Latinos of UCI Demand Action : Affirmative action: The students called for recruitment of Latino faculty and students, creation of a Chicano studies department and financial support of programs.


Wearing armbands and waving banners, more than 100 Latino students at UC Irvine on Monday accused university administrators of paying “lip service” to affirmative action goals and demanded increased recruitment of Latino students, faculty and staff.

They also demanded creation of a Chicano studies department, increased funding for Latino cultural and academic programs, and greater efforts to support and keep Latino students, faculty and other employees.

“Chicanos united, we’ll never be defeated!” the boisterous crowd chanted as streams of curious students passed by, some stopping to listen during the two-hour demonstration in front of the administration building.

Viva la Raza !” UCI social ecology major Fernando Poveda shouted three times through a microphone, his clenched fist raised overhead. “ Viva !” the crowd of protesters answered each time.


Demonstration leaders from the student organization MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) called enrollment figures “embarrassing,” figures showing that Latino students make up less than 10% of UCI’s undergraduates and just over 10% of the total on the University of California’s nine campuses. By contrast, they noted, Chicanos, a term often used to refer to Mexican-American students, and other Latinos make up more than 20% of the state’s population of 23 million people.

Latinos, the students said, make up only 5% of the tenure-track UCI faculty, and only one woman of Latino heritage is tenured.

“Is that fair?” one MEChA member shouted after each of the statistics was read. “No!” the demonstrators answered. “What should we do?” he asked. “ Basta ! Enough!” they responded.

The demonstration was just one of many to be orchestrated on University of California campuses this week and last to coincide with Cinco de Mayo festivities that would draw attention to Latino issues.

It also came in the wake of nearly two years of continued emphasis by UC President David P. Gardner and UCI administrators, including Chancellor Jack W. Peltason, on the need to increase “diversity” throughout the university system.

“We always have money allocated for student . . . and faculty affirmative action,” said Chang-Lin Tien, UCI’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs who has overseen much of the recent efforts to increase minority hiring and student enrollment. “This (the Latino students’ demands) just highlights that we need to push harder and do more . . . .”

“In a number of areas, we need to do better,” said Tien, who now is the highest ranking Asian in the UC system and in July will become chancellor at UC Berkeley. “In mentoring we need to provide more support. We have to make an extra effort to make (minority students) comfortable.”

MEChA members said administration officials talk about diversity, but when it comes to taking action, they deserve a failing grade, especially in recruiting Latino women to faculty and staff positions.

“We have here at UC Irvine no Chicana administrator,” MEChA member Angela Acosta told the crowd. “That is unacceptable!

“We need change, not rhetoric,” said Acosta, a 21-year-old junior sociology major. “Out of all the tenured faculty here at Irvine, we have only one tenured Chicana. That is unacceptable. We need more.”

Tien, who briefly shook hands with the MEChA leaders after the midday demonstration and invited them to meet with him, defended the administration’s record even as he conceded that more needs to be done.

He had just met with about half a dozen Latino faculty on the same issues of increased recruitment and retention and added that the academic blueprint for UCI in the next century calls for departments in Latino and Chicano studies, women’s studies, Asian-American studies and Afro-American studies.

And he noted that UCI’s 1989 freshman class was the first in the UC system to require multicultural courses of all students beginning next fall. Berkeley and other campuses have since followed suit.

He also cited an 18% increase in student affirmative action recruiting in one year, adding that continued increases in the number of minority students eventually will produce the graduates to fill the university’s faculty ranks.

But Ross Romero, one of several UCI alumni who returned Monday to support the students, asked the crowd: “People tell us we’re the leaders of tomorrow, but where are the leaders of today?”

Romero, 33, a past president of UCI’s MEChA chapter who graduated from UCI in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in social ecology and now works for a real estate firm in Anaheim, said that despite earlier demonstrations and promises he has seen little improvement.

Too often, he said, Latinos added to the faculty have only temporary status. “So, they’re addressing the problem, but they’re not really making a commitment to solving it,” he said. “It’s a piecemeal approach. It’s just crumbs.”

Latin American literature expert Maria Herrera-Sobek, one of the faculty members who met with Tien Monday on Latino issues and UCI’s lone tenured Latina professor, said the real problem with faculty recruitment lies with the heads of the various academic departments.

“The university needs to put more pressure on the departments to seriously look at Chicano candidates,” Herrera-Sobek said. “If somebody doesn’t push them, they still prefer (to hire) the white males. Even for white women it is difficult.”

Added Eloy Rodriguez, a professor of cell biology and outspoken advocate of increased university efforts to recruit more minorities: “If we were committed to bringing minority faculty here, we could do it. All we have to do is woo them away from other schools. We do it with white males continuously. And many of them are on the verge of retirement when we bring them here.

“The administration says, ‘We will not sacrifice academic excellence for diversity,’ but I say we should sacrifice academic elitism to achieve diversity.”.

Student observers were generally supportive of the demonstrators.

“They’re not out here flapping their jaws--there’s a real need here,” said Courtney Davis, 22, a senior biology major from Corona who is black. “It’s kind of hard for a Latino student or Afro-American student to make it here. One of the major problems here is that they don’t have enough minority counselors. And the good ones get hired away.”


American White/ Indian Black Latino Filipino Asian Other *Total Undergraduates 65 373 1,169 335 3,815 6,587 12,757 Graduates 8 42 155 9 168 1,238 2,059 Total 73 415 1,324 344 3,983 7,825 14,816

* Total enrollment includes students who declined to state their ethnic background.

Source: Office of the president, University of California