Saturday, December 8, 2012

You Cant Ignore Us - Latino Vote

ENRIQUEZ: You can’t ignore us

Election results do not lie. As statisticians break us down, Latino voters went 75 percent for President Obama this November. I saw campaign ads in Spanish whenever I turned on the TV. Linda McMahon’s ads sat on the sidebar of my computer whenever I logged on to Facebook, but translated into Spanish. Now, the immigration debate is creeping into political coverage across the board. America must keep paying attention.
This election we voted against those who tried to suppress our votes. On Yale’s campus, we responded to voter suppression and sent canvassers of all kinds to Fair Haven. On several doors that we knocked that week, we met registered voters in Fair Haven who were told by the others that their votes didn’t count or that they could not vote because their driver’s license had recently expired. What began as voter outreach turned into a full-blown campaign, as Americans alongside Latin Americans and undocumented students reminded residents across the city where they could go to vote.
Now, it will be our students who make lawmakers keep paying attention. The DREAM Act — a piece of federal legislation offering undocumented students a pathway to citizenship, provided that they serve for two years in our military or completed high school — grabbed everyone’s attention when it reached national headlines. While it did not pass, states across the country have considered their own versions of the bill, and Massachusetts became the 13th state to pass its own version of the DREAM Act this month. “Groups like Connecticut Students for a DREAM,” a local immigration activist group, are pushing Connecticut’s legislature to improve access to colleges and universities for undocumented but very well-qualified students. This was the first time that undocumented students held such a symbolic voice in politics, and politicians like President Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio reached out to them with variations on the bill.
This past week, local activist Lorella Praeli, who stared the Connecticut Students for a DREAM and now works for the national umbrella organization United We Dream, was featured in a New York Times article discussing immigration reform. On the same weekend I heard Gabby Pacheo, the other woman featured in the article, speak for senior partners at Morgan Stanley, startup gurus and nonprofit heroes at TEDxWomen. She shared her story with the crowd, about growing up as a very successful student whose options were limited by her immigration status. Every face in the room was deeply moved. The stories of our students are everywhere and permeating different levels of society than they could before.
We’re still a mixed bag: As the recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center reminds us, Latino voters were not solely concerned about immigration. More often, our immediate concerns were focused on economic, education or health care issues. I’m a Massachusetts liberal, but I still work in communities that aren’t familiar with what homosexuality and gay marriage entail. While I support decriminalization of marijuana for numerous reasons, I have never and will never smoke in my lifetime. I still cringe whenever I smell marijuana smoke because statistics from the drug wars flood through my mind, and all I can see are images of violence.
Our views are more nuanced than politicians often give us credit for in campaign ads and targeted speeches. We are not a one-issue community, and we never will be.
One of my professors made a joke at an election panel we held this year about how the “Latino vote gets rediscovered every four years.” After this election, we are no longer in the shadows, waiting to be “rediscovered.” Our activists are in the streets, spreading information and dispelling myths. Politicians are reaching out to our communities, even in states like Connecticut where the Latino presence is quieter than it is in states like North Carolina and Texas. We’re here, and we’ve been here for a long time. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes to the table for immigration reform in these next few months.

Monday, November 26, 2012

MEChA Eboard 2013!

Please welcome our new eboard! Congratulations to all of our candidates, we are so excited to have you!

o   The Moderator: Katie Aragon
o   Treasurer: Juan Carlos
o   Secretary: Cristina Moreno
o   ECCSF Representative
§  Juan Diaz
§  Jack Mejia-Cuellar
o   Historian: Kim Mejia-Cuellar
o   Freshperson Liason: Cyndi Campos
o   Political Action Chair: Chris Rodelo
o   Community Action Chair: Evelyn Nuñez
o   Social Activities Chair: Karen Lazcano
o   Publicity Chair: Sandra Mendiola

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Op-ed- Don't ban ethnic studies

Yale Daily News

ARAGÓN AND ZEPEDA: Don’t ban ethnic studies

On Jan. 1, 2011, Arizona House Bill 2281 took effect, having passed the previous year on a wave of popular political rhetoric of racial tension and distrust. Republican Tom Horne, the author of the bill, accused ethnic studies curricula of “promoting resentment” and encouraging the overthrow of the U.S. government, a charge school officials in the state have decried as unfounded.

Last month, the Tucson Unified School District voted to enact HB 2281, buckling under threats of $15 million in annual fines if it did not comply. In the words of TUSD superintendent John Pedicone, the penalty “would have been impossible … to absorb.” During an administrative meeting conducted in early January, administrators advised teachers to avoid books that address themes of race, ethnicity and oppression, including Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

The bill is based on the misguided belief that ethnic studies promote a radical and hateful discourse. In fact, an ethnic studies curriculum does the opposite. It intends to shed light on the often ignored and dismissed experiences of millions of Americans, including the persecution minority communities have often faced throughout the course of history.

Although HB 2281 includes the caveat that it does not intend to censor instances of oppression, that is effectively what it has done. It has forced the TUSD — 75 percent of whose students are not white — to eliminate curricula that included over 50 books dealing with issues of ethnicity and social movements. Now, there will be no more “Ten Little Indians” by Sherman Alexie and no more accounts of American minorities’ histories by historians like Ronald Takaki and Howard Zinn.

