Friday, November 16, 2007

Statement in Support of Columbia University Hunger Strikers


The Lumumba-Zapata Coalition at the University of California-San Diego, stands in solidarity with the brave hunger strikers at Columbia University. Their principle demand, that Columbia University has “a Core Curriculum that is inclusive not only of the canon of Western European thought, but that seeks to build a deep understanding of the multicultural society that we live in and the power relations that constitute it” resonates completely with the mission of the LZC at UCSD, and the list of demands we made upon the Thurgood Marshall College administration at UCSD last spring. (See our blog:

We hope that—in contrast to UCSD—administrators at Columbia University will listen carefully to the demands of the hunger strikers and take action tocombat institutional racism, rather than perpetuate it with empty rhetoric about diversity and egregious indifference to the concerns of marginalized communities.

The LZC also supports the hunger striker’s criticism of Columbia’s expansion that will displace 5,000 people and entail the bulldozing of a Harlem neighborhood. We are appalled by such plans, and demand that Columbia devise a sustainable expansion plan that is just for all members of the surrounding community, rather than an example of blatant gentrification and the alarming seizure of urban living space.

We would also point out that what is happening at Columbia further indicates the urgency for UCSD and all universities to chart a new course in their commitments to inclusion and improving campus climates. It also signals the necessity for university administrations to listen to student concerns about diversity and education rooted in social justice, rather than dismiss, punish, and demonize those who point out disturbing trends in higher education. Students who speak for justice are our future hope, and it is shameful that they must be driven to strike so that administrators might do what they should have been doing to begin with.

Please circulate this message widely and sign the petition of the Columbia strikers:

For more information on the strike, please consult the striker’s website and a recent New York Times article:

In solidarity,

Lumumba-Zapata Coalition, University of California-San Diego(contact us at

Monday, June 25, 2007


Dear UCSD community:

The Lumumba-Zapata Coalition is back!

For those of you who do not know us, we are a coalition of undergraduates, graduate students, T.A.s and professors. Our common goal is to improve how we teach about diversity, identity, differences of power, and social justice at UCSD.

Last quarter, we launched a campaign to improve Thurgood Marshall College’s Dimensions of Culture (DOC) program. DOC is a mandatory three quarter-long course for TMC undergraduates. Its curriculum is intended to teach students how to think and write critically about identity construction, structural inequality, and social injustice. In recent years, the curriculum has lost its critical edge: rather than being given the skills to interrogate power and ideology, DOC students are being taught to simply “celebrate diversity.” In addition, DOC lecturers and T.A.s who voiced their concerns about how the program has progressively lost its critical edge and pedagogic integrity have been forced out of the program.

Thanks to the hard work of all LZC members and our undergraduate, graduate, and faculty supporters, we made some significant progress last spring quarter. On May 11, Thurgood Marshall College Provost Allan Havis announced the formation of a curriculum committee with the task of reviewing the Dimensions of Culture Program. Forming such a committee has been the central demand of the LZC from the beginning of its campaign. The university has also formed a student committee that will also be involved in this review process.

In spite of this step forward, our task is in no way complete.

We want DOC to offer the most effective ethnic/gender/sexuality studies curriculum with a critique of global capitalism. DOC should have the most up-to-date, critical readings in these fields. We want the lectures to inspire students to think critically about their assumptions surrounding issues of identity, power, and justice. We are still waiting for the DOC and TMC administration to commit to these goals.

DOC Administrators opened this academic year with a curriculum that articulates the same watered-down version of multiculturalism. The DOC and TMC administration presently acknowledge no problem in the way things are taught now. Their aversion to any dialogue on this issue suggests they want things to remain the same. Their inertia tells us that they will do nothing unless we demand that they take action.

This is what you can do to help us improve the DOC curriculum at UCSD:

1) The most important thing right now is that we need people to write an email to Prof. David Gutierrez (the chair of the DOC curriculum committee) demanding that the committee take action on this important issue. It can be a brief note stating: “I support the LZC’s campaign to improve the quality of education on issues of identity, power, and justice at UCSD. I expect the university to make the necessary changes to the DOC curriculum and I demand that they hire the most qualified available lecturers to teach DOC courses.” Please email this note to Prof. Gutierrez at: (also, please cc it to TMC provost Alan Havis at:
2) Subscribe to the LZC email listserv and stay up to date with this campaign. All you need to do is reply to this message and type “subscribe me” in the subject line.
3) Attend the LZC’s meetings and events. Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, 17th at 4:30pm in the bottom level of the Fireside Lounge, TMC campus (future times and locations T.B.A. through the listserv

In solidarity,

Lumumba-Zapata Coalition

Sunday, June 24, 2007

FIRE Sends Second Letter Demanding that UCSD Stop Curtailing Free Speech and Academic Freedom

Many of you are probably aware that right before the end of Spring quarter, the UCSD administration tried to change their policies on "Speech, Advocacy and Distribution of Literature."

Among the proposed changes are:

-that any demonstrations of 10 or more people will require a permit
-that they must be 25 feet from the doors of any administration buildings
-that amplified sound can only occur between 11am-1pm and 5pm-7pm.
-that UCSD employees, TA's and faculty, must not express their political views on campus.

The LZC strongly feels that the university's attempt to push this amendment at the end of the quarter was a response to the rallies of the last few weeks where TAs, students and faculty have all come out to rally in support of the LZC's demands.

Luckily, students and faculty mobilized in response to this. A group of about 30 concerned people met with outgoing Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs Prof. Joseph Watson and convinced him to postpone the passing of this amendment to Fall Quarter pending further discussion. This small victory further proves the need for and effectiveness of campus manifestations.

