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.