Now, students in Arizona cannot count on public education to discuss Cesar Chavez and his leadership in the nonviolent American Labor Movement. Three-quarters of TUSD students will be taught that their place in history is limited to servitude and violence and will not be able to read narratives of their ancestors’ creative successes.

High school retention rates show the positive impact of ethnic studies. Studies have found that minority students enrolled in ethnic studies courses are more likely to perform better in all of their academic classes and are more likely to graduate high school and enroll in college.

However, ethnic studies classes do not solely empower minority students: In their investigation into the value of the courses, the National Educational Association concluded that “both students of color and white students have been found to benefit academically as well as socially from ethnic studies” and that “the overwhelming dominance of Euro-American perspectives leads many students to disengage from academic learning.” A curriculum with demonstrated success including lessons on diverse cultures should be expanded, not eliminated.

HB 2281’s proponents have thus far relied on paranoid rhetoric, making unfounded speculations without ever setting foot inside an ethnic studies classroom. Though the bill attempts to couch its racist motives in legal terms as an effort to outlaw “treatment of pupils as anything but individuals,” they ignore the fact that history has rarely acted in accordance with this tenet. History has instead, time and again, grouped people in broad and generalized terms, often on the basis of race.

Though HB 2281 doesn’t explicitly ban books, books have nonetheless been taken from students, boxed up and sent to gather dust in a warehouse. Administrators claim these books are still available to the approximately 63,000 students in the district through the public school library system, but the system only holds a few copies of select texts. Teachers were also told they would be increasingly monitored to ensure they don’t violate the bill, thus turning classroom instruction into a fearful process in which threatened teachers shy away from any curricula that provides more than a slim view of another side of American history. This climate of censorship is unacceptable.

The elimination of these programs in Arizona is not just an affront to ethnic studies across the nation. It is also an affront to the entire purpose of educators: to teach students to think critically, creatively and deeply by endowing them with the tools to understand perspectives that differ from their own. The narratives found in ethnic studies texts and courses make up the many faces of American identity. States should not be allowed to edit our cultural history.

We urge Yale students, faculty and administrators to vehemently reject this bill and its implicit anti-intellectual crackdown. No history is illegal. As students and scholars, we cannot stand by as our nation’s history is rewritten. Rather than fear them, we must recognize the histories of ethnic minorities as crucial components to truly understanding both this nation’s history and its current state of affairs. Only then can we be said to fully promote liberty and justice for all.
KATHERINE ARAGÓN is a sophomore in in Timothy Dwight College. RAQUEL ZEPEDA is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College.

GET OUT THE VOTE! Fair Haven edition

For the past 4 weeks, members of Mecha de Yale and the larger Spanish-speaking community at Yale have gotten to know our neighbors in Fair Haven a little bit better. That's because for the past 4 weekends (and all of Monday and Tuesday last week) Mecha organized groups to canvass for President Barack Obama and Chris Murphy for Senate. In its earliest stages, canvassing includes speaking to people (regardless of their political orientation) about the candidates, their issues, and why voting is relevant to the individual, as well as registering new voters. However, Mecha entered the scene closer to the election, when efforts were redirected towards Getting Out The Vote and making sure registered Democrat and undecided voters in Fair Haven (a low-income area with a large number of people of color) knew the basics of each candidate. GOTV includes helping people make plans to get to the polls, letting people know where their local polling place is (especially important this cycle, after recent redistricting and polling place changes in the city), and in some cases physically driving voters to the polling stations.

These efforts were doubly important this cycle for several reasons. First of all, the Republican senate candidate Linda McMahon, a millionaire who spent over 49 million dollars out of her own pocket to finance her campaign, consistently attempted (and sometimes succeeded) to mislead voters. For example, Linda McMahon paid unemployed people to hand out "Sample Ballots" that contained two candidates, Obama and McMahon, with checks in the boxes right next to their names and photos, suggesting a "Party Ballot" including both Obama and McMahon, when in fact Obama would be on the Democratic voting line and McMahon listed as an Independent (though her politics and endorsements are Republican). Paid canvassers also distributed door hangers telling people to vote for Barack Obama and Linda McMahon because apparently that duo will "fight for us", again despite the fact that McMahon endorsed Mitt Romney and does not support Obama's most notable legislation, including the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Affordable Care Act. She would also vote to defund Planned Parenthood and enact tax cuts for the rich, as well as favor the Blunt Amendment that would deny women access to affordable reproductive care. McMahon used the same tactic in her video campaign ads. The deceitful advertisements and literature were part of a carefully thought-out and employed election strategy used throughout the McMahon campaign to try to trick minority voters, especially those living in low-income neighborhoods such as Fair Haven (many of whom are not fluent English-speakers) into voting for her. Mechistas even encountered instances of voter suppression- one Latino man, a registered voter, told a Mecha canvasser that he had been informed by McMahon canvassers that he was ineligible to vote because his driver's license had expired. Such blatant attempts at voter suppression are one reason why the urgent necessity of canvassing in Fair Haven was apparent to Mechistas- to disseminate accurate information on candidates and voting practices in both English and Spanish.

It was also crucial to mobilize Latinos to ensure that as many of us as possible made it to the voting booths on Tuesday to exercise our right to vote, making our voices heard around the country. That is why in addition to canvassing for many hours in Fair Haven, we spent an evening calling Spanish-speaking volunteers across the country in Colorado to urge them to canvass for Obama in their own neighborhoods as well. Thus we were doubly exhilarated to watch on Election Night as Colorado swung for President Obama.