This week, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent Chancellor Fox an impressive letter criticizing the proposed changes. By citing previous case law regarding attempts to regulate free speech on campuses, FIRE convincingly argued that UCSD's proposal is most likely unconstitutional and therefore illegal. In the letter, FIRE also further rebuked the UCSD administration for cracking down on free speech and academic freedom, first with the firing and intimidation of DOC TAs and lecturers, and now with this.

Click HERE to download FIRE's letter (this link will redirect you to a media hosting website. Once you get to it, click on the 'download' link to obtain a PDF copy of the letter).

We would like to make it very clear that the LZC resolutely opposes the passing this or any other amendment that limits the exercise of free speech and academic freedom on this or any other campus.

We ask the University to do the right thing and protect what is most fundamental for the functioning of any university, the freedom to pursue truth wherever it may lead us.

Monday, June 4, 2007

D.O.C. Student Rally And Walkout Video/ Tell Chancellor Fox to Fulfull Her Pledge

Dear Friends,

Last Wednesday 300+ students in the Dimensions of Culture Program at UCSD’s Thurgood Marshall College walked out in protest of the wrongful dismissal of two long-time DOC teaching assistants, Benjamin Balthaser and Scott Boehm. Students associated with the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition organized a march and a demonstration outside the Chancellor’s Office, which was successful in drawing the Chancellor and other administrators outside to discuss the on-going controversy, including the university’s unwillingness to grant student representation on the committee recently established to review academic programs at TMC, including DOC.

Click HERE to view the entire rally on youtube (after reading the rest of the message, please watch and forward this link/message widely to listserves, colleagues, alumni, friends, parents and any media contacts you might have).

To see the first part of the youtube video, click below.

On the video you will notice that the Vice-Chancellor of Undergraduate Education Mark Appelbaum clearly states that Balthaser and Boehm were not rehired for next year not because of their political activities, implying that this decision was based upon their teaching performance. This is in sharp contradiction to what Balthaser and Boehm were told during their “interviews” with DOC Director Abe Shragge, who made it absolutely clear that his decision had nothing to do with their teaching performance—which was exemplary, and included teaching awards. This also contradicts what UCSD Human Resources stated during the first meeting between UCSD and the United Auto Workers, who filed a grievance with the university over the ousting of the two TAs. In that meeting, which took place two days after the student walkout, UCSD Human Resources stated that the teaching practices of Balthaser and Boehm were not the reason for their dismissal, but that it was their public critique of the DOC program that resulted in their ousting.

Also on the video you will see Chancellor Marye Anne Fox pledge to look into the matter and to make sure a just outcome in the case is reached. Yet, as of today—two months since the news first broke—the university has failed to right the wrong done to these two TAs. If free speech and academic freedom mean anything at UCSD this decision must be reversed. If the Chancellor really cares about justice, if she really cares about the concerns of students, if she really cares about campus equity and critical multicultural education, if she really cares about the quality of undergraduate education she should intervene to stop this on-going injustice and show that she means what she says.

We are running out of time, the academic year is almost over. PLEASE DO ONE LAST THING to help the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition’s campaign before the quarter is over. After you watch the video footage, cut and paste the following message and send it to the Chancellor ASAP (please cc the LZC at

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox
(858) 534-3135

Dear Chancellor Fox,

I have witnessed your pledge to look into the non-re-hiring of Benjamin Balthaser and Scott Boehm as teaching assistants in the Dimensions of Culture Program for the upcoming academic year. I have heard you vow to ensure a just outcome is reached in their case. Because UCSD Human Resources stated during their first grievance hearing that their dismissal from DOC has nothing to do with their job performance, but for their public critique of changes to the DOC program—which is exactly what DOC Director Abraham Shragge told Balthaser and Boehm during their “interviews” for re-hire—I call on you to reverse the decision to dismiss them from DOC on the basis of 1st amendment free speech rights, the AAUP-recognized academic freedom of graduate student teachers, and most of all, because UCSD should be a educational site of critical inquiry and debate, not a place where drawing attention to a problem—which TMC Provost Havis himself has recognized by establishing a committee to review DOC—results in disciplinary actions. I believe UCSD should be a university that values critical thinking, principled dissent, and passion for providing the best education possible to students. Most of all, I believe UCSD should be a university that respects all of its workers, and I ask you to intervene on the behalf of Balthaser and Boehm immediately to prove that UCSD is such an institution, and that UCSD’s “Principles of Community” are upheld, rather than exposed as empty rhetoric. You have the power to rescue UCSD’s reputation, which has been degraded because of this situation. I strongly urge you to do so immediately.


[your name]


THANK YOU! There are only two weeks left in the quarter before the summer begins, so we need as many people to contact the Chancellor this week. Please forward this message to EVERYONE you know, every listserve you are on, all your colleagues, your friends and family, including your parents, people at other universities—and, of course, anyone you know in the media, or organizations that work on higher education issues. Encourage them to watch the video footage of the student walkout and demonstration, and to e-mail and call the Chancellor’s Office this week. If we are going to be successful at this point, she must feel the pressure to intervene. Thanks to the walkout and demonstration last week, she is starting to feel it—help us keep the pressure on!

Please contact the LZC if you’d like to get more involved (either now or next year):

In solidarity,


Letter from Anonymous D.O.C. TA Regarding New Filibustering and Suppression of Dissent by UCSD Administration

Through the ever-thickening haze surrounding the critique of DOC, none of us should not forget the actual TAs and students who are at the heart of the issue. This letter, then, is not about the curriculum. It is about the gross mishandling of a constructive critique. Instead of supporting an idea from two good-standing colleagues, or even considering the idea, TMC administration, from the start, has singlemindedly set out to sink the idea, and to sink two colleagues.

