The fight for an ethnic studies program at UC Santa Cruz has drawn increasingly more attention during the final weeks of the spring quarter.
On May 24, executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway hosted a forum to bridge the gap between student and faculty discussions on the possible inclusion of an ethnic studies program.
“What is it that you want?” Galloway asked the audience of about 50 students and faculty members. “We’ve got some momentum and I don’t want to let it slip.”
The fight for ethnic studies is nothing new to the UCSC campus, as students and faculty have throughout the years been embroiled in debates over the possible addition of the program to the campus curriculum. Currently, student groups advocate for the inclusion of ethnic studies while a “faculty work force” of roughly 20 to 25 individuals has been working on creating and proposing a structured curriculum.
Currently, students are spearheading classes focused on ethnic and cultural studies despite the absence of formal curriculum on campus. Several courses are offered including Pilipino Historical Dialogue and Asian American Pacific Islander Perspectives. Both courses are taught and organized by students under a faculty sponsor.
The forum on May 24 was an informal opportunity for members of the community to meet, talk and collaborate in their efforts to bring the program to the campus. Topics discussed ranged from diversity issues on the campus to the disconnect that exists between different facets of the UCSC community overall.
Those who support the addition of an ethnic studies program say the recent controversy surrounding racially insensitive graffiti found on campus has shown the community that there needs to be constructive dialogue on race and culture.
“My involvement with ethnic studies is because I take the future of my people seriously,” said Chris Cuadrado, a student organizer involved in advocating for ethnic studies. “But coming from the diverse background that I do, I understand that there are larger structures of oppression that affect more than just my people.”
With the campus buzzing over cuts and possible suspensions of programs like community studies and protests erupting throughout the UC system, students have been advocating for an education that better addresses their wants and needs.
“Out of the deconstruction of community studies, we realize that it would be much more productive to promote the creation of ethnic studies,” said Will Duggan, a third-year community studies major from Stevenson College. “That would appeal to a broader audience and fill a void that has been here for many years and which community studies directly rose out of.”
The discussion of ethnic studies continually returned to questions over the current budgetary problems facing the UC system, but faculty members present at the forum on Tuesday said they believe UCSC has the means to create a program with associated faculty.
Bill Ladusaw, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education (VPDUE), said, “There are many courses on campus which can be viewed as ethnic studies.”
Mark Cioc, a faculty member of the history department and Interim VPDUE reiterated this view.
“There are on this campus enough courses to create a major with very little additional resources,” Cioc said. “An idea of a major would create a curriculum and a path for students to take.”
Consensus among those present at the forum was that the school, working with what is currently available — and working under the assumption that the UC system will not face another $500 million cut — can feasibly support an ethnic studies program.
Galloway addressed concerns over the budget crisis, specifically with regard to the question of ethnic studies.
“The budgetary climate is not great, but quite frankly, I don’t remember it being great in the last 20 years,” Galloway said.
Another topic on the table was the student desire for an ethnic studies department while faculty advocate for an ethnic studies program instead. While the establishment of the department demands a full-time faculty, a program would only require associated faculty members. This would mean an ethnic studies program could exist by working cooperatively with other fields in a cross-disciplinary manner.
The forum ultimately stressed communication between graduate and undergraduate students and faculty members as groups try to flesh out what ethnic studies or critical race studies would look like at UCSC.
“A key aspect in regards to ethnic studies is shared governance,” said Teq Kavinzo, a second-year feminist studies major. “By shared governance, I and other people have been working on this. We mean a horizontality betweens undergraduates, graduates, faculty, staff and administration. We don’t want it to be a bureaucratic system, we want to transform that and recognize a democratic process in which every voice is heard.”
Following the forum, the Student Union Assembly (SUA) held its weekly meeting, and on the agenda was the approval of an official resolution concerning ethnic studies. However, the meeting quickly reached a stalemate as students’ hands shot into the air and diverging ideas and opinions were presented.
By the end of the discussion, participants decided there needed to be a much larger, more in-depth conversation outside the space of the SUA meeting. A sheet of paper went around the room, students quickly jotted down their information, and that was — for the time being — the end of the conversation.
The lack of communication between SUA and student activists underscored the need for greater communication between different areas and subgroups on the campus. It was conceded that everyone had the same end goal, but there was not a singular way to that goal.
During the SUA meeting, one attendee said “10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour won’t make a difference tonight.”
“Students should know that it will take more than a one-day action,” Cuadrado said. “It’s going to require organizing and coalition-building.”
Students and faculty throughout the evening agreed that it was time for UCSC to reevaluate and reexamine the current discussions surrounding ethnic studies.
UCSC has changed immensely since its inception in 1965, and Galloway commented on the way the university is continually in a state of metamorphosis — the debate for ethnic studies is proof of that.
“This is not a museum — it’s a university,” Galloway said. “It should change.”