We did not work alone this election season. For our Fair Haven canvassing, we were joined by members of the Yale Dems, Yale ACLU, and Amnesty International as well as many Yale students usually unaffiliated with Mecha. I felt incredibly proud of both the Mecha and the Yale community the day of the election, when we turned out almost 40 student volunteers to canvass in frigid weather. Mecha cannot operate successfully as a solitary agent. Our community is our power, and to all of our friends from around Yale and Fair Haven who were out there with us these past few weeks (and for those who worked for months canvassing before this such as Kenneth Reveisz and the Fair Haven Democrats and Labor Unions), the results of the election should prove thanks and proof enough that organizing and community activism is invaluable in the pursuit of change.

Of course, nothing ends at the moment of election other than the current election cycle. We must continue to look forward, working for immigration reform, education reform, prison reform- well, the list goes on. It is important to vote, and yes, to mobilize otherwise disregarded communities to take a stand with their vote during an election. But voting is simply one action among many that we must take in order to make change happen.   

Monday, November 19, 2012

Major Promotion (The Yale Herald, covering ERM as a new stand alone major)

Could we make Yale declare a major in comic books if we spent enough time marching in front of President Levin’s house?” So wonders Alex Zubatov, PC ‘97, in a Feb. 14, 1997, column for the Herald. Entitled “Creation of an all-about-me-major,” the piece was a response to Yale’s creation of the Ethnicity, Race, and Migration (ER&M) major. Later in the article, Zubatov refers to an “ethnic studies gestapo,” and calls those protesting for an ethnic studies program “spoiled kids.”
Such an article now seems offensive—indeed, the language is so over-the-top, one might even assume that it’s a parody. (It’s not.) But what about ER&M’s creation spurred such a reaction? And do these hostile feelings persist today?
ER&M was created as a “secondary” major, meaning that students could only major in the program if they paired it with another—in other words, if they double-majored. But on Feb. 2, 2012, Yale College’s Committee on Majors unanimously voted to make ER&M a permanent, stand-alone major. Although many of Yale’s more established departments, such as history or political science, may consider race in their courses, ER&M, the University’s closest analog to the ethnic studies departments found at other schools, puts race at the core of its studies. The major is by definition interdisciplinary, working through a variety of departments to gain a better understanding of race and ethnicity, and serving as a hub for these studies at Yale, both inside and outside the classroom.
Both students and faculty feel that ER&M’s promotion to stand-alone status is a recognition of its legitimacy, and that this will secure an institutional place for the study of traditionally underrepresented populations. ”For me, [ER&M] is part of that larger history of people struggling to get representation in the academy,” Eb Saldaña, ES ‘14, an ER&M major, explained. That fight, according to students and professors around for the program’s founding, was remarkably un-dramatic. But the question of whether its status as a primary major is the be-all-end-all in the quest for representation remains. I checked in on ER&M in the first semester after its conversion to see what tangible developments have been made, and what steps still lie ahead for this course of study at Yale. Today’s students and faculty who are passionate about ethnic studies are picking up where the founders of the major left off, and it seems fair to say the quest to broaden the diversity of voices in the classroom, though long-term, is as crucial at this moment as ever.
Established in 1998, ER&M came long after the establishment of ethnic studies departments in peer institutions across the country. The field of ethnic studies traces its history to California’s Bay Area in the year 1969. In that place, at that time, a group of students was increasingly frustrated by the lack of institutional representation of people of color at San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley. Their growing anger and outrage led to the formation of the Third World Liberation Front, a protest movement that demanded classes focusing on the previously unheard struggles and stories of people of color. In response to their calls, UC Berkeley founded the nation’s first ethnic studies department. The success at Berkeley sparked a trend of student groups across the country protesting for similar programs.
But Yale’s own formation of an ethnic studies program, as well as those of many other East Coast schools, wouldn’t take shape for nearly 30 years. Yale students in the ’90s were given few opportunities to pursue this field. Although the University offered some courses that covered topics like Mexican-American or Native American studies, these were all staffed by part-time, untenured faculty, who taught the courses on an ad hoc basis. There was no institutional framework in place for students interested in pursuing research in ethnic studies, professor Alicia Schmidt-Camacho, current DUS of ER&M, said. “If you were a student wanting to look at the electoral politics of Latinos in political science, where would you find the expertise to supervise such a research project?” Such a student would have been faced with a lack of resources and relevant courses and faculty—and would most likely have been unable to complete the project.
