hundreds of hours spent by Chicana/o Studies faculty in Mexican national and state archives.
· The proverbial ink was not dry before the provost stated that Chicana/o Studies’ area of study was Mexicans and Latinos north of Mexico. For the record, for forty-five years, the accepted area of study of Chicana/o Studies includes Mexicans on both sides of the border. It is an essential part of its course offerings.
· We discussed the lack of faculty diversity on the CSUN campus, and the failure of the CSUN administration to furnish CHS with raw data. CSUN’s record for diversity faculty hires is at 1970 levels. We agreed to explore ways to improve faculty diversity so it is in balance with the ethnic and racial profile of the student population.
· Concern was expressed that the UNAM accord would exacerbate the gap between the racial backgrounds of students and faculty; the overwhelming majority of faculty members that have expressed interest in the UNAM convenio are white.
· CHS and the mayor expressed concern about the rising costs of higher education and the negative impact on Mexican American students who increasing cannot get into college and cannot find employment.
· CHS expressed concern at the classism of UNAM officials, and that Mexicans students matriculating to learn English would be entirely from the upper stratum of Mexican society thereby displacing first generation college students.
· The Chicana/o Studies Department is initiating a study on the impact of privatization and marketization at CSUN.
In sum, the UNAM accord was hastily thrown together. The Chicana/o Studies department was completely by-passed, although it has the most to lose. In order to make the department whole, a study on the impact that the accord will have on students, faculty and the university workforce must be conducted, and assurances made in writing that the area of studies of the department will be respected. The administration must acknowledge that its failure to consult with Chicana/o Studies constitutes disparate treatment and consequently is a form of racism.
Chicana/o Studies Department
California State University at Northridge