Student’s Response to Milmon Harrison

Posted: July 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

Milmon Harrison,

We, the student activists who have been fighting for Ethnic and Gender Studies units since day one, have read your response to the minutes sent out by Professor Adela de la Torre.  We would like to respond to your words as well as provide a clarification of the students’ perspective on this whole issue.

1.  It is our understanding that  originally there would only be two new FTEs in total that were allocated to Asian American Studies and Chicana/o Studies, one to each department, this being independent of the student’s initiative for Dean Owens.  Had the students not engaged in activism, sent out a list of demands to Chancellor Katehi and Dean Owens, and received a commitment on behalf of the Chancellor to reexamine the needs of ALL the Ethnic and Women & Gender Studies units, that meeting would never have happened. No one else would have had the opportunity to discuss the proposal sent out by Dean Owens, as there would not have been one at all. Any department or program that does not understand this has a lot of thinking to do.

“ we in AAAS do not intend to stand by while other E.S. units paint a picture (especially for students) depicting themselves as unfairly targeted/neglected and also depicting us as either unscathed or somehow favored and therefore having less of a need than they do.”

This particular group of students has been involved in this process since before the first town hall meeting took place and we can tell you that none of the Ethnic and/or Women & Gender Studies units have painted a picture for us such as what you claim. Rather we understand that you told your students that your department was “ok” and “unscathed” without explaining to your students why you felt that way.

“I think we need to own that and be honest about it, again especially when/if we talk to students about these issues.”

Here, you single out some of the other Ethnic Studies units for having made “bad decisions” (i.e. their hiring process).  It seems as though you are condemning other departments for hiring older FTEs when in many cases these older FTEs would provide a richer experience to us as students.  We believe that hiring should be done based on merits, based on what a person can contribute to the department, and not because of their age and how long they will last.  Having that said, it is up to you to decide whether you keep this policy or not. However, we urge you not to single out other Ethnic and/or Women & Gender Studies units for hiring FTEs on merits other than age, particularly when this practice can be misconstrued as going against laws which condemn discriminatory hiring practices.

2.  No one is saying that any particular department or program does not deserve additional resources.  The students started all of this as an Ethnic and Women & Gender Studies battle for additional resources.  Regardless of who said what at the town hall meeting, we moved forward advocating for all Ethnic and Women & Gender Studies departments and programs because we felt that they have all been negatively affected over the years and recognize the importance and the need to retain said departments and programs here at UC Davis.

“We have the fewest number of FTEs (either actual or promised) than all the other HIP units although we are virtually always among the highest producers of SCHs, for example.”

We feel that you should consider revising your information or provide actual evidence to support your claim. The data we have shows that AAAS virtually has the same number of FTEs as the other departments at the moment and is not among highest producers of SCHs in Hart Hall.

“Why should a legacy of under-funding of AAAS be allowed to keep us from reaching the same status as the rest of the Ethnic Studies units because we haven’t lost FTEs in recent years to retirements, retention or other issues that don’t apply to us?”

We do not seek to continue any legacy placed on AAAS.  It would seem that you are equating others (students and/or other departments), unintentionally or not, with the forces that have kept AAAS under-funded. That is patently not correct. We are simply students that are trying our best to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities that we have had of being able to have a supportive and enriching education through these programs; to be accused of continuing a legacy that has kept the program down is unfair and misguided since that is exactly what our demands aim to work against.  We feel that the above statement is creating a divisive attitude within our movement that is counterproductive as it is creating an unsafe environment for all parties involved.  A divide and conquer attitude is precisely what the administration wants and we as students will not give in to that.  Remember, the students are the ones that provided the departments/programs the opportunity to voice their concerns and we feel that your statement implies that we are the ones that are continuing these legacies of marginalization.

3.  We, the students that have been sitting at the table with Chancellor Katehi, Dean Owens, and the Directors of the Ethnic Studies departments/programs, have not heard or have been influenced by this notion you claim to know that pits the other three Ethnic Studies departments against AAAS. No department has, in any way, made any kind effort to show that they are more desperate for or deserving of resources by comparing their situation to the situation in AAAS.  Let it be known that no faculty or staff member caused the students to begin this movement.  We are not under the commands of anyone.  We are not blind to see what is going on in Hart Hall and we are smart enough, as university students, to think for ourselves and take action accordingly.  The fact that many of us sitting around the table identify as Chicana/o and/or Native is besides the point. We are student activists that are being negatively affected by the changes and cuts just like many of our peers, who may happen to be of different ethnicities and/or identities.  Everyone was given a chance to be a part of the movement. If some students within the AAAS community are being told by faculty that their departments are doing “ok” and as a result do not join our movement, this is not our fault.

Also, you claim that other faculty and staff have been saying that your department is being “favored”, but we have yet to hear that.  Maybe this is a self-conscious thought as you yourself stated, in a sense, that African and African American Studies was on the sidelines sitting this out.  This comment established the sense of “free riding”, because what we get from your response is that the students’ activism is creating a wrong narrative and you will not take a part in that, but in the end when the students won the opportunity to discuss a proposal, you were the first to have an aggressive attitude as to who should get what.  We feel that you pit the others against your program in your response, and pretty much “spanked” the students for their activist work because you believe it is creating the wrong narrative.  Also, it is unfortunate that in order to prove your point, you dug out and circulated an old email  by a student leader who sought to better the conditions of his department and only highlighted the line which read: “One of my main platform goals as a Senator is to address the FTE positions that have not been restored to Chicana/o Studies.” While doing this, however, you failed to also highlight the student’s next line:

However, due to the increasingly disturbing cuts and moves that are taking place in Hart Hall, I wanted to extend this to the other Ethnic Studies.”

This essentially states our main goal: to include all the departments and programs as we move to the top.  The way in which you went about calling out this student seems very divisive.

4.  Again, we do not want to continue the divisive nature of this discussion.  Whether or not we as students benefit from the Dean’s proposal, we are all going to have to work together to make positive changes happen for our units. We hope that this is just one person’s response, but we would like to point out that by being the AAAS Chair you represent your whole unit and in essence your entire community.
Having said that, we, the students, believe we deserve an apology.  From our analysis of your response, it seems as if though we are being reprimanded for our work.  Whether you believe that we, as student activists, carried out our work  correctly or incorrectly is perhaps less important than the fact that you are ultimately benefiting from the hard work and dedication it took to get all of the departments/programs to this point. To us, it seems very ungrateful to criticize those that have helped put you on the path to receive additional FTEs when originally you wouldn’t have received any. Rather than reprimanding us, you should attempt to work with us and truly realize what students’ needs are, both in and out of your specific program.  We do hope to move forward, together, in order to better provide for our communities so the door is open for further discussion and you may reach us at peopleofcolorunite@gmail.com

Thank you.

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Comments
  1. Christina says:

    Thanks for all your fantastic hard work! A resource center for AB540 students would be so amazing.

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