This depersonalization of the matter was epitomized even in the way the administration handled the recent walk-out. The night before, Provost Havis pleaded with the entire DOC community, via email, to refrain from coming to class at all, rather than disrupt lecture. This not-walk-in strategy, though perhaps a good one in disbanding the student protest (though at a university I don't think we should be dealing in tactics), was a missed opportunity to address a burning issue. The "matter at hand" was not mentioned even once in the email. Likewise, the Provost also issued a threat of a "commensurate reduction in pay" to any TA that wouldn't be present in the following lecture. The fine, considering most TA's lead two sections, would have amounted to around 1/80th of a monthly paycheck, or 17 dollars. And yet the most patronizing aspect of the threat was not the fine, but the fact, again, that the Provost decided not to talk about the issue, or even to mention it.

If the administration accuses LZC and its supporters of ad hominem attacks, then let them stand accused of abuse of authority, a calculated politics of indifference, and dehumanizing the entire situation.

For exactly what the two TAs were fired for we still don't know. Repeatedly the administration has told us that they can't legally talk to students, TAs, or even concerned faculty about the issue because a formal grievance has been filed. First of all, that is simply not true, as the TA union has explicitly testified. They can talk about it. They have an ethical responsibility to talk about it, a responsibility to talk about the unmistakable unease that has been brewing and a responsibility to justify their actions to the deeply concerned community. And yet they refuse. Supposed "legal decorum" should never stand for skirting an issue. It seems that the repeated "we can't talk about it" is becoming nothing but a passive-aggressive ploy at filibustering. The administration has shown us their true face and it seems to be but an officious smile. True, spurred on by the LZC and the overall critique of DOC, a review committee has been formed, and now that committee may even stand to recognize student representation. But let's remember that this committee was initially pushed by and fought for by the two TAs who have now been pushed and fought out of their jobs.

And so this is what we are left with… the administration has recognized the importance of the policy and forgotten the bodies behind it. That's approaching dangerously close to academic piracy, or maybe we could call it live-action plagiarism. The ends, the unjustified and undefended dismissal of two good-standing TA's, do not justify these means. Let me briefly address the parsimonious rationalization that the administration has presented for the "unhirings".

One- they were dismissed because they were presenting the students with an alternative curriculum. Now, as multiple students of the TAs in question have corroborated, the claim is simply not true. If, however, the claim is that the TAs gave the students the option to do outside reading for their presentations, then they have clearly trespassed no policy, as the Head TA has very openly shared a sanctioned outline to do exactly the same, that is, ask students to find and read material not included in the curriculum. There is even a binder in the DOC office with suggested outside material for the TAs to share with their students.

Two- they were fired because they were making demands that the curriculum be changed. Yet there is no evidence that any "demand" was ever made. The TAs in question, as well as a number of other TAs, had had several civil, professional meetings with the administration to discuss their concerns. The administration's deflecting of the issue is not only disrespectful of the two TAs in question, it is disrespectful of all the TAs who may have concerns in the future and now be reluctant to voice them, it is disrespectful to the students who deserve a well-refined curriculum that can only come with repeated and vigorous critique, it is disrespectful to the history of Thurgood Marshall College, and the people who fought to make it stand for a diverse, alternative, student-oriented place of learning, and it is disrespectful to academic freedom in general.

And so how long can we stand by and watch the administration use their positional clout to fire our colleagues for unsubstantiated and undefended reasons? There's an answer. It wasn't a rhetorical question. We can stand by and watch for about another week. And then we can all go home for the summer, and forget about it. But I don't think the two TAs are going to forget about it. They don't have jobs. They are an integral part of the community. They are outstanding TAs. Their students, fellow TA's, and even Dr. Shragge and Dr. Wright have attested to that. They are exemplars of DOC. Their efforts should be celebrated and encouraged and stand as examples of positive thinking and positive change, not reprimanded and then used to replace creative and constructive criticism with fear and silent complacency… The issue needs to be addressed. It is our responsibility to break this unprofessional silence.

Let my anonymous signature be a sign for the legitimate fear and intimidation stirred up by the administration. The TA's have heard a clear message: don't critique the program or you will be fired. Until the decision is reversed (or at the very least, explained), and Scott Boehm and Benjamin Balthaser are rehired, there is no other message to be heard.

Very Sincerely,

A Concerned TA

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Students Rally and Walk Out Featured in Front Page of FIRE's Newsletter, 'The Torch'

Today we saw a very successful DOC rally that coincided with a DOC student walkout.

Featured speakers included the president of the Student Afirmative Action Committee (SAAC), the current MECHA chair, and Kent Lee from the LZC. Also, David Selby from the UAW Local 2865 was there to talk about the union's grievance process. In addition, Prof. Sharon Elise from Ethnic Studies spoke about the broader context and ramifications of the issue of the watering down of the DOC curriculum.

Chancellor Fox, Vice-Chancellor Applebaum, and former TMC provost Watson were there to listen to the speakers.

A news piece about the event has been posted in the front page of FIRE's (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) blog, 'The Torch.'

Click HERE to read the article.

Friday, May 25, 2007

NEWS FLASH: Lumumba-Zapata Coalition Gets First Major Victory!

(but there is still a lot more to be done...)

On May 11, Thurgood Marshall College Provost Allan Havis announced that he has formed a curriculum committee to review the Dimensions of Culture Program.Forming such a committee has been the central demand of the LZC from the beginning of its campaign, so we are delighted that the Provost has made this important decision, which is also a major victory for the us. This shows that students, TAs, and faculty working together to improve the D.O.C. program can have an effect and we thank those that have collaborated with us and supported the LZC!

