Thanks to Julia O'Hanlon for sharing.
Jessica Seigel, Chicago TribuneCHICAGO TRIBUNE
May 27, 1993
In the latest battle over academic multiculturalism, University of California students are holding hunger strikes to press their demands for improved ethnic-studies programs.
Buoyed by recent protest demonstrations and public support from several state legislators, hunger strikers at the university's Los Angeles and Irvine campuses say they are seeking expanded Asian-American and Chicano studies.
At UCLA, a professor, five students and a parent keeping a 24-hour vigil on the lawn in front of the administration building completed their first 24 hours of fasting Wednesday. Supported by several dozen students gathered in eight tents nearby, the demonstrators say they will not eat until administration officials agree to fund a separate Chicano studies department.
"This is not symbolic. We either get the department or we will die here," said one of the fasting protesters, Jorge Mancillas, an assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology.
As part of their demands, the activists are asking university officials not to file any charges against the 83 students arrested May 11 for allegedly damaging school property during a sit-in.
Responding to protests in the last four years at UCLA, where the student body is 19 percent Chicano, school officials increased the Chicano studies budget from $1,800 to $272,421 and doubled courses from nine to 18. As in other ethnic-studies programs, the courses are offered through various departments, such as history and literature.
The protesting students, however, want the program funded as a free-standing department with its own professors and a director in charge of hiring and course offerings.
As continuing budget cuts devastate the University of California system, UCLA officials say they cannot allocate resources to create a Chicano studies department. For academic reasons, they believe the subject should remain interdisciplinary because it involves coursework that overlaps with departments as diverse as anthropology and theater.
"We have a program. We've had a program for 20 years," said UCLA spokesman Harlan Lebo. "It's been successful."
Student sentiment on campus is not wholly behind the hunger strikers.
"They're just going to end up going hungry," said John Green, a fifth-year economics major, who said some of his classes are already so large that it's hard to hear the professor. "Basically, we're out of money, and tuition is going up. . . . They're not going to get what they want."
At UC-Irvine, about 70 students fasting in 24-hour shifts from tents pitched on the campus green say that university officials haven't lived up to their promise of two years ago to hire professors for an Asian-American studies program.
Students still are not offered a major or minor in that subject at a university where 43 percent of the student body is Asian-American.
University officials say they are working to expand offerings beyond the eight classes offered last year and to institute a minor.
Asian-American students feel they have been ignored, particularly since the university recently established an African-American studies major at the university, though only 2.6 percent of the enrollment is African-American.
"The administration is influenced by the Asian-American minority myth that we don't ever create trouble and we don't get upset," said student leader Charles Lee. "We're trying to tell them now: We are serious."