Yale was not alone in its lack of an ethnic studies program; indeed, this field had never taken hold among Ivy League schools in the way it had at West Coast universities. However, the ’90s saw East Coast students grow increasingly dismayed over the lack of ethnic studies at their universities. In turn, students began to call upon their schools to add courses and professors in fields such as Asian-American and Native American studies. Often times, these protests could be dramatic. In 1995, a group of 17 Princeton students organized a 35-hour sit-in at the university president’s office; at Columbia, students organized a hunger strike.
Around this same time, Yale students also began to organize and advocate for expanded offerings in the field of ethnic studies, though their protests never reached quite the same intensity as protests elsewhere. According to professor Michael Denning, GRD ’84, the first chair of the ER&M program, calls for ethnic studies-type offerings came in two waves. The first, at the beginning of the ’90s, were demands for more specific majors, like Asian-American or Latino studies departments. It wasn’t until the latter part of the decade that the disparate groups came together under a group they called Coalition for Diversity, and called for a singular ethnic studies program—what Denning refers to as the “second wave” of student interest. These students campaigned heavily, distributing journals and political magazines, and organized a conference of solidarity for their protesting peers at other universities.
Denning recalls this student organizing as a unique moment in Yale’s history. “In my experience, it’s not that often that Yale undergraduates take an initiative in reshaping their collective education,” Denning said. “As individuals, people shape their own majors. But for the most part, people come here and accept the education that has been shaped for them….And I would say this was the one moment where there was a group of students who really wanted to think seriously about what the shape of their undergraduate education would be, how that might get changed, and how a different kind of curriculum would get set up. That was very exciting.”
Denning was one of a number of professors who were instrumental in the creation of the ER&M program. In response to student advocates, then-Dean of Yale College Richard Broadhead, BR ’68, GRD ’72, put together a faculty advisory committee to look into creating an ER&M major, on which Denning sat. In turn, the faculty advisory committee began a collaborative effort with the students to make an ethnic studies program a reality. But this effort took time—a lack of full-time staff meant the major couldn’t yet be created, and so the first goal was to turn previous part-time positions into full-time faculty positions.
Denning chalks up the time it took to create the ER&M program less to administrative opposition than to the “general inertia of an institution.” “Yale is one of those giant ocean liners—it doesn’t turn very quickly,” Denning said.
Then there was the matter of what the curriculum of the program should look like. Araceli Campos, MC ‘99, who was one of the first four ER&M majors and played a key part in the formation of the program, explained that both students and faculty wanted ER&M to be more than just an ethnic studies program, which is what led to the “migration” component. “Studies of migration, as a substantive study, were considered new,” Campos said. “That’s why the major became ER&M—because at the time, this was an almost revolutionary, innovative way of looking at the field of study.”
After years of discussion, once it was clear there were sufficient faculty and resources to support a course of study, ER&M became a major program—albeit a secondary one. It was unclear whether the program would be sustainable. But ER&M’s status was not unique: Yale’s former international studies major, which would later become the stand-alone Global Affairs major, could similarly only be taken as a second major.
Part of the formation of the major was the creation of a new course, “Introduction to Ethnicity, Race, and Migration,” which is still taught today. Denning co-taught the class with Patricia Pessar during ER&M’s first year, and he can still recall the energy surrounding the class, which, he adds, was probably the only time one of his classes made the Yale Daily News.
“It still feels like a different course than any other course that I’ve taught here,” Denning said. “So often you feel like you’re offering a certain syllabus and a certain course and people come essentially as customers or spectators. That was a group of students who came in saying, ‘This is the course that we’ve fought for.’ They may not have liked every bit of it, but they came in as participants, in a way that was really quite remarkable.”

Today’s ER&M program is quite a bit different from its early days in the late ’90s. Its growth took time. Though students had been requesting to make ER&M a stand-alone major since the beginning, Stephen Pitti, ES ‘91, current director of the ER&M program, was wary of changing the program too hastily. “We were concerned about our own ability to service the major with so few people who were tenured and stable, without a lot of staff support, without space,” Pitti said. “We were concerned not to promise something that we couldn’t actually offer.”
But by the time ER&M became a stand-alone program, what was once a fledgling program had become a full-grown major, replete with resources and course offerings. A variety of changes over the past decade had led to the program’s growth and development. The granting of tenure to several key faculty members, like Schmidt-Camacho, as well as the arrival of new faculty, like professors Ned Blackhawk and Birgit Rassmussen, meant that a stand-alone ER&M program was finally conceivable. In addition, the major was now housed in its own offices at 35 Broadway, and had also acquired a full-time administrative assistant.
Because of these gains in resources, ER&M faculty like Pitti felt the major was prepared for the challenges of being a stand-alone program. A proposal was submitted to the Committee on Majors for ER&M to change its status from that of a secondary to a stand-alone major, and the committee granted the request. ER&M’s conversion means that ethnic studies had now become a stable, permanent part of Yale. Indeed, this year marks ER&M’s first two professor hires, Albert Laguna and Dixa Ramirez, both of whom will be jointly-seated in the American Studies and ER&M departments.
Over the years, ER&M has served as a home for ethnic studies at Yale. Crucial to the development of this community has been ER&M’s postdoctoral program. The program, supported by the provost’s office, brings recent Ph.D.’s to campus to allow them to develop their scholarship. “The goal here is that we will also be contributing to development of faculty, both for hires at Yale, but also for larger fields in the larger institutions of higher education,” Camacho said. Indeed, ER&M’s postdoctoral program has already directly affected Yale’s community of professors: current assistant professor Zareena Grewal was hired after her time as an ER&M postdoc.
Although students may focus their studies on a particular region or ethnic group, a key aspect of the major is that students are constantly encouraged to think globally and comparatively. “Serious engagement with any of these fields or any of these populations takes you into a global frame of analysis very quickly,” Schmidt-Camacho said. Indeed, students’ studies may include immigrant migrations, diasporas, or the effects of global capitalism.
Most all of the majors interviewed explained that they especially enjoy ER&M because of its focus on peoples whose stories, they found, had otherwise been missing from the classroom. Heidi Guzman, SY ’14, explained that ER&M offered a sort of alternate timeline to the one she had been taught in her high school classes. “Learning about minorities in high school was not a thing that happened,” Guzman said. “Being able to take [Intro ER&M] and learn that perspective was really important for me.” Courses in Yale’s more traditional departments might not fully address the experiences of minorities. “ER&M classes are designed to make [race and ethnicity] the center of the discussion, rather than a single lecture in a series of lectures,” Saldaña said. Often, too, ER&M provides students with a framework and vocabulary for making sense of racism in ways that they may not have previously been able to. As Saldaña put it, “ER&M turned on a switch for me that I have trouble turning off.”
In keeping with its origins, ER&M remains a very student-oriented major—something that majors cite as an advantage to the program. This is due in part to the way it’s structured. Unlike other major in which students may choose a concentration out of a fixed set of four or five tracks, students in ER&M have to design their own unique programs of study. These customized concentrations are extremely diverse in nature; in the past, they have ranged from “Comparative Refugee Studies” to “Commercial Globalization and Linguistic Adaptation.” Schmidt-Camacho notes that the ER&M major often changes and develops in response to these student projects and concentrations, with their diversity and range leading to new areas of study previously untouched by the ER&M curriculum.
Perhaps most importantly, what students really love about ER&M is its tight-knit community. Katie Aragon, TD ’14, felt that when she looked at other majors, she was brushed aside by the professors. But in ER&M, she found professors who she felt were supportive and would take care of her and her peers. Amaris Ogulin, DC ’15, agreed, noting that her relationship with her professors extends beyond the classroom: “I see my professors being activists and going into the community. I see them seeking the students that want to major in ER&M and creating strong relationships [with them].”
For many students, the study of ER&M also happens extracurricularly. Both Pitti and Schmidt-Camacho cite students’ involvement in the community, whether at Yale or in New Haven, as a strength of the program. There are official paths for facilitating this kind of engagement in the major: “Intro to ER&M” is one of several Yale courses which includes a Community-Based Learning (CBL) option, in which students, in lieu of doing a paper, complete a project with a local New Haven organization. Guzman, for instance, worked with New Haven group Junta for Progressive Action, helping them to develop, and ultimately implement, an English as a Second Language curriculum in New Haven schools.
ER&M courses often lead students to pursue other forms of activism beyond the CBL option, too. Alfonso Toro, TC ’15, found himself inspired to enact change in the community after taking an ER&M course titled “Latino/a Sexualities.” According to Toro, the class opened his mind to how the intersections of being Latino, identifying as LGBT, and coming from different socioeconomic backgrounds shape peoples’ perspectives. He had previously noticed a bit of a gap between Yale’s Latino and LGBT communities, and so he formed a student discussion group, De Colores, where students can discuss the intersection of these identities. Toro said he sees the recent LGBT Co-Op dance, which was co-sponsored by De Colores, as symbolic of two different Yale communities coming closer together. For Toro, the academic approach to a personal intersectionality was the motivator that pushed him to address the problems he saw in his actual social world.
ER&M’s conversion to being a stand-alone major did not mean an end to criticism. In a column titled “ER&M’s Got Problems,” published on Feb. 6, 2012 in the Yale Daily News, Nathaniel Zelinsky, DC ’13, who did not respond to an interview request for this article, offered a critique of the new major on a variety of fronts: that it attracts a certain student with a preconceived worldview; that it is simply the latest in an overabundance of majors; that it is part of a troubling trend of hyper-specializiation; and that students in the major would find a lack of ideological diversity among their classmates. Zelinsky’s chief criticism, however, was that he believes ER&M, like certain other departments—namely Judaic studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies—conflates politics and academics: “Taught by liberal faculty who do not always separate their views from their teaching, these majors cheapen our community’s commitment to academic neutrality.”