The members of the new TMC Curriculum Committee include:

Robert Cancel (Literature & Third World Studies)
Yen Espiritu (Ethnic Studies)
David Guttierez (History)
Christine Hunefeldt (CILAS/ History)
Robert Horwitz (Communications)
Sara Johnson (Literature)
Cecil Lytle (Music and former TMC Provost)

We encourage you to contact these professors so that they understand the need to revise the DOC program and curriculum in order to ensure it once again stresses critical thinking, multicultural education, marginalized viewpoints, the study of structural inequality and social justice. They need to know that this is an important issue for all those concerned about diversity and campus equity at UCSD.

It is imperative that we remind our blog readers that this is not an issue about giving a particular political twist to the curriculum. We are not in favor of turning D.O.C. into a program of 'indoctrination,' as one faculty member recently claimed in an Op-Ed piece in the Guardian.

We seek a curriculum that meets and exceeds the standards that it's supposed to follow. In the case of D.O.C., this means the standards of what many call a 'multicultural education.' We want there to be the best, most critical multicultural education curriculum possible at UCSD. We want the syllabi to have the most up to date, insightful readings in the field. We also want the lectures to inspire students to think critically and revise their own unproblematized assumptions about the world. We are not interested in a program that just respects everybody’s opinions. Racism is not an opinion. Gender discrimination is not an opinion. Institutionalized poverty is not an opinion. Homophobia is not an opinion. As uncomfortable as these topics may be for some, these are facts that need to be engaged critically, and what better place to do so that in a program like D.O.C. that by its own mission statement should be specifically designed to do that.

While we are excited about this committee, we are disappointed about the following:

that the Provost has said nothing about our demand that the university immediately rehire the two ousted TAs, Benjamin Balthaser and Scott Boehm. Ironically, by forming this committee, the provost took the very same step that Boehm and Balthaser were asking the administration to take and got fired for
• that the Provost did not consult the LZC about forming the committee
• that the Provost did not acknowledge that his decision had anything to do with our demands
• that the Provost still has not agreed to meet with the LZC publicly, despite our repeated attempts to arrange such a meeting
• we are also dismayed that there are no undergraduate students or DOC TAs on the committee. The provost claims this is technically impossible. We reject that claim. There are many other committees in the university that have student participation. Thankfully, some of the members in this newly formed committee have stated that they too want there to be students in the committee. We will continue to push for student participation in this and all other committees in the university. We would like this committee to appoint as members two TMC undergraduate students who are also members of the Student Affirmative Action Committee, as well as two experienced DOC TAs whose academic work intersects with the fields of ethnic studies, American Studies, critical race theory, critical gender studies, multicultural education and/or social justice.

We will continue to encourage the administration to follow our other demands. Our goal is to get them to do the right thing: improving the D.O.C. program and making sure that in UCSD and any other university TAs do not get fired for exercising their academic freedom and free speech rights.

Check out the other blog articles, particularly the one titled “DOC as Robust as Ever?” for a description of what we mean when we say that the D.O.C. program has been ‘watered down.’

To echo the voices of those who attended our teach-in #1 in front of the TMC Provost’s office on May 3, 2007:

“Keep DOC real! Keep DOC real! Keep DOC real! Keep DOC real”


• Help us make the D.O.C. program as academically rigorous as possible!
• Remind your professors and administrators that students should have a say in their education!
• Tell the university that they can’t fire TAs solely for exercising their academic freedom and free speech rights!

Here are several things you can do to help make our campaign a success. The only way we’re going to win this is with your help:

1) Read this blog and get informed about how we can improve D.O.C. and get the two ousted TAs, Benjamin Balthaser and Scott Boehm, rehired.

2) Get your friends, TAs, and professors involved. Talk to them about what’s been going on in D.O.C. Send them an invitation to GET THE FACTS ABOUT D.O.C. by checking out this blog (

3) If you would like to endorse the LZC’s demands as an individual, please copy and paste the following into an e-mail message with "LZC Endorsement" in the subject line and send it along with any additional personal comments to:

a. Chancellor Marye Anne Fox-
b. the TMC Provost, Alan Havis-
c. the UCSD Associate Vice-Chancellor of Undergraduate Education, Mark Appelbaum-
d. Our coalition address-

Copy and paste the text below or write your own letter:

"I endorse the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition's list of demands, and ask that the Provost of Thurgood Marshall College agree to their request for a public meeting about recent changes to the Dimensions of Culture program. I also condemn the intimidation, harassment and dismissal of teaching assistants who raise questions about the direction of the program, which is antithetical to the goals of higher education, and a serious violation of free speech rights and academic freedom as understood in its broadest sense. On those grounds, I advocate for the immediate reinstatement of Benjamin Balthaser and Scott Boehm as teaching assistants in the DOC program."

4) If you are part of an organization that might want to endorse the LZC demands, please circulate them among your members and consider drafting a statement stating why the organization chooses to endorse them. Please e-mail such endorsements to, to the TMC Provost Alan Havis-, to Vice-Chancellor of Undergraduate Education Appelbaum-, and to Chancellor Fox,

5) Call or e-mail any or all of the following people in order to voice your concerns:

a. Alan Havis, Thurgood Marshall College Provost, (858) 534-4002
b. Mark Appelbaum, UCSD Associate Vice-Chancellor of Undergraduate Education, (858) 534-7959
c. Marye Anne Fox, UCSD Chancellor, (858) 534-3135

6) Join the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition! Send us an e-mail message with "LZC Interested" in the subject line. In your message please include your contact information, your campus/department/student organization affiliation and let us know you'd like to get involved in our campaign.

