Everyone according to their upbringing have a certain level of intolerance. My family, for example, did not tolerate lying. It was better to own up to mistakes than to be caught in a lie. Lies were equivalent to sins of scandal. Thus, I built up an intolerance toward lying that reinforces injustice. That is why it is so hard for me to watch presidential debates or to tolerate crooks such as Antonin Scalia. Although an atheist, I found myself praying for a hell so he can burn in it.
I don’t know when but it was in the 1960s that someone told me to give it a rest and to be more like a cobra than a rattlesnake in a glass enclosure. When visitors to the zoo taunted the cobra, it would strike the glass a couple of times and then recline motionless. The rattlesnake would continue to hit the glass trying to strike the provoker until its head was bloodied to a pulp.
Having just gone through an ordeal of two years trying to get the California State University Northridge administration to own up to its lies surrounding the UNAM Center, I felt like the rattler. It was the most frustrating experience in my life. The message was that Mexicans are dumb and we don’t give a damn what you think. At times, therefore, I acted like a rattler.
This time around, having gone through my own form of anger management I was not as shocked by the lies. My mother would deal with similar situations by saying that it was just gringos being gringos. Nevertheless, it did not make the lies any more palatable.
I would have ignored it but this time the lies were more deliberate and perpetrated by an enemy of the department and a racist, Dean Beth Say. From what I have been able to ascertain: preparations for the UPenn-CSUN Mellon grant were in the works last spring (2015) spearheaded by the Associate Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies. They wanted to increase the number of Humanities majors who are active in research and wanted pursue doctoral studies. Penn was writing the grant and CSUN would be a partner school. The Mellon foundation did come to visit in April 2015. For the exception of two graduate students in the Chicana/o MA program, no other Mexican Americans were invited; indeed no one from the Humanities was present.
Meanwhile CSUN got $22M from the NIH to increase traditionally underserved students in science research. External groups flooded the campus but Mexican Americans — and indeed Latinos — were excluded. No one from the Humanities seems to have been involved at this time. This was an obvious slight and Luann Rocha, CSUN’s new Director of Development for the Oviatt Library and CSUN Information Technology (IT) division, appears to have been the prime mover at this point.
I was stunned by the audacity of the institution and Beth Say crowing over how much they suddenly loved Latinos. According to Elizabeth Say, what “they” lack is opportunity. https://csunshinetoday.csun.edu/university-news/csun-teams-up-with-university-of-pennsylvania-to-increase-latino-faculty-in-the-humanities/ going on the say, “Cal State Northridge was honored to be selected to participate in the Pathways to the Professoriate initiative…We know well the quality of our students — what they sometimes lack is opportunity… Together with our other institutional partners, we can begin to transform the professoriate to better reflect and serve the next generation of university students.”
(This comes from a person who does not support immigrants on or off campus)
Obvious breaches were evident. I wondered why she had never contacted Dr. Renee Moreno who operated a highly successful McNair program. Why she had bypassed the ChS department that houses 80-90 percent of the Latin faculty on campus and runs a highly successful MA Program.
You expect professional people to learn from the past and perhaps I expect more from so-called academicians. We have just gone through a two year ordeal with the administration over a similar slight when they ignored ChS in entering in to an agreement with UNAM – aggressively attempting to undermine Chicanas/os on campus. Caught in blatant lies it would not admit that they were lies.
Successful mentorship programs are built through a diverse faculty. At CSUN only three percent of the tenured faculty is of Mexican origin. The Valley is 42 percent Latinos, about 80 percent Mexican. There is therefore a huge gap between the faculty and the students they teach.
We were also stunned that the University of Pennsylvania and the Mellon Foundation would seek Say’s expertise when she knows nothing about Mexican Americans/Latinos. While I do not like foundations I have to say that I was much more impressed by Ford that at least knew something about the players.
I had a pleasant exchange with Dr. Gasman (UPenn) about the objections of some faculty to the new accord with her university. She responded, “We are working with the deans of arts and sciences at all the partner schools. We have been in contact with her, the provost and president and have met with many humanities faculty at CSUN.” I did not expect this since someone was lying. I could not find any Chicanas/os or Latinos who spoke to Glasman. I have not yet spoken to the two students who attended the meeting.
I was flabbergasted when the President responded “I have been told that the Chicana/o Studies faculty and chair as well as EOP were included in discussions about the UPenn program. I was also told that ChS faculty and students participated in the site visit last summer as well as other Latino faculty and students from across campus. I will leave further details of these interactions to the department and college.” This was easily checked out: I spoke to the present chair and the outgoing chair both of who said that they had never been invited to a meeting.
As a cobra I cooled down. Jorge Garcia who has been here a long time as a faculty member and the Dean of Humanities wrote to Harrison: “After the procedural and insulting fiasco of the processes leading up to the UNAM-CSUN debacle, I find it impossible to accept the claim that you were ‘told that ChS faculty and students participated in the site visit last summer’. Who told you such a thing? Why would you believe such an allegation given the demonstrated bias against the Department in your administration. I have given forty years of my life to this institution and I cannot believe that you blithely say that you unquestionably took as factual what you were told in this matter. I have been accused of ‘loving the institution too much’ when I say I built up sweat equity in this place. I am proud of the Department we have built for our community. Not many universities have such a unit and it has been built on the backs of faculty and staff. Unfortunately, I think this place and some of the people in it ‘nos hacen chiquitos’. Our lives and our task are made more difficult but we press on.”
As Jorge says we press on, but it is difficult when the administration, the U of Penn and the Mellon Foundation won’t listen to the Mexicans who they want to save. This is not the last of it. The CSUN and other universities don’t want to improve conditions for minorities. They want those administrative fees, as mentioned CSUN got $22 million from the NIH, another 3 million for the Oviatt Library to serve Mexicans and I cannot keep track of how much more. Latinos are a big commodity and if we don’t take charge, this money is going to be wasted much the same as it was in the sixties with the War on Poverty.
Rodolfo Acuna, Ph.D, is a professor emeritus at Cal State University, Northridge as well as a scholar and activist. Among his best-known books are “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos,”; “Sometimes There is No Other Side: Essays on Truth and Objectivity”; and “Anything But Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los Angeles.”