Lumumba-Zapata Coalition Teach-In at Thurgood Marshall College, UCSD

On May 3, a teach-in outside the administration building of UCSD's Thurgood Marshall College attracted close to 200 people to protest the dismissal of two Teaching Assistants for criticizing the erosion of the commitment of its Dimensions of Culture curriculum to critical analysis and social justice.

The Lumumba-Zapata Coalition, named after the original coalition of African-American and Chican@ students whose organizing led to the founding of Third [now Thurgood Marshall] College in the 1960s, presented a list of six demands addressing instructor diversity, intellectual integrity, the reinstatement of TAs Benjamin Balthaser and Scott Boehm and an end to intimidation of critics of the college's curriculum.

A stream of student and faculty speakers addressed the circumstances of Balthaser and Boehm's firing, the pattern of intimidation going back at least five years, the history of Third College, and the context of racism, misogyny, classism and queerphobia that makes the integrity of the Dimensions of Culture program essential for Marshall's students. At the end of the teach-in, Marshall provost Allan Havis weakly repeated several times that he was there to listen, invoking UC bureaucracy as an excuse to avoid directly addressing the issues.

In the week following the teach-in, Havis announced the formation of a curriculum committee to review the Dimensions of Culture program, one of the key demands.

Last Wednesday, the Lumumba Zapata Coalition and a crowd of more than 50 supporters marched to the Chancellor's complex, where they confronted and questioned Marye Anne Fox, Chancellor of UCSD. A full report will follow shortly...

Teach-In Video: Part 1 | Part 2 || Partial Transcript of the Teach-In || Background || Lumumba-Zapata Coalition Demands

Carlos Blanco speaking at Teach-In
Carlos Blanco speaking at Teach-In
Teach-In Partial Transcript

"We live in a country where just this week immigrants and immigrants rights advocates in LA's MacArthur Park. What happened? Heads busted, batons clapping down on people's bodies. People were terrorized. People were beat down. In this country. 2007. For what? Advocating for human rights. Advocating for social justice."

"The teach-in... is not just about us. It's about larger issues on this campus that have to do with diversity. That have to with questions of campus equity. With social justice. Our treatment for advocating for these things was dismissal."

"DOC were some of my most enjoyable classes that challenged me and in turn caused me to grow in my activism and knowledge of society and my place in it. well, today i am ashamed to be a Thurgood Marshall student. The reality is that Marshall is not following through with its own philosophy and promises it made to students and to the community."

"I'm here to tell Thurgood Marshall College and everybody else that this is an issue of freedom. Of freedom of education. Of freedom of ideas. Of freedom of thinking. I'll leave everyone with the immortal words of Malcolm X: 'You cannot separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace until he has his freedom.'"

"This is a small issue in the larger issue of the corporatization of UCSD... I've never seen this many people in the last four years come together about the war in Iraq. I've never seen this many people come together about the people who are dying every night crossing the border. I've never seen a program put on by this college, which is where it should be, or people coming together about the victims of Katrina."

"If you look at [Angela Davis'] biography, she says, in the first few weeks i kept going 'Where are the black people? Where are my people?' she said. Couldn't we ask the same question today. Where are they? Less than one percent of the undergraduate population at UCSD is African American. Less than one percent. Less than one."

"Don't let the corporate quality of this university make you think oh the faculty doesn't want to help us on these issues. We do. We're here. There are a lot of us here today."

"Can you imagine. Forty to fifty African American students, forty to fifty Chican@s creating the idea for Lumumba-Zapata College."

"We've always read supreme court cases in [Dimensions of Culture] Two and we should continue to do so. But now when we read the Bakke case, we don't even include the dissenting opinion of Thurgood Marshall."

"We live in a nation where newcomers from Latin America and Asia labor away in sweatshops and slave-like conditions to make the electronics products, to make the clothes, to make all matter of consumer goods that you and I and everybody else wears. You would think that these kinds of conditions, this sort of exploitation, these kinds of struggles against exploitation, oppression and injustice were precisely the kinds of materials, the substance that students in a space of higher education, in a place of higher learning, would be encouraged to read about, would be encouraged to listen to, would be encouraged to debate..."

