Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Higher Education Crisis Looms for Chicanos/Latinos: Conference Articulates New Strategies

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Higher Education Crisis Looms for Chicanos/Latinos: Conference Articulates New Strategies

Article excerpt

Higher Education Crisis Looms for Chicanos/Latinos: Conference. Articulates New Strategies

by Roberto Rodriguez

SAN FRANCISCO -- Within 15 years, Latinos will make up more than 51 percent of all California K-12 students. Based on today's educational trends, unless there is a drastic intervention, Latino students will not be educated by Latino educators, will not be taught their history, language or culture, will continue to drop out in extremely high numbers and will not have equal access to higher education.

With that backdrop, 2,000-plus educators and administrators from throughout the state recently met in a crisis-like atmosphere in San Francisco to deal with the most pressing issues facing Chicanos and Latinos in higher education.

The negative trends Latinos are facing are not accidental, said Cruz Reynoso, a professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles. As an example, he said there are forces that are working against affirmative action.

"In the beginning of the 1980s, during the Reagan years, the notion of equity, the notion of affirmative action, had begun to be considered by some as politically correct to attack ... to incorrectly describe them as reverse discrimination."

Sensing Danger

Reynoso said there is a movement afoot in academe, "to view these programs as preference programs and not truly within our concept of equality. Those voices have been gaining greater voice in higher education, and certainly have gained greater voice in the political life of this nation. Perhaps because of that reason, just [recently], in front of the UCLA law school, students had a rally in support of equity and affirmative action...they sense danger to affirmative action."

Already faced with growing street violence, gangs, drugs, alcohol and an alarmingly high drop-out rate, Chicano and Latino youth are now faced with rejection at colleges and universities, and what educators have termed "anti-immigrant hysteria." It is directed primarily against children and the educational system, said Ed Apodaca, an administrator at San Francisco State University and chair of this year's Chicano/Latino convocation in California.

Part of the strategy of combating these negatives has to be long-term, said Apodaca. "We need to graduate teachers and Ph.D.s. There's an emphasis on Ph.D.s, because those who are [now] teaching the teachers graduated 20 to 30 years ago... and they know nothing of Raza [Latinos]," he said.

The shorter strategy is combating the anti-immigrant sentiment in the state.

Codifying Racism

Currently, more than two dozen anti-immigrant bills in the state of California have been proposed, while others have been introduced on the federal level.

Some bills seek to exclude undocumented immigrant children and legal residents from receiving any form of education. Although all the bills have been defeated, "It is getting harder to convince the Democrats to vote against anti-immigrant legislation," said Debra Escobedo, attorney for the San Francisco-based Multicultural Education Training and Advocacy.

The most recent bill, AS 70, introduced last month by Assembly member Mickey Conroy (R-Orange County), would make it a felony for an undocumented student to enroll in and attend any college or university, or for someone to assist them in the process. Gov. Pete Wilson has introduced an even more radical proposal: stripping citizenship from children born of undocumented parents -- an act which would, some say, effectively overturn the 14th Amendment.

Conference Issues

The recent Chicano/Latino convocation brought forth educators and administrators from the California Community College system, the California State University system, the University of California system, independent colleges and universities and educators from primary and secondary school systems.

The main purpose of the conference was to address and view the educational issues facing Latinos as part of a continuum -- from kindergarten to postdoctoral studies, to the appointment of college presidents. …

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