Protesters Attack UCLA Faculty Center : Education: Up to $50,000 in vandalism follows the university’s refusal to elevate Chicano studies program to departmental status. Police arrest 90.
Protesting UCLA’s recent decision not to give Chicano studies full departmental status, demonstrators occupied the faculty center for several hours Tuesday, breaking windows and damaging computers and artwork.
Police arrested about 90 protesters, including 10 on misdemeanor counts and the rest on felony vandalism charges.
UCLA officials estimated damage at $35,000 to $50,000.
Sponsored by a group that calls itself Conscious Students of Color, the protest began at noon with a peaceful march on the Westwood campus that attracted about 200 participants. When they were denied entrance to the faculty center, some of the demonstrators broke windows with hammers, chairs and backpacks and about 80 began a sit-in inside, according to observers and campus police.
UCLA Police Chief John Barber said about half of the people occupying the center were not UCLA students.
During the occupation, some of the protesters wore traditional Aztec costumes and performed folk dances in the building, where they said the decision was made not to upgrade Chicano studies to a full department.
Faculty members were evacuated through a rear door of the center, which is near Hilgard Avenue in the northeast part of the campus. No one was reported to have been injured although window glass reportedly shattered near some teachers who were having lunch. A group of retired faculty had come to the center Tuesday for an art show.
More than 200 Los Angeles police officers were called to the scene to assist UC police from the Los Angeles, Riverside and Irvine campuses.
Addressing an issue that had been simmering for several years, UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young announced two weeks ago that Chicano studies would not be elevated to an independent department. Young insisted that the current status of Chicano studies as an interdepartmental program for undergraduates is most effective because it brings together faculty from various fields.
Latino activists have long been pushing for the change, saying that only departmental status would give the proper financial and academic weight to the study of Los Angeles’ large Chicano population. Some Mexican-Americans were upset that Young’s decision was announced on the eve of the funeral of Cesar Chavez, the beloved leader of the farm workers union.
UCLA senior Pablo Palacios participated in the peaceful portion of the march, saying that Young’s decision and its timing were “a slap in the face.” Although Palacios emphasized that he did not approve of the vandalism, he said he understood the anger behind it. “This is a way to make the students visible because often the university makes us invisible,” said the Spanish literature and language major, who also specializes in Chicano studies.
UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor Andrea Rich, who was in the center at the start of the demonstration, said the school is accustomed to peaceful demonstrations but she condemned Tuesday’s incident as an “inappropriate and unacceptable means of pursuing a position on any issue.” The university, she said, “will take whatever actions are necessary to preserve order and security.”