Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An open letter from the César E. Chávez Institute in support of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University

HAPPENING TODAY AT SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY.  SUPPORT ETHNIC STUDIES.  If you're wondering whether ethnic studies "works," check out my other posts from this week on this.  The jury is in.  Ethnic Studies promotes academic achievement, actual learning, and a positive sense of belonging not only in K12, but also at the higher education level.  Let's all support ethnic studies in SFSU and beyond. Let's not eliminate the very program that helped birth the well-developed program in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) that is now receiving accolades as a result of the rigorous Dee and Penner study that showed very positive findings regarding its benefits.

Dee, T. & Penner, E. (2016). The causal effects of cultural relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies curriculum. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 21865.

To wit, see this morning's post on Ethnic Studies featured in The Atlantic.
Angela Valenzuela



An open letter from the César E. Chávez Institute
March 15, 2016

Dear Familia,

Campus rally tomorrow Wednesday 3/16/16

We at the Cesar Chavez Institute are reaching out to our extended community of colleagues and supporters to let you know what is happening here at our home campus of San Francisco State University.

You may have already heard that our parent institution, the College of Ethnic Studies, the birthplace of ethnic studies and the Third World Strike that transformed San Francisco and the nation, is today fighting for its very survival. The Institute is fighting alongside it to defend fully accessible, fully funded, high-quality, relevant public higher education.

Campus-wide budget cuts were introduced during the Great Recession, as the State slashed funding to California State University; all units were affected, but being the smallest of the five colleges on campus, the decade of reduced funding has had an exponentially larger impact on ours - and disproportionately so, as recently admitted by President Wong.
An intended additional funding reduction announced by the President and Provost recently will cut our College to the bone, resulting in dismissal of all CoES lecturers, a 40% reduction in undergraduate and graduate courses, loss of faculty lines, untenable reductions in departmental support, shutting of the college's vital Student Resource Center, and the mandated closure of our Institute.

There has been a tremendous reaction of outrage and manifest solidarity across campus and from institutions and student bodies across the State and country. Our own students have inspired and moved everyone with their swift, cohesive and courageous mobilizations, spear-heading a nationally connected movement to not only defend ethnic studies but advance them by demanding increased institutional support.

The students, faculty, alumnus, administrators and staff are standing firm, armed with facts, numbers, and a clear contextual focus, and responding to the fundamentally disrespectful and devaluing rhetoric and actions coming from individuals in the higher University administration. This administration's approach echoes the historical treatment of marginalized communities everywhere - increasing disinvestment and disengagement, leading to deterioration and a prolonged struggle for resources, then blaming the communities for the crisis and watching silently while displacement and disempowerment silence us.

As our Dean just wrote in his public letter:

"We live in an historical moment when the state of California and the United States are experiencing unprecedented personal wealth, albeit held in the smallest percent of the population ever. At the same time, political leaders have chosen to provide the smallest share of that wealth for the public good, particularly public higher education. Public higher education is a proven pipeline to success for the poor and working classes and the backbone of the nation's real economic strength. Moreover, we are experiencing one of the most vitriolic backlashes against people of color, the poor, gender or sexually non-conforming communities and others in recent history. Our local challenge is apparently a flashpoint for systemic state and national challenges."

The Institute

At the César E. Chávez Institute we have worked diligently to obtain outside funding to support a high quality research agenda directly linked to community's needs. For the last 20 plus years, the Institute has been one of the more prolific research centers on campus, seeding efforts like Jim Quesada's grant on immigrant day laborers, Caitlyn Ryan's nationally recognized project on family acceptance for LGBTQ youth, the powerful work with youth of color by Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Sean Ginwright and Antwi Akom, and more recently Leticia Marquez-Magana's NIH grant to support students of color in the sciences, which emerged from our own educational equity work.

Previously the Institute had three faculty lines, a full-time Director and a full-time Director of Administration, and full administrative support. The still-deepening reductions in institutional support by the University have seriously hurt the Institute and we now rely only on a part-time Director and one staff member.  Despite these severe cuts from 2008 to today, the Institute generated $1,070,000 in external funding during the same time period. Today, the university provides no support to the Institute, and advocates for its closure next fall as a cost-saving measure.

Even now, as this battle for appropriate resource allocation heats up, the Institute is able to meet all its current commitments and the new commitments being contracted for the near future. New grants will sustain the staffing and operations specifically outlined in their respective proposals. But one thing is clear - solid institutional support is needed for a research institute to expand its grant funding, support new projects that reap benefits for both the university and the community, and attract the talent needed for expanding our work in honor of César Chávez' legacy.

What you can do:

Join us tomorrow Wednesday at a student-led protest on campus (see flyer below) to demand increased, fully accessible, fully funded, high-quality, relevant public higher education.

Write President Leslie Wong
Write the Provost Sue Rosser
¡Ya basta!
Defend our communities
Defend the vital institutions we have created
Defend  our  ideas  our  stories

In respect and solidarity,
Belinda Reyes

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