Tuesday, January 31, 2012

“Needs Attention” Memo and The State of Ethnic Studies at UCI

(Via E.S.C.A.P.E.)

To Whom It May Concern:

We, the students, are greatly concerned with the “Needs Attention” Memo sent to the School of Humanities on November 15, 2011. This alarming memo addressed African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Women’s Studies, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Literatures, French and Italian, and German, as well as the Chicana/o- Latina/o Studies Department in the School of Social Sciences. With this selection of targeting, we feel that this is an attack on studies that are crucial to the development of critical consciousness among students and the UCI community.

Disseminated through the School of Humanities, this memo undermines the scholarly distinction of these programs and criticizes faculty for failing to meet manufactured expectations and requirements, which remain conveniently unknown. These departments are targeted on the basis of “productivity” measured in terms of low student-to-faculty ratios, a characteristic that is usually regarded as essential to a quality education. As a result, the seemingly arbitrary elimination of critical studies seems to stem from the broader context of systematically removing programs that do not benefit the corporate structure.

We feel disturbed by the severe lack of methods used to determine of the “collective role and place” of many of these Interdisciplinary Programs [IDP] on our campus. If the writers of this memo had legitimately researched for qualitative evidence regarding the success of IDPs, they would find concrete evidence and stories of the meaningful impact these units offer students in areas of critical thinking, identity and cultural competency, understanding historical legacies and struggles, and the futures of our diverse communities. We believe there is no legitimacy in this memo’s ability to critique scholarly quality of these programs when the writers have proven no expertise in these fields.

Not once does this memo provide meaningful solutions to the “low enrollments and low student-faculty ratios” it describes, other than making problematic allusions to consolidating these units. Therefore, we see a disturbing contradiction in the fact that the memo labels these units as “Needs Attention”, without expressing any genuine concern or commitment; this reveals the austerity politics and damaging lack of institutional support from the University in this manufactured time of hardship. We believe the members of the Academic Planning Group should engage in conversation with the IDP Department Chairs and students in order to discern what support the IDP units need, and how we can collectively create solutions to attract more students to these crucial majors.

Much of the UCI community is uneducated about the Third World Liberation Front, comprised of students of the Civil Rights movement who recognized the exclusion of their histories and identities in their University curriculum. Starting in 1968, students fought to institutionalize the representation of their narratives at San Francisco State College, in order to make their education more relevant and accessible for marginalized communities. At UC Irvine, the original establishment of Ethnic Studies also started from the student’s struggle in the early 1990’s when many organizations built a coalition named the Ethnic Students Coalition Against Prejudicial Education (E.S.C.A.P.E.).

Despite the fight that has carried on throughout generations, it is evident that University systems insistently take advantage of budget crises to threaten the existence of Ethnic and Critical Studies first. Still today, we will continue to fight against any ideologies that fail to prepare students with cultural competency and develop their critical consciousness, both of which are necessary in recognizing and fighting institutional injustices. Therefore, we demand the writers of this memo to re-evaluate its ways of devaluing the School of Humanities and other IDP units, and to cease its actions in treating the University as an enterprise.

We demand the following:

1) Stop the cuts and sustain Interdisciplinary Departments & Programs.
2) Reform the Multicultural general educational requirement to mandate all students to take at least two Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, or Ethnic Studies courses.
3) Establish and support a UCI School of Ethnic Studies and Critical Theory Studies.

Signed, Ethnic Students Coalition Against Prejudicial Education (E.S.C.A.P.E)

Alyansa ng mga Kababayan
American Indian Student Association
Asian Pacific Student Association
ASUCI Office of the Executive Vice-President
Black Student Union
Black Educated Men
Central American Student Association
Ethiopian Student Association
Filipinos Unifying Scientist-Engineers in an Organized Network (FUSION)
Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán
Pilipino-Americans in Social Studies
Pilipino Pre-Health Undergraduate Student Organization

No comments:

Post a Comment