Letter to UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Professors
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RE: Departmentalization of All Ethnic Studies Programs at UC Berkeley
To the Faculty of the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley: The chair of Ethnic Studies and the dean of Social Sciences must report to the campus administration on progress made regarding the 2009 External Review’s recommendations by May 2011, the end of the academic year. We, the undersigned, hereby maintain that the faculty reply to the UC Berkeley administration with a response to departmentalize all the programs in the Department of Ethnic Studies.
Since the establishment of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, the administration has actively attempted to undermine the project set forth by the original demands of the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF): the establishment of an autonomous, thriving interdisciplinary college from where the comprehensive histories of people of color in the U.S. can be studied, while constructively engaging with the racialized and oppressed populations in the United States. The administration has attempted to pit the ethnic studies community against itself, first in 1974 (by departmentalizing African American Studies, at the expense of Ethnic Studies as a whole), in 1981 (by attempting to break up Ethnic Studies and blocking the Brinner Committee Report’s suggestions to strengthen the programs), in 1994 (by blocking the departmentalization of Ethnic Studies programs under a division, but instead consolidating all programs’ staff and budgets into one). All of this has included continual reduction of funds and resources resulting in marginalization, while further institutionalizing the department away from its original intents.
The current 2011 California budgetary crisis is just the most recent threat. We consider the 2009 External Review another attempt at reducing Ethnic Studies by recommending the collapsing of all four programs into one, with “emphases” remaining in their place (an attempt to consolidate all programs’ faculty and curriculum into one). We consider this “streamlining” to be part and parcel with the current efforts by UC Berkeley administration to “reduce expenses and streamline processes” under the banner of “Operational Excellence.” Through the justification of “Operational Excellence”, the administration has consolidated staff budget, while firing staff in Ethnic Studies, African American Studies and Gender and Women Studies.
The historical record shows that after every past external review, the Department of Ethnic Studies has recommended departmentalization with either its own college or within a division in the College of Letters and Sciences. In 1991, the Department of Ethnic Studies responded to an External Review, known as the Kirkpatrick/Stack report, with the recommendation to support the departmentalization of all the programs in Ethnic Studies. The then Provost, Carol Christ, rejected the recommendation by stating; “the strength of the heritage of minority students and faculty” is best expressed through the “recognition of Ethnic Studies sub-fields.” We maintain that the histories, cultures and epistemologies of people of color are valuable enough to warrant institutionalized departments, not just “sub-fields.” We deserve and insist to be moved from sub-fields to full departments.
We regard departmentalization as the forward solution given the current state of crisis the department is in. We can no longer operate as “four departments in one” and collapsing, rather than growing, is not the answer. Each department needs to fulfill its own specific services and responsibilities, to its own specific diverse populations’ needs.
The costs that it would require should be minimal; and whatever economic price it would incur is to be considered direct investments to the university’s call for diversity and inclusion. In an era of great demographic and social changes in California and throughout the United States, expanding the legitimacy of the field of Ethnic Studies, with all its accomplishments, should be looked at as a key investment.
It is long overdue for the University of California to make good with its promise to diversity and inclusion and give Ethnic Studies at Berkeley the recognition, support and resources it very well deserves!
We want departmentalization!