The Cornell University Coalition for Ethnic Studies (CUCES) has introduced a proposal that recommended expanding academic programs to represent the diverse interests of the Latino Studies Program, the Africana Studies and Research Center, the Asian American Studies Program and the American Indian Program. The ethnic studies task force, composed of faculty members from each of the ethnic studies programs and members of the administration recommended by the coalition, heard a presentation given by members of CUCES yesterday in Day Hall. CUCES also presented the proposal to a group of students meeting yesterday afternoon in Goldwin Smith Hall.
About 20 students from the departments composed the 21 page document during the past semester in order to bring attention to faculty shortages and financial requests of ethnic studies programs.
“This is a type of proposal in which undergrads and grads have sat down and looked at where these fields are going,” said Malik Dixon ’02, a member of CUCES.
Graduate and undergraduate students formed the coalition this semester to work with members of the task force to address issues of representation and funding for ethnic studies programs.
“We started this coalition because the administration treats the ethnic studies departments very marginally in terms of funding. We have the mechanisms in place to expand our ethnic studies, it just a question of the administration backing us,” said Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez grad.
Members of the ethnic studies task force who heard the CUCES presentation will meet with students in the following weeks to discuss strategies for implementing the terms of the proposal.
“It’s a very comprehensive proposal, and very ambitious. There are many ideas that need to be discussed by the programs since these are not things that can be enacted by the task force itself,” said Robert L. Harris, vice provost for diversity and faculty development.
“On the outset, there was generally a warm reception. [The task force] was very impressed with the breadth of the report, but they mentioned including a timeline and details of implementation. This proposal will be used as a template for the task force’s document that will be implemented into policy,” said Marc Rivera ’02, a presenter.
“There’s been a very cooperative tone established by Marc and Provost [Biddy (Carolyn A.)] Martin. There is a generally optimistic mood among the task force,” said Isaac Kramnick, vice provost for undergraduate education, a member of the task force who participated in discussions earlier this semester but was absent from yesterday’s presentation.
Members of CUCES who were present regarded the meeting as a success, noting that the dialogue about the proposal would continue.
“We presented the proposal and went over key points in conjunction with the task force for ethnic studies. We hope it will circulate among departments,” said Sika Bediako ’04, one of the presenters.
Following a Jan. 30 rally held in response to two bias-related incidents that occurred earlier that month faculty and staff created the ethnic studies task force to address academic and security issues on campus.
“The coalition comes out of the whole spirit of activism on campus. It is the primary source of energy making sure we have programs and departments that are viable. Any money, efforts to create dialogue or recruitments have been only because students have decided to rally, march or take action on one level,” Dixon said.
“By writing this report we are saying to the University, ‘You don’t have a long term vision so we’re going to create it for you,'” said Guidotti-Hernandez.
“When you look at shifts in the trends of the administration, ’69 is the year you see the major shift. When you look at ethnic studies as a whole you see that the administration have marginalized it,” said Dixon.
Members of CUCES discussed how an expansion of curriculum could promote larger cultural awareness on campus.
“There is a correlation between the lack of diversity in the curriculum offered and the lack of curriculum in the student body. The curriculum needs to express ethnic diversity in this trans-global, trans-national world,” said Guidotti-Hernandez.
The proposal sites funding made to many construction projects on campus during recent years as a point of comparison to the lack of funding for ethnic studies departments.
“I’m always amazed when the administration says they have no money but the more mainstream programs seem to have no problem receiving funds. It makes the $2.5 million promised to CUCES seem insignificant,” said Guidotti-Hernandez.
The proposal also contains in-depth analysis of trends in recruitment in numerous ethnic studies programs at Cornell.
“It can happen,” Dixon said.
“It seems like they’re making an attempt. It looks sad when we go back in short-term history and cite every incident of faculty members not receiving tenure. But we have to get this information out,” he continued.
Through an implementation of the proposal’s terms, the University will attract more diverse students and faculty, according to members of CUCES.
“Our education would be dramatically different. It would change the intellectual environment for the better,” said Guidotti-Hernandez.
CUCES recommended that students write letters to the provost to encourage the adoption of terms included in the proposal.
“It’s almost a slap in the face that we have only two tenured positions and a few lecturers that are hired on a semesterly basis [in the American Indians Studies Program],” said Guidotti-Hernandez.
Members of CUCES noted that many of the programs offered through the proposal would have broad appeal to students in all disciplines.
“The Asian American studies department currently has very few faculty. If they are going to be adding [scholarship] to their field they are going to need additional faculty and funding, said Guidotti-Hernandez.
Guidotti-Hernandez cited the teaching of at least one Native American language and increasing the diversity of graduate seminars as two areas that could be addressed through the adoption of the CUCES proposal.
“We also need the support of faculty in mainstream fields and that is where we are going to face an uphill battle,” said Guidotti-Hernandez.
Archived article by Dan Webb