Friday, May 25, 2007

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.