7) Attend the LZC’s meetings: Mondays, 2pm at the Fireside Lounge

Thank you for your support of this campaign. We appreciate your commitment to protecting academic freedom, promoting equitable universities and working towards social justice in higher education. The LZC needs your support in order to ensure UCSD is a campus where such ideals can be realized—or at the very least—discussed without the threat of disciplinary action.

The Facts About the LZC

A message from the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition/

Many influential members of the UCSD community have been willfully
misrepresenting the facts about the LZC critique of recent changes to
the DOC program, as well as the teaching practices of Benjamin
Balthaser and Scott Boehm, the two long-time TAs that Dr. Shragge
wrongfully dismissed from their teaching positions in the program for
the upcoming 2007-08 academic year. The LZC, which consists of
undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty, has refrained
from engaging in such dishonest and unprofessional tactics, and would
like to set the record straight.


Balthaser and Boehm were dismissed from their long-standing positions
as DOC TAs because of their teaching performance. (Abe Shragge, UCSD
Guardian, April 30, 2007)


Balthaser and Boehm were ousted for their criticism of recent changes to DOC.

During the "interviews" Dr. Shragge arranged for DOC TAs wishing to
return to the program next year, Dr. Shragge made it absolutely clear
that his decision to not re-hire them had nothing to do with their
teaching performance, for which they had consistently received
outstanding student and program evaluations. (In fact, Boehm won one
of only two teaching awards for his performance during the 2005-06
academic year.) Rather, their dismissal was due to their criticism of
changes to the program outside of class. Thus, the LZC can only
interpret Dr. Shragge's reversal as an attempt to cover up his
violation of Balthaser and Boehm's First Amendment free speech rights
and academic freedom as graduate student TAs to critique changes to
the DOC program and mission. Further, previous teaching staff (at the
graduate and faculty level) testify to having been ousted in a similar
manner from the program for their criticism of the direction of DOC.


DOC is as robust as ever, and that the LZC critique of the changes to
the program are completely unfounded and without any merit whatsoever.
(Michael Schudson, UCSD Guardian, May 3, 2007)


The quality of education at DOC has declined as it has drifted away
from its mission.

During its first decade, the majority of professors teaching in DOC
were ladder-ranked faculty whose expertise fell within the purview of
the DOC program. Next fall, one permanent lecturer and two current
TAs will teach DOC lectures. The LZC claims that a major factor in
this dramatic change in faculty composition is DOC's gradual drift
away from its original mission, and its history of ousting professors,
lecturers and TAs who challenge the program to return to its


DOC TAs critical of changes to the program have argued that DOC
"should be a program in political indoctrination." (Abe Shragge,
Inside Higher Ed, May 3, 2007)


No DOC TA or the LZC have ever stated that DOC should promote
political indoctrination.

We are simply defending the mission of the DOC program by pointing out
how DOC has strayed from its commitments to teaching social justice
and providing students with a rigorous and challenging multicultural
education. We are fundamentally opposed to the idea that DOC should
be a vehicle of political indoctrination.


As DOC TAs, Balthaser and Boehm required their students to follow
alternative syllabi, instead of the DOC syllabus. (Nancy Gilson, Mass
E-mail, May 3, 2007—sent at the request of TMC Provost Allan Havis)


Neither Balthaser nor Boehm ever required students to follow an
alternative syllabus.

Like the majority of DOC TAs who are encouraged to do so by DOC
administration, both Balthaser and Boehm used supplementary texts in
their sections, and Boehm structured highly successful student
presentations around material from outside the course reader closely
related to the course—a teaching practice for which he was repeatedly
praised by DOC administrators and students over the past three years.


The LZC has personally attacked Nancy Gilson, Mary Blair-Loy and/or
Abe Shragge, and that our attacks are unfounded. (Michael Schudson,
UCSD Guardian, May 3, 2007 and Michael Bernstein, Mass E-Mail, May 21,
2007—sent to all TMC students by TMC Provost Allan Havis)


The LZC has never personally attacked anybody.

Our structural argument that the majority of the recent changes to DOC
have been overseen by professors whose academic training and research
is not necessarily the most appropriate for DOC has been
misinterpreted and misrepresented by Michael Schudson and Michael
Bernstein as virulent personal attacks on a few of the individuals who
are implicated in our global critique. We feel strongly that such
accusations are meant to discredit the LZC, and to distract people who
have limited knowledge about DOC from taking our critiques seriously.
The fact that the TMC Provost has established a curriculum committee
to review the DOC program is evidence that our critique—unlike that of
many of our outspoken opponents—is not rooted in unfounded hostility,
but in well-researched and logical argument.


TMC and DOC administrators and staff cannot discuss the wrongful
dismissal of Balthaser and Boehm because they have filed a union
grievance. (Allan Havis, E-Mail, May 17, 2007 and Abe Shragge, DOC
Meeting, May 21, 2007)


In consultation with the union, the LZC has confirmed that no such
prohibitions exist.