Many ER&M students in the major recall columns like Zelinsky’s with frustration. “That was such a bad day for me,” Saldaña recalled. “Because I was just like, ‘Yay, I get to finally do what I want to do, academically.’ I was really excited to have that freedom, and people were bashing the major.”
Pitti strongly rejects that idea that ER&M encourages a singular political view, saying that his students represent the entirety of the political spectrum. “[ER&M] is a program that fosters disagreement and argument, and does what all programs and departments do, which is to provide a space for discussion and debate,” Pitti said. But some students say that they feel conceptions of ER&M as having a political slant extend throughout Yale’s student body. “Even my close friends who know what I study and do in the major are like, ‘Oh, but it’s super leftist,’” said Diana Enriquez, SY ’13, a former double major in ER&M who recently dropped it.
Many of the students interviewed felt that, if it’s true that ER&M is political, then that’s only because all academia is necessarily political. “I think people are very quick to assume that anything that’s related to identity-based groups is political,” Enriquez said. “And in some ways it will always be political. But I think ignoring the fact that majors like
Classics or economics are also pretty politically-loaded is just not correct.”
Guzman, meanwhile, feels that when dealing with the lives of historically oppressed peoples, certain viewpoints can be harmful. “I think you can’t be conservative when you’re talking about the lives of oppressed people,” Guzman said. “A conservative perspective is important to add to the discussion, but let’s not kid ourselves here, that’s not necessarily the kind of ideas you want to espouse when dealing with real people.”
Often times, too, students may perceive ethnic studies courses as being exclusively of interest to people of color. Katie Aragon, TD ’14, feels strongly that this is not the case, and that ER&M courses should be taken by all types of students. “It’s not one of those things where it’s, ‘Oh, all the ethnic minorities go to ER&M.’ It’s not meant to be exclusive,” Aragon said. Professor Ned Blackhawk, who specializes in Native American Studies, said that while the major does help serve a variety of traditionally under-represented social communities, it also attracts and fulfills the interests of all kinds of students, not simply Native American ones, or other students of color. And this, he said, is a “healthy sign of a vibrant academic program.”
More broadly, some take issue with the interdisciplinary mix of traditional departments—like literature, history, and anthropology—that constitutes the ER&M program. Indeed, a 2007 report by the Committee on Majors seemed to express this concern, noting that while a benefit of interdisciplinary majors is that they can offer intellectual breadth, “the basic training afforded by the specialized departmental disciplines can be skimped on.” Both professors and students in the ER&M major, however, feel that its interdisciplinary nature is a boon. Professor Albert Laguna, for instance, believes that the study of Latino peoples specifically is best done through an multidisciplinary lens. One can’t understand things like migration or the global flow of people simply through a historical perspective, he feels, but must take into account social and cultural factors as well. As such, ER&M courses, in order to answer questions like why Latinos are coming to the United States—which is a focus of Laguna’s class—might have to draw upon fields like anthropology, gender and sexuality studies, and literature. A single discipline, Laguna argues, will
not suffice.
Guzman, too, sees the interdisciplinary quality of the major as critical. The junior’s research for the Mellon Mays fellowship looks at how migration influences Dominican immigrants’ articulations of feminism. As such, her research draws on a variety of disparate fields. ER&M brings together professors from a variety of fields that Guzman can then consult. For Guzman, the program is a convenient synthesis of the otherwise disparate and hard-to-find academic resources necessary to enfranchise the people of her chosen interest. But for others in the major, the low volume of faculty and courses taught at Yale remains an issue—and one they believe ER&M is capable of solving.
Even its most vehement supporters admit that ER&M is still not perfect, and much growth in the program is still necessary. Professor Schmidt-Camacho explained that she is “constantly conscious that students are trying to find ways to meet intellectual interests that they can’t meet here yet.” Students and professors focus especially on the Asian-American and Native American offerings in their goals for improvement. As it stands, the growth of the ER&M major is a numbers game—sources expressed the need for more faculty, more courses, and more students to allow for a larger, more extensive program.
Especially with regards to Asian-American studies, class offerings are notably slim. Cathy Huang, MC ’15, a prospective double-major in the ER&M program, became interested last year in doing a research project on Asian-American history. Huang was disappointed by the lack of classes dealing with the Asian-American experience. “For me and some other students, the concern was that nobody who wanted to study Asian-American studies specifically would be able to formulate a list of classes which would give them something as comprehensive as African-American studies or Latino-American studies,” Huang said.
As far as course offerings go, Huang points to a single, regularly occurring class exclusively focused on Asian-American studies: Professor Mary Lui’s lecture, “Asian American History, 1800-Present.” Though the Bluebook has occasionally offered a seminar on Asian-American studies, students are otherwise left with survey courses that merely make mention of Asian-American culture and history. A search on Yale Bluebook returns zero undergraduate courses offered this semester that list Asian-American studies as their focus. By comparison, Latino studies boasts at least three fall 2012 courses, and African-American studies has an entire department’s worth of offerings (19).
Indeed, the uneven availability of courses on differing ethnicities reveals that ER&M still has much work to be done. Regardless of this room to grow, however, both students and professors still feel a great deal of pride and passion for the program. Ultimately, in the push for greater resources, it remains to be seen where ER&M stands on Yale’s list of priorities.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article quoted professor Howard Stern, whose comments have been removed because he felt misrepresented. We apologize to this source.
You can find the original article here

