Everyone knows that we are in trouble. The university graduation statistics suggest that there will be a downturn in enrollment. Just as in previous cycles, silver bullets are being proposed. It is natural that we have different opinions. However, this is nothing new. When educators —or let’s say administrators— propose solutions, they are generally based on the legislature, giving them more money so they can adopt a new program that appears to put them at the cutting edge. At the California State University, Northridge (CSUN), the last silver bullet was impaction—a bone to the sciences. It allowed the science departments and individual professors to limit or exclude the number of specified students admitted to their departments. As a form of de facto segregation, it was supported by the administration, particular departments and, unfortunately, some members of the Latina/o community.
I realize that I overthink everything, but it is beyond me how we put university administrators with little classroom experience in charge of educational reform when they have made careers of avoiding teaching. By running away from teaching, some even repeat that stupid saying: “those who can’t do, teach.” My retort: “those who can’t teach, go for the money.” At CSUN, impaction was advanced by an administrator, Dr. Elizabeth Adams, who has gone up the ranks. As thousands of first-generation students of color are being rejected, the sale of a campus building is a common practice—going to the highest bidder, where the name of the building has no historic or significant meaning.
Many of the changes taking place at the California State University (CSU) are included in the 2021-2022 state budget. This includes the conversion of Humboldt State University into a polytechnic with a $25 million special allocation by the state. I don’t know how administrators work with public budgets, but it is costly to build a new program where there are a lot of special interests who have their hands out. Apple Inc. also appears to be investing in the CSU. I wonder if they’re getting a deal reminiscent of Trump’s obsession to put his name on everything. Hopefully, the outcome will not be the same as the failed Trump casinos in Atlantic City.
As an educator, I would point out that the system requires a high fueled K-12 education system, which requires the full support of the state. Unfortunately, the state has not been willing to invest in public education. At CSUN, we attempted to bring more historically underserved students of color to campus, yet the system has failed them. The investment of a support system for these underserved students has been begrudged by members of the sciences who are not willing to provide the additional resources for those who attended underfunded and overcrowded K-12 public schools. Despite the racist actions against our students, we have graduated and accredited many Chicana/o-Latina/o teachers over the years. Apparently, this accomplishment has no value because members of the science sector on campus claim that we steal resources from them.
On a related note, I have observed over the years the rise of charter schools in the suburbs. Historically, their primary purpose has been to shield White middle-class students from Brown and Black working-class students. While we see that top students of color are also being recruited to charter schools, at the end of the day, it doesn’t help our public schools if the most advanced students are being recruited like star athletes. This amounts to a brain drain in public education. If we want to have diverse Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs on our campuses, I am in full support of them. To make sure that we don’t build these programs at the expense of students of color, we must first consult with dedicated faculty of color in the field, such as Prof. MariaElena Zavala and others, who have committed their professional lives to advance racial equity and diversity in STEM and beyond.
In short, I have had enough of the Big Lie.
Dr. Rodolfo F. Acuña is the founding Chairperson of the Chicana/o Studies Department at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), and author of the classic book, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos.
Editor’s Note: This essay was edited and distributed by Dr. Álvaro Huerta. Dr. Huerta is a Religion and Public Life Organizing Fellow at Harvard Divinity School (HDS) and author of the award-winning book, Defending Latina/o Immigrant Communities: The Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond.