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The Need for Ethnic Studies

by The Project (projectcollective [at]
The Need for Ethnic Studies
Our histories have been stolen from us.
As students, we are frustrated again with the education we are receiving (and more importantly, the education we are not receiving). We are absent from the classroom both in curriculum and representation, and the faculty does not reflect our social identities. The courses we take here at UCSC completely leave out or simply brush over our histories and perspectives. These scant attempts at inclusivity are devoid of (y)our student voice and are not on (y)our terms. They come in the shape of alienating class environments where we have to speak on behalf of our whole community. They come in the shape of the token class lecture on ethnic histories/peoples. They come in the shape of a diversity symposium where students are told they can have a voice, but are not included in the planning of actions. And that’s assuming any action is taken at all.

See, our histories have been stolen from us, ‘Cause in the midst of the social movements of the 60s, of the mass mobilization and visibility of people of color through the Civil Rights, Asian American, Chicana/o, American Indian & Black Power Movements, aggravated, angered, and empowered students turned a critical eye on their educational institutions as one of the most pronounced sources of racism and injustice in society. In the wake of this in 1968, students at San Francisco State rallied together to demand the implementation of an Ethnic Studies department of which students had control and authority over faculty and curriculum. The Third World Student Strikes, as they were called, are some of the most high-profile student actions of the 60s and is the longest higher education strike in history. Striking students shut down the campus for five months to voice their grievances, and presented their demands to the Administration.

At the end of this period the Administration acceded, establishing the first Ethnic Studies Department in the nation.

And yet, OUR histories have been stolen from us. Because buried back in our past, we were fighting. We were fighting over 20 years ago for a presence, for visibility and for a Third World Studies program. We were fighting for self-definition. Students created the Third World and Native American Students Collective Press to address the lack of Third World studies curriculum on campus. Between 1974 and 1978, students put immense time and energy into developing a program for Third World Studies. A process that “seemed to have only led to a futile and draining process of meetings, proposal writings, committees, and more meetings” (TWANAS, May 1979). A process that led to the creation and presentation of four different proposals to the University. Four proposals that fell on deaf ears and were lost in university “reorganization.” The frustration students had towards the evasive University Bureaucracy culminated in a Hunger Strike in 1981; in a moment when students realized that it was they themselves that had to take their education here at UCSC into their own hands and shape it into a better way of thinking, to determine their own destinies. The Hunger Strike lasted five days in which 25 students did not eat until the Administration met their demands.

We are fighting…

And still, our histories are being stolen from us.

For a while Administration conceded to meeting student demands during the 1981 Hunger Strike, they are promises that remain unfulfilled. Twenty years later, our campus still lacks the proposed Third World Studies Program. (Twenty years later, we only have ONE Native American Studies Professor, and no Asian American Studies Professor to date.) In fact our campus continues to lack any department, major, or minor in Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies, Native American Studies, African American/Black studies and/or Ethnic Studies. Instead, we are in a moment when our campus is “re-evaluating” and “assessing” its diversity. A moment we have been in before. Because we are in a moment when past UCSC reports recommend the establishment of Ethnic Studies on this campus (“Making Diversity Work,” 1997). And yet we still do not have it. And yet, we are in moment of “Academic Excellence in Diversity.” Our experiences, and the legacy of our experiences reveal the magnitude of resistance towards students’ demands on the part of those in power.

What we are in is a moment of crisis.

Steal (y)our history back. Clench it in your fist, and raise your voice.
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Thu, Sep 13, 2007 2:41PM
Julia Rhee
Wed, Mar 1, 2006 4:56AM
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