Friday, November 16, 2012

Latino Vote: After the Election Edition

Alienated by GOP, Latinos vote blue

All was quiet inside Church Street’s Ecuadorian consulate Wednesday, but for New Haven County’s estimated 265,000 Hispanics, it was far from business as usual. Latino newspapers piled high next to the consulate’s information desk told the story of a movement under way on New Haven streets: “7.500 latinos votaron por primera vez en Connecticut” — read the front page of La Voz Hispana in striking yellow typeface — “7,500 Latinos vote for the first time in Connecticut.”
New Haven Latinos comprise a demographic that has increased by 35 percent in the past decade, according to New Haven nonprofit DataHaven. The explosive growth in the local Latino electorate reflects a countrywide phenomenon that has dominated national headlines since the presidential election, when Hispanics, 10 percent of the electorate for the first time, voted for President Barack Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by a 71–29 margin, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
In the wake of last week’s election — which saw Obama re-elected and Democrats riding to larger numbers in the Senate and House — several prominent Republicans, including Speaker of the House John Boehner and FOX News host Sean Hannity, called for the party to support comprehensive immigration reform. But on Wednesday, Romney reportedly told top donors that the reason he lost against Obama was due to Obama giving “gifts” to constituencies like Hispanics, leading to renewed concerns that Latino voters would continue to flock to Democrats.
But Republicans responded to the flash fire of media criticism following Election Day by claiming that the electoral process is about “fighting for 100 percent of the votes,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told the Los Angeles Times.
“Our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream, period,” Jindal said.
Buoying the president into his second term, Latinos rated immigration reform a top priority next to the economy, sparking a national conversation about a comprehensive overhaul of current immigration policies and forcing Republicans to re-evaluate their stance, according to a report last week by Latino Vote 2012. Because the Obama administration has presided over a record number of deportations in spite of his pro-amnesty image, Latinos are “frustrated” and “expecting more this time,” said John Lugo, organizer for Unidad Latina en Acción, a local immigrant rights advocacy group.
“Tensions are heating up,” said Diana Enriquez ’13, moderator of MEChA de Yale, a student organization that promotes Latino political activism on campus. “It isn’t new that our votes are important and that politicians need to court our interests.”
Based on turnout at local voter registration events, New Haven Latinos overwhelmingly identify as Democrats because local party officials seek to represent their interests, said Ana Maria Rivera of Junta for Progressive Action, a New Haven-based nonprofit that serves the local Latino community. City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said New Haven is indeed welcoming to all residents and “proud of its position on the forefront of municipal immigration policies.” She cited the Elm City Resident Card, which provides all residents with a tool to access basic public amenities regardless of immigration status, as an example of the city’s inclusiveness.
State Democrats also claim to support legislation that represents their Latino constituency. Roy Occhiogrosso, senior advisor to Gov. Dannel Malloy, said Malloy has been an outspoken critic of the Secure Communities program — under which nonviolent undocumented immigrants have been detained and deported — and proposed Connecticut’s version of the DREAM Act, which provides a path to legalization for undocumented minors who seek college education or military service.
Rep. Rosa DeLaura of Connecticut’s 3rd District said she hopes to give each member of her Hispanic constituency good jobs, health care and education. She has voted in favor of extending immigrant residency rules and was rated 0 percent by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, indicating a record of voting to loosen immigration regulations.
“Throwing up a wall and being exclusive [to Latino immigrants] undermines the basic principles on which this country is founded,” Occhiogrosso said.
In contrast to the policies of state Democrats, Republican rhetoric alienates Latinos, projecting a hostile image on undocumented immigrants and appearing to ignore the “economically disadvantaged,” Lugo said. Latino conservatives recommend that Republicans amend their platform to support pro-family immigration reform and engage Latinos “consistently,” said executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles Alfonso Aguilar, instead of only paying attention to Latinos around Election Day.
Hispanics nevertheless recognize Obama’s failure to address immigration reform. A 2011 Pew Hispanic Center poll found that Latinos disapproved of the president’s handling of deportations by a 2-to-1 margin, which undocumented activist Juan Escalante said left “a very sour taste for Hispanics heading to the polls.”
But the president has taken steps toward comprehensive reform. Enriquez lauded Obama’s 2010 support of the Latino community in the face of Arizona’s SB 1070, which allowed law enforcement officials to request documentation of citizenship from anyone they deemed suspicious of residing in the country illegally.
Juan Gomez — who garnered national media attention in 2010 as a Georgetown University undergraduate and undocumented Colombian immigrant — said he has benefited from Obama’s Deferred Action program introduced earlier this year, which granted him a two-year work permit and saved him temporarily from the fate of deportation. He now works for a financial consulting firm in Manhattan, but he cannot leave and then return to the country — not even to visit Colombia to see his parents, who were deported when he was 18. Escalante calls Deferred Action a “small olive branch” that could lead to comprehensive reform.
But the Latino community cannot arrive at a consensus regarding immigration reform legislation. Enriquez said that immigration reform is not supported by a “Latino-wide solidarity movement” because voters who are distanced from the issue may be worried about issues that affect their daily lives, such as the economy. Yet Rivera said even third-generation Hispanic immigrants still view immigration reform as a priority.
“We are all affected by it, whether or not you’re documented,” Rivera said. “Everyone has a friend or relative impacted by the issue.”
Junta for Progressive Action estimates between 10,000 and 15,000 undocumented Latino immigrants reside in New Haven.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Notes from Meeting 11/12: Guest -- Aura Bogado

Voter Suppression Discussion with Aura Bogado:
-       was working in Colorado, near counties she was watching ahead of the election
-       there were specific issues with latino voter disenfranchisement – Arapajo county – a swing county in a swing state
-       1/3 dem, 1/3 republican and 1/3 independent
-       this county would decide how Colorado voted
-       she secretly recorded a poll worker who was complaining about the number of people of color voting, then she talked to him
-       Aurora (where people were killed in the movie theater) is more than ½ people of color, used to be 80% white
-       The poll watcher was uncomfortable with the shift, she visited where the poll watcher lived to get a better idea of his area (this wasn’t particularly white either)
-       People were laughing at the guy, he was very angry but it didn’t seem to affect their voting patterns

Talked about SB1070 (Arizona) and HB56 (Alabama) – inspired by Kris Kobach (KS) was the immigration advisor for Romney, went to YLS
-       after 9/11 he shifts a lot of immigration work
-       he has also written and suggested a lot of voter suppression work we’ve seen
-       there is some value to checking whether or not voters are alive (do they respond to calls/letters etc.), we have much lower numbers of voting fraud
-       terms relating to voter fraud are thrown around, but it is extremely rare
-       he has helped 15 secretaries of state cut down on early voting and voters
-       2004: Arizona passed anti-immigrant laws to crack down on “alien voters”
-       including voter IDs – this mostly disenfranchises native voters (Navajo don’t have access to any kinds of IDs which are necessary to vote)
-       shares a case study of a Navajo woman working to get an ID so that she can vote – lacking birth certificate, doesn’t have an address (postal service doesn’t deliver there), needs a lawyer, is eventually given her driver’s license with the help of 12 people over an entire day so that she can go vote
-       using voter fraud as a scare tactic to create laws that make it difficult for certain groups to vote

