In a recent letter, responding to the hunger strike, Dr. Gibor Bazri and Dr.Carla Hesse referred to fact that “The Berkeley campus has one of the earliest and strongest Ethnic Studies departments, and we value that history and intend to maintain and increase its intellectual stature.” Despite such supportive rhetoric, the administration has neglected to mention the fact that the attainment of our Ethnic Studies department was the result of the Third World Liberation Front (1969), a student led movement that held a strike on campus to demand a Third World College. Thus, valuing that history means that they value the non-violent civil disobedience being practiced by the hunger strikers today, in their effort to sustain and grow Ethnic Studies. Additionally, we see a fundamental contradiction in the administration’s language when they speak of increasing our intellectual stature, as they cut the staff that support faculty and students in their intellectual endeavors. Over the past few months as students have met with Dean Carla Hesse and top level OE administrators, the students have been told these cuts will not affect the “excellence” of their departments, but history tells us otherwise. We know that the support these staff provide to their respective departments is VITAL to the recruitment and retainment of students of color on the UC Berkeley campus. Thus, a cut to these staff represents an attack on diversity, whether the administration acknowledges this fact or not.This is why we risk our health, to stop these cuts and protect the crucial members of our campus community in their efforts to support underrepresented students.
The recent cuts affecting the department of Ethnic Studies, resulting from Organizational Simplification (a sub-committee of Operational Excellence), is yet another example of the administration subjecting Ethnic Studies to a process of attrition. But what must be understood is that cuts to departments and programs that serve underrepresented students on this campus is detrimental to the value of education in the state of California.
This attack on education is another example of how history repeats itself. Over the last two years we have seen the mass mobilization of students to protect education. With the wheeler 43 occupation of November 20, 2009, the May 2010 Hunger Strike to oppose SB1070 legislation, to this year March 3rd Wheeler ledge protest, the momentum to save education continues on. Thus, we repeat a sentiment popular in our community “Respect our Existence or Expect our Resistance”. The University continues to believe that students will sit in silence as education is attacked, yet again, under department budget consolidation happening under the auspices of Operational Excellence. In 1969 we saw the way in which the Third World Liberation Front challenged the university and demanded a Third world College. In 1999 we saw those demands emerge yet again as students fought against what they perceived as the “near extinction” of the Ethnic Studies Department, which at the time had no full time Native American Studies professors and only one full-time Chicano Studies professor. We would like, for once, to feel that Ethnic Studies is appreciated for all of the diversity work we do on this campus, including recruitment of, and support to, students of color that are NOT even Ethnic Studies majors. We demand more than lip service, we want to see material support! So why are we pushed to a hunger strike yet again? The university has set April 30th as the day when the effects of Organizational Simplification will be seen. On the 30th key staff in various departments will be fired. This is only the beginning of the downsizing and homogenizing of services and value of education UC Berkeley students can expect in the years to come. Conscious of the history of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley and the Lack of respect with which the department has been historically treated, regardless of its material and intellectual accomplishments, we demand the following: Demand 1. Reinstatement of the FTE staff positions in Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and African American Studies cut by organizational simplification under Operational Excellence. 2. End the current process of Operational Excellence 3. Publicly support for the Legislative Resolution –ACR 34, co-authored by Assembly members Ricardo Lara and Luis A. Alejon in support of Ethnic Studies in California. 4. We demand that the administration publicly acknowledge the unfulfilled promise of the creation of a third World College at UC Berkeley Again, if the administration does not respect our existence then they can expect our resistance. We need people to come out and support and fight not only for Ethnic Studies and Gender Women Studies but also for your education. This is a movement that will continue untill our demands are met. The cuts being made to education will not be tolerated. This affects all of us and we will not stop. It’s a collective fight. As your fee’s go up and the value of your education spirals downward, it becomes clear that it is time to change the status quo and begin to demand our rights as students to the University. This is our university so lets show administration what were capable of. WE WILL BE HERE ALL DAY AND NIGHT AND WE HOPE THAT ALL OF YOU COME SUPPORT THE STRIKE AND STAND IN SOLIDARITY TO SAVE EDUCATION. ALL WATER, BLANKETS, HONEY, VITAMINS, AND ANYTHING THAT YOU SEE FIT TO BRING TO THE HUNGER STRIKE, PLEASE BRING IT. WE NEED PEOPLE IN THE MASSES SO COME OUT!