We believe that by employing this tactic university administration—and
particularly the TMC Provost—is attempting to avoid any confrontations
with UCSD community members who are outraged by the wrongful dismissal
of Balthaser and Boehm. He has cancelled meetings with concerned
faculty, and has not scheduled meetings with students who have
garnered the support of thousands of UCSD community members in the
form of petitions and resolutions. He also refuses to meet with the
LZC or with Balthaser and Boehm, all of whom have repeatedly requested
a meeting with him to discuss their concerns.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Expresses Concern About Balthaser/Boehm Case

Here's a letter of concern we just received from the AAUP's Program in Academic Freedom and Tenure regarding the non-rehiring (i.e., firing) of two D.O.C. TAs, Scott Boehm and Benjamin Balthaser.
May 21, 2007

Dear Mr. Boehm and Mr. Balthasar:

We have reviewed the documents you sent us concerning your status as graduate teaching assistants in the Dimensions of Culture (DOC) program in the Thurgood Marshall College of the University of California, San Diego. According to your account of the events in question, you were each informed during the second week in April by the director of the DOC program that your appointments as teaching assistants in the program would not be renewed for the 2007-08 academic year.

In your respective April meetings with the director, you state you were told that the decision against renewing your appointments was not because of concern about the quality of your teaching, which apparently has been evaluated quite favorably, but instead because you were “undermining” the program and “disrespectful” of the director’s policies. You further indicate that each of you has been active in questioning the academic content and direction of the DOC program.

If what you have stated to us is essentially accurate, then the decision not to renew your appointments presents a troubling academic freedom issue. For what this Association has to say with regard to graduate students and academic freedom, see the enclosed Statement on Graduate Students (note in particular numbered paragraph 1 under “Recommended Standards,” which states that graduate students “should be able to express their opinions freely about matters of institutional policy”).

We understand that together you have filed a grievance pursuant to the Agreement between The Regents of the University of California and the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAWE), AFL-CIO, Academic Students Employees Unit. We hope that the grievance will result in a timely and just resolution of your cases.


Jonathan Knight
Director, Program in Academic Freedom and Tenure

Friday, May 18, 2007

GSA demands that UCSD rehire two ousted TAs

On May 15, UCSD's Graduate Student Association (GSA) passed an unanimous resolution with two key demands:

• That UCSD ivestigate hiring practices at TMC’s D.O.C. program
• That the university immediately rehire Scott Boehm and Benjamin Balthaser, the two recently ousted D.O.C. TAs

In their meeting about this issue, GSA officials expressed real concern about the dangerous precedent that the non-rehiring (i.e. firing) of Boehm and Balthaser only for criticisng the D.O.C. program would set for all graduate student TAs on campus.

This is one of many other voices that are joining the LZC in demanding that UCSD to do the right thing.

Click HERE to read the entire resolution.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

NOW AVAILABLE: LZC’s Trifold Pamphlet: “What’s Happened to UCSD’s Only College Founded by Students?”

• Download this pamphlet
• Email it to as many people as you can
• Print it, photocopy it, pass it around.
• Help us get the word out about what’s wrong with TMC’s D.O.C. program and what we can do to improve it.

To dowload it, click HERE (once you click this, go to the "click here to start download" link to get the file).

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) endorses the demand to rehire the two ousted D.O.C. TAs

More good news! The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE: has endorsed our demand to get the university to rehire the two most resently ousted D.O.C. TAs, Benjamin Balthaser and Scott Boehm.

They have written a long letter to Chancelor Fox and Provost Havis demanding that they be immediately reinstated and that the university investigate their non-rehiring (i.e., firing). It provides an excellent argument for why the firing of these TAs constitutes a clear violation of academic freedom and free speech.

Click HERE to download a PDF copy of the letter (once you click this, go to the "click here to start download" link to get the file).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TEACH IN #2!: An educational presentation- 'How D.O.C. Got Watered Down,' was a SUCCESS!

On Tuesday, May 15th, 4pm, the Cross Cultural Center Lecture Hall, the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition held a public educational meeting to "get the facts about DOC." The meeting was a success. Many students and even some faculty attended the event. Everybody who spoke agreed with our demands and most pledged their support for the LZC.

This meeting was opportunity for people who wanted more information about what we mean when we say the curriculum was watered down, about faculty and hiring decisions, and regarding the dismissal of teaching staff and faculty for their stance concerning the program.

Given the administration's current claim that nothing substantial has changed and the program is "robust" as ever, we invited the UCSD community to come and get the truth abouyt D.O.C.

Thanks to all of those who attended!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Former D.O.C. Professor Writes Letter to TMC Faculty About Program's Problems (Confirming LZC's Criticisms)

Dear all:

Here's a letter Prof. Winnie Woodhull wrote to the TMC faculty. She is a former D.O.C. lecturer as well as an associate professor in the Literature Dept. Like the two recently ousted TAs, Scott Boehm and Benjamin Balthaser, she was 'not rehired' to teach due to her internal criticisms of the program.

Here's a preview (click HERE to read the full letter)
Dear colleagues,

I write to urge you not to jump to conclusions based on Nancy Gilson’s account of developments in DOC over the past few years. I taught in DOC 3, the course on
”Imagination,” for five years, the last of which was under the direction of Abe Shragge, with Nancy Gilson just coming on board as well. I feel strongly that the current conflicts are not about TAs creating parallel syllabi, which no one has done, or about TAs requiring students to read short supplementary texts for discussion in section, which has long been standard practice not only in DOC and the other writing programs, in the Department of Literature and the Third World Studies Program, but also in the Critical Gender Studies Program which, like DOC, employs TAs from various departments across the humanities and social sciences. From my perspective, the graduate and undergraduate students who have organized the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition are right to claim that DOC has abandoned its original mission. Indeed, when I was teaching in DOC 3, I was constantly in the position of resisting the director’s efforts to avoid controversial matters altogether and to substitute edutainment for intellectual work.

Click HERE to read the full text

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lots of Media Coverage!

The LZC's campaign to return the D.O.C. curriculum to its founding principles and rehire the two ousted D.O.C. TAs, Benjamin Balthaser and Scott Boehm has received plenty of media coverage over the past two weeks.