"Funny no one talks about how prisons in the United States have no problem practicing affirmative action, and we used to point out that irony..."

"The focus on race in [Dimensions of Culture] One was dropped out. And It was not dropped out because they thought somehow something else was more important or because racism was solved, it was dropped out because, an administrator told me, race was considered too controversial for some students."

"They told me this has nothing to do with my teaching. I am being forced out for what I have been saying about the program. I am not the first person this has happened to, but I am hopefully going to be the last."

"I am concerned for the community whose core principles seem to be violated by the practices of {Dimensions of Culture] administration... Principle One: We value each member of the community and applaud all efforts to enhance the quality of campus life. Scott and Ben through the LZC advocated increased faculty diversity and called for a more rigorous curriculum... DOC administration fired them. Principle Two: We affirm each individuals right to maintain a climate of justice. Scott and Ben through LZC specifically seek to improve education regarding social justice. DOC administration fired them. Principle Three: We value the cultural diversity of UCSD. This is reflected through the efforts of Scott and Ben and the current demands of LZC to hire more faculty of color. It is not reflected in the hiring and firing practices of DOC faculty and staff. Principle Four: We acknowledge biases in our society and promote awareness through education. Scott and Ben through the LZC... challenge students to critically question t the society in which they live, particularly with regard to race, class, gender and sexual expression. If the DOC administration and director support these goals, they why have they dismissed them? Another key principle that just jumped out at me is the right of freedom to expression. In TMC, the LZC was repeatedly denied a public meeting. It necessitated this demonstration and DOC TAs exercising their first amendment rights got fired."

"This university keeps telling us what to do. It's authoritarian and paternalistic... This is a public institution. We keep forgetting what public institution means. We are paying for this stupid ass building here. We are paying a provost who doesn't listen to us. We should question authority. We should question the provost...There are no structures for the community to part of the decision making process...They are calling us indoctrinators. Blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. At the same time they are building a nice mini-mall for private enterprise. This is our university."

"One of the things I've heard is that DOC is worried about the comfortability of students who get offended by certain things that might be brought up in the program. That uncomfortableness that some people face in one year, I think I can honestly say some of us will feel our entire lives."

"When we raised our concerns... the administrators just came up to me afterwards and said 'Are you ok? Do you have a problem? Are you having a bad week?' ... If you really believe in your education and the fact that this college stands for social justice and social change, you will continue to ask questions and you will start to organize and mobalize. That's what we couldn't do because of intimidation. We had to agree to leave because there was no hope at that time, and seeing you all here just completely changes that."

When we presented the demands to the provost, the provost refused ... a meeting with our coalition to discuss these issues."

"I'm Allan Havis, provost of Marshall College. I'm here to listen.... I'm here to listen. I'm here with sincerity to listen... I can't address all the issues that are being brought up today because they are bigger than DOC, they are bigger than Marshall College, they entail the entire university of california, not just san diego."

"But what about the demands of the LZC." "Keep DOC real." "Bring the TAs back." "You do have the power to do something, You don't need people from UCLA or UC Irvine. They're right here." "Stop hiding behind UC bureaucracy."

"I'll say again I am here to listen. Listening is a creative talent."

"Listening seems to be a creative talent that the Thurgood Marshall College is very good at. We are demanding action."

"If we cannot have a free and fair open exchange and airing of the concerns and ideas and issues and protests and complaints that the Lumumba Zapata Coaltiion has brought forth, then I would submit to you that, since all of our fates are intertwined and linked, that the very health of the intellectual commons, the very health of academic freedom and integrity and democracy itself are at stake. If the Ethnic Studies Department, these students here, the Lumumba Zapata Coalition, the California Cultures Initiative and if the administration itself can embrace fairness, equity, creative, diversity and democracy -- then, by god, the Dimensions of Culture program at Thurgood Marshall College should too."

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