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