We have set up a wiki site that contains links to all the articles, Op-Eds, and letters to the editor on this important issue.

Click HERE to read these articles.

Stay tuned to this blog for future articles in the news.

Friday, May 11, 2007

May 3 teach-in on youtube!

Hey all. In case you missed it, the May 3 teach in is now on youtube. Because we can't post the whole thing in one big chunk, we split it into ten short segments.

Click HERE for the link to the whole video

Also, for a preview, click on the play button below to see the first part!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

D.O.C. as Robust as Ever? You decide…

In a recent UCSD Guardian article by Professor Michael Schudson, he claimed that DOC was “as robust as ever.” The Lumumba-Zapata Coalition disagrees. We believe that DOC has experienced a sharp decline in both its commitment to addressing structural inequality, as well as its reputation for providing students with a stimulating and challenging education. We feel there is a positive correlation between having a point of view and quality of education, as a clear sense of mission translates into coherent teaching that students can respond to as they see fit. In the past, DOC used to provide students with the opportunity to respond intelligently to complex social issues that involve race, class, gender and sexuality in the United States. We seek to reinvigorate DOC so that it returns to an intellectually solid program that foregrounds the experiences of marginalized groups in U.S. society.

Click HERE for more information

LZC Offers Earnest Input to D.O.C.

Hey folks. This is the Op-Ed the LZC published in UCSD's guardian this week. It is a direct response to Michael Schudson's Op-Ed dismissing our concerns and demands.

Click HERE to access the original Guardian article online.

Also, click HERE to read Prof. Michael Schudson's piece claiming that the "D.O.C. Program is as robust as ever"


Guest Commentary: LZC Offers Earnest Input to D.O.C.
By the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition
The Guardian, May 10, 2007

When Benjamin Balthaser interviewed to renew his contract with the Dimensions of Culture writing program, he was told he would not be welcomed back. When he asked if this had anything to do with his teaching, he was told emphatically no; his evaluations had been exemplary. After four years of teaching D.O.C., he was told to go because of his public critique of the program.

A day later, a second TA, Scott Boehm, was told the same thing: After winning the Thurgood Marshall College Distinguished Teaching Award the year before, he would not be welcomed back because of public statements he'd made about the D.O.C. program. That D.O.C. Director Abraham Shragge said as much to and then a day later changed his story for the Guardian should come as little surprise, since dismissing two TAs with distinguished teaching records for their public speech is a clear violation of academic freedom, let alone the First Amendment.

So what did these two TAs say that was so horrible? That education with an emphasis on social justice is a bad idea? That students should leave Marshall College for Revelle College? They argued that D.O.C. had strayed in the past five years from its core principles of social justice. They said that D.O.C. watered down its commitment to viewpoints marginalized by inequities of race, class or gender and that it diminished its critique of dominant culture. The Lumumba-Zapata Coalition marvels that, 30 years after the founding of Third College in a wave of student protest, demanding a college that would address the intellectual and social needs of marginalized students and students of color, attempting to hold up these principles in public debate could be grounds for censure and dismissal.

And what is remarkable about the changes to D.O.C. is not their wide-ranging nature, but rather their consistency. Students were once asked to write about structural racism in their first quarter; they are no longer. Students were once asked to write about affirmative action in their second; they are no longer. Students were once asked to consider issues of police brutality, imperialism and the racialization of the prison system; they are no longer. Students were once asked to read about slavery and the genocide of Native Americans alongside the Constitution and the Federalist Papers; the Founding Fathers are now uncritically praised.

Is race still a topic in D.O.C.? Of course. Does D.O.C. still discuss inequality and other important issues? Yes. We aren't saying it doesn't; we are asking for open dialogue about changes to a program that is central to aspirations for social justice.

This is not a question of politics. This is a question of whether D.O.C. is meeting the mission it set for itself and the academic standard it's supposed to achieve. Looking at the readings is not enough. Just to name a few examples from recent years, minstrelsy has been taught as satire with no mention of racism. The position of the Family Research Council - which says gays are perverse sex criminals - has been taught as just another point of view. Allan Bloom's assault on multi-cultural education has been taught as daring intellectual individualism and Thurgood Marshall's famous dissent in the first affirmative action case isn't discussed in the college bearing his name. Asking for tenured faculty, who have expertise in the fields they teach, is not a violation of academic freedom, as professor Michael Schudson claims - it is merely a request for the quality of education students deserve.

What the LZC asks for is simple: an advisory committee made up of students from Thurgood Marshall College Student Council and the Student Affirmative Action Committee, long-time TAs and, most centrally, faculty who have expertise in the areas outlined in the original plan for the program: ethnic studies, critical race theory, American studies, critical gender studies and Third World Studies. This demand has been endorsed by 17 student and faculty organizations including the Student Affirmative Action Committee and its seven student-member organizations, the Office of Academic and Support and Instructional Services, Concilio, the Cross Cultural Center, the ethnic studies department, the Native American Alumni Association, Project YANO and others. Together they represent the views of thousands of students and faculty on campus and in the community. These are the same concerns that Schudson calls "laughable." If D.O.C. is the same as ever, one must ask why many of its original supporters now question its direction.

