Saturday, March 2, 2019

50th Anniversary El Plan Conference Paper

Frank P. Barajas
UC Santa Barbara
February 22, 2019

El Plan de Santa Barbara: Accountability and the Development of Leaders at California State University Channel Islands

From the inception of the idea of a Chicana/o Studies BA program at CSU Channel Islands, the CHS departments at the neighboring public universities of the University of California at Santa Barbara and Cal State University Northridge served as translocal examples of the possible. In addition, Chicanx alumni of el movimiento from these two universities and others, such as UCLA and Cal State LA, took interest from the start in 2000 in CSU Channel Islands’ development as Ventura County’s first public four-year institution. They also served as the energy of advocacy and support for the establishment of CI’s Chicana/o Studies baccalaureate program.

As the discussion for Chicana/o Studies advanced, it was important to me that the degree, with a commitment to self-determination, be exactly that rather than as a component of an Ethnic Studies program. Considering the history and proportion of ethnic Mexicans in Ventura County, it was imperative that this program be discrete to self-determine its relevancy to the community. In fact, circa 2003/04, the university leadership sought to have in its place an ideologically neutered Multicultural Studies degree, with Chicana/o Studies being a module and minor, and, most likely, not controlled by Chicana/o Studies trained faculty. To convince me of the Multicultural approach, an administrative functionary stated that Chicana/o Studies would eventually germinate from a Multicultural Studies program as the number of ChS minors grew with it. From my reading of El Plan, I knew this path would ensure that Chicana/o Studies, as an independent degree program, would never develop into the vibrant cultural and political campus repository that it is now.

Takeaway. Self-determination is key.

Furthermore, as detailed in El Plan, Chicana/o Studies at CSU Channel Islands recognizes the transgenerational character of university faculty, students, and staff. Hence, CI Chicana/o Studies has been the basis from which ChiLFSA (the Chicana/o Latina/o Faculty and Staff Association) emerged and where additional faculty, administrators, and staff support each other and advocate for the inclusive and equitable employment of fulltime colleagues. As a field of study, we are in the third generation of Chicana/o Studies. So there needs to be this transgenerational referencing, mentorship, and advocacy, especially in the retention, tenure, and promotion of faculty.

In fact, in preparation for this panel, I was struck, again, by the veteran insight that El Plan extends in relation to the Machiavellian intrigue characteristic of higher education. In short, experienced educators schooled students, many who were naïvely indoctrinated into an Americanist ethos, like me, and activist in how colleges and universities functioned.

We also recognize that senior faculty, as privileged tenured employees, need to role model, both, tactical and, when necessary, disruptive resistance to the machinations of academe. Senior faculty must provide also wide berth for assistant and associate professors to take risk and pursue their professional visions, in terms of teaching, scholarship, and service. Otherwise, Chicana/o Studies gambles with the production of lackeys and sycophants concerned only in their own self-aggrandizement, usually into administration, over the interests of students.

By way of MEChA, the CI Dreamers, ChiLFSA, and other campus organizations (student, faculty, and staff) Chicana/o Studies, as poignantly detailed in El Plan, makes students conscious of the underlying politics and tribalism involved with university appointments, the tenure-track faculty in particular. This is critical as many, if not most students, do not understand the dissimilar power between tenure-track faculty versus temporary instructors—who dominate the teaching ranks—in terms of program development and overall campus representation on behalf of the Chicanx community. Chicana/o Studies at CI breaks down to students the political importance of it increasing tenure-track Chicanx faculty across disciplines. And only recently, again, in the spirit of self-determination, has Chicana/o Studies at CI focused more attention on the recruitment and development of homegrown Chicanx administrators. In this case, Chicanx administrators need to be held accountable, specifically by students, to the interests of the community not the institutional powers that be, as El Plan admonishes us.

The establishment of curricular programs and the articulation of Chicana/o Studies with community colleges will increase the pipeline of Chicanx and Latinx students into the university. To follow this charge of El Plan, CI Chicana/o Studies spearheads Chicana/o Studies Summits in the Ventura County Community College District and Ethnic Studies Now in the Oxnard Union High School District. Both initiatives with Title V/HSI funds.

In relation to Title V funds that range in the millions of dollars on campuses, over 30% of UCSB’s 20,000 students are designated Hispanic. And over 50% of the 7,000 students at CSU Channel Islands are such. These students are largely ethnic Mexicans, with an ever-increasing proportion of Central and South American ethnic students. This being the case, how are these grant monies spent, is the important question. And how do Chicanx students/Latinx students benefit. Or, are they just pimped to augment the waning budgets of universities and colleges?

At CSUCI Chicana/o Studies faculty, staff, and administrators develop and participate in programs subsidized by Title V/HSI grants. This is done to create a more inclusive and equitable campus culture. Furthermore, Chicana/o Studies in tandem with ChiLFSA request university support for initiatives such as Noche de Familia (that educates family to the university life of their student loved ones), Si Se Pudo! Chicana/o Graduation Recognition (fundamentally a Chicanx commencement), the Michele Serros Learning Community, and a Raza Bienvenida (welcoming) event that brings together students, members of the community, faculty, staff, and administrators at the start of each new academic year.

These are just a few examples of the relevance and life of El Plan de Santa Barbara at CSU Channel Islands via faculty, staff, and administrators who they themselves, in one way or another, are the progeny of Chicana/o Studies courses, degrees, and minors as envisioned by the people el movimiento.