Supreme Court is hearing a case challenging the Voting Rights Act
-       people are really excited about Obama, but the current Supreme Court may very well strike down the Voting Rights Act
-       voter suppression efforts we see will be a lot easier to pass locally
-       if this act is taken apart, states can decide to do whatever it wants
-       the Department of Justice has oversight over counties or states that have a history of voter suppression, can intervene on legislation in these areas over significant changes in procedure, like voter ID laws
-       some of these areas are calmer, some of them are the same, and there are other areas that are worse

What can we do to protect our right to vote?
-       there are places for us to contribute
-       writers, activists and organizers should pay attention and contribute to the discussion

What are some of the arguments against the Voting Rights Act?
-       Shelby, AL says they don’t discriminate anymore, don’t want to be on the list that is overseen
-       They see this as discrimination against a few states, don’t have the ability to decide their voter ID laws etc for themselves
-       Their argument has teeth because CA is not controlled by the law, but there are strange laws there too

She was pleased to see that people fought against voter suppression in this election. People said It is very important to vote. This time around, whereas this wasn’t true earlier
-       she was surprised – 6 months ago, expected lower turn out
-       people had changed their minds – now that the right to voting was being challenged, they were more actively supporting this
-       undocumented people were organizing around this election: people were speaking out about their status, they went out to register voters, asked for people to vote certain ways, and made sure that they got there
-       largely Latinos are leading this: undocumented immigrants are working on this, but
-       50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month, 600,000 people a year

Friday, November 9, 2012

Cultural Houses at Yale

Yale Daily News 11/9/12

ARAGON: Understanding cultural centers

 I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I set foot in La Casa Cultural, Yale’s Latino cultural house. It was the spring of 2010 and I was a disoriented prefrosh trying too hard to make friends. I had decided to make my way over to La Casa because I am half-Mexican and was curious to see what exactly this “casa” at the predominantly white and Northeastern Yale was, but also because I had heard rumors of delicious food being served (the number one attraction). What is a cultural house? What types of people go there, and what do they do? These were the questions that floated through my head as I walked down Crown Street with my gaggle of pre-friends.

As soon as I stepped through the door, I was greeted warmly and whisked into the gallery (more like a living room, really). I spent a long time talking to current Yale students as well as other prefrosh (I remember particularly a red-haired girl from Kansas and a suave young Hawaiian man) about the anxiety and excitement surrounding moving across the coast, from California to Connecticut, for college. La Casa put me at ease, but it wasn’t the only cultural center I visited that day. I felt similarly welcomed on trips later to both the Asian American Cultural House (for more socializing over food) and the Afro-American Cultural House (for their dance party). At each place, I was greeted with smiles and friendly questions.

Over the past two years spent working with La Casa and more intimately with several of over 30 organizations housed under its umbrella, I have met an incredibly diverse set of people. Though La Casa is a “Latino” cultural house, within that house there are numerous distinct countries and cultures represented, as well as a myriad of personal and political viewpoints, from enthusiastically liberal to emphatically conservative to earnestly religious and everything in between. I have met Colombians, Cubans, Guatemalans and Peruvians. I have met Catholics and non-believers, queer and straight people. I have met, most importantly, a loving and accepting community that learns from our collective differences to become something better.

However, these interactions are not limited to Hispanics. La Casa and other cultural houses such as the AACC, the Af-Am House and the Native American Cultural House host a constant stream of campus-wide events, many co-sponsored with groups from around Yale. Cultural houses host dinners with the Slifka Center, dances with the LGBTQ Co-op and panels with the Yale Law School to both unify and provoke thought in Yale’s large student body. My freshman year, freshmen liaisons from La Casa and the AACC organized an event that drew together over 100 students for a discussion on race at Yale. None of these heavily advertised events are restricted to members of the cultural houses and they encompass a plethora of topics (many unrelated to ethnicity) applicable to students regardless of their race or “ethnic affiliation.” Incredibly, individuals who choose to be involved with cultural centers also continue to exist in social, political and academic spheres outside of those houses, as members of the YPU, dance teams, social justice movements, academic departments and even sororities! It’s true that friend groups grow out of La Casa, which some see as exclusive, but how is that any different from a cappella or fraternity friends? We need to ask ourselves why these groups, which essentially present the same issue, aren't scrutinized the same way that cultural centers are.

Importantly, as my friend Cathy Huang ’15, a leader at the AACC, noted, groups at Yale are not automatically granted their own space. The current cultural houses only exist because enough students at one point in time expressed interest that realized a critical mass. Students fought hard and long for these centers and they are deeply valued today as community centers and resource hubs, imbuing students with a sense of “hosting” others and being the educators in a system that is traditionally not inclusive of non-Western histories, cultures and peoples. That is incredibly impactful and empowering for the students involved.

Our time at Yale is experienced through countless groupings and affiliations. Cultural houses are one of these optional associations and are arguably some of the most diverse places on campus. They provide a safe space for students who want additional support outside of dean-appointed froco groups. They provide funding for hundreds of organizations and events. They welcome people of all backgrounds to come together in a common space, and they provide a community for any student willing to step out of their everyday sphere of assumptions and experience something new, while also kindling something familiar.

Katherine Aragon is a junior in Timothy Dwight College. Contact her at