The hypocrisy of an administration that stands for critical dialogue yet silences TAs by removing them, that changes a program founded by students of color without consulting those chosen to represent them, that says one thing to the public and another in private is not exceptional; it is all too typical. UCSD is ostensibly committed to waving the flag of diversity; there is a question about how far it will to go to achieve it. The D.O.C. administrators want to say the program is the same as ever, but in fact they avoid providing a program that challenges students. Diversity is not about making everyone happy - it is about justice and meaningful, engaged dialogue.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Testimonials from Two D.O.C. Teaching Assistants

Click HERE to read two testimonials from one current and one former DOC TA. They both attest not only to the gradual watering down of TMC's Dimensions of Culture curriculum but also show how DOC TAs have been harassed for speaking out against these changes.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Letter to Guardian editor by D.O.C. freshman

Hey all. Thanks to D.O.C. student Samantha Huang for writing this well written letter to the editor of UCSD's newspaper, The Guardian. This shows how this campaign is primarily by and for the college's students who want to have a say about the direction the education is going. That is something we need to keep reminding the UCSD administration.

Click HERE to read the letter (scroll below)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lumumba-Zapata Coalition Demands

April 11, 2007

From their beginnings, Thurgood Marshall College (TMC) and the Dimensions of Culture writing program (DOC) have been dedicated to principles of racial equity and social justice. However, recent changes to the DOC program have threatened the integrity of TMC’s commitment to such goals. DOC was conceived as an alternative to mainstream education that would challenge students to critically question the society in which they live, particularly in regards to issues of race, class, gender and sexuality. Unfortunately, the current leadership of the DOC program seems opposed to fulfilling this mission. In response, we have formed the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition, which seeks significant and rapid changes to reverse these troubling trends.

It must be recognized that the Dimensions of Culture program is not the private property of a few administrators and lecturers, but that it is a part of Thurgood Marshall College, which has roots in historical struggles over establishing more equitable systems of education that challenge the status quo in both content and form. Thus, the input of students, teaching assistants, and UCSD faculty from across campus who are committed to social justice should be included in a meaningful way into the decision-making processes about the substance and direction of the DOC program.

In this spirit, the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition demands that the TMC provost and the DOC director take the following steps immediately:

1) Return to the principles of the original DOC curriculum.

When DOC was created in the early 1990s it was designed as a program that would challenge hegemonic assumptions about race, class, gender and sexuality. While we recognize that it still does so to a certain extent, recent curriculum changes have watered down the content of the program, while it has been simultaneously transformed into a form of patriotic education that fails to critically interrogate the foundations and on-going injustice of U.S. society. Fundamental DOC terms such as hegemony, power, ideology and intersectionality should be reintroduced into the DOC curriculum and emphasized throughout the course. Foundational readings by Stuart Hall, from critical race theory and about social and economic justice should form the backbone of the DOC curriculum, rather than be gradually eliminated from the course, as they have been since 2000.

2) Hire more staff, faculty, and TAs whose academic training suits the DOC program, with a particular emphasis on recruiting people of color to work in DOC.

Since 2004-05 DOC has lost many of its qualified faculty, some of whom feel they were been pushed out of the program. They have largely been replaced with lecturers whose academic training is not suitable for the DOC program. Instead of faculty whose academic work intersects with the fields of ethnic studies, American Studies, literature, critical race theory, critical gender studies and theories of social movements, the principle DOC lecturers since 2005-06 have been a military historian (who is also the current director of the program, since fall 2004), a political philosopher (whose academic training concerns traditional and conservative twentieth century philosophers), and a sociologist whose work focuses primarily on female corporate executives. The result of their dominant influence over the curriculum has been a more mainstream, traditional curriculum that is consistently incoherent and far from the original vision of the program. This trend must be reversed immediately in order to preserve DOC’s original mission, maintain the integrity of TMC and prevent student, TA, and UCSD faculty dissatisfaction with the current direction of the program. In addition, DOC and TMC should be strongly committed to hiring staff, faculty and TAs of color to work in the DOC program, which has not been the case.

3) Form a DOC advisory committee to be established by the end of May 2007.

This committee would include two TMC Student Council officers, two SAAC officers, and four experienced TAs and four UCSD faculty members from outside of DOC whose academic work intersects with the fields of ethnic studies, American Studies, literature, critical race theory, critical gender studies and theories of social movements. Before the end of the academic year, this committee should independently review the current state of the DOC curriculum in relation to the history of Thurgood Marshall College, the original DOC plan and curriculum, as well as current academic scholarship in the fields that relate to the mission of the program. It should then meet with the TMC provost and DOC director in order to suggest changes to remedy the course’s progressive incoherence and drifting away from the program’s founding principles, as well as make suggestions about the hiring of teaching staff and recruitment strategies. In order to ensure that this committee’s recommendations will be taken seriously by TMC and DOC administration, it should reconvene once during each quarter to review the current curriculum, make suggestions and discuss hiring decisions. Members of the Lumumba-Zapata coalition and the TMC provost should agree upon the selection of members for the advisory committee. Future members will be chosen by the acting advisory committee members on an as needed basis.

4) Stop the militarization of DOC.

Since 2004-05, many DOC events have involved military-based themes. While the military is certainly an important institution, we feel strongly that the military should be critiqued in the curriculum, rather than promoted since DOC is supposedly committed to promoting social justice, not the primary vehicle of state violence. Instead of military-related events, speakers and service projects, we want DOC to reflect its mission by providing ways for students to explore and address issues of equality outside of the classroom through activities that enable them to do so. One example of this is the maquiladora tour to Tijuana that was organized by a TA and Lumumba-Zapata Coalition member during in 2006.

5) Improve DOC’s extracurricular events.

Invited speakers to TMC and DOC-sponsored events should reflect the mission of the college, rather than undercut it and the DOC program curriculum (for example, Juan William’s fall 2006 address). Improvements also need to be made to DOC’s Black History Month activities, which would include placing college demands on the UCSD administration to improve campus diversity and racial equity, goals that TMC and DOC should be actively working towards, instead of simply paying lip service to.