March 4, 2020
Dear Chancellor Yang:
The Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies fully supports the University of California graduate students’ movement and demands for a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA). We understand UC graduate students currently pay, on average, more than 50% of their income on rent. This situation is intolerable as graduate students struggle to access basic necessities such as food and stable housing. Our graduate students are struggling economically, as are undergraduate students, staff, lecturers, and faculty (untenured and tenured).
Graduate students perform the very labor that enables the University of California to fulfill its educational mission. In their role as teaching assistants, our graduate students lead weekly discussion sections, grade exams and papers, and hold office hours. They also perform the critical, unpaid labor of mentoring first-generation Chicanx/Latinx students as they navigate a university environment that is often times hostile and unwelcoming. Our teaching assistants also examine relevant, timely, and sometimes contentious issues including racial, class, and gender inequality. With limited resources and an exorbitant rent burden, they raise consciousness and awareness inside and outside the classroom. We value and honor this critical and much-needed labor.
The Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies emerged from the Chicana/o Movement in the 1960s. From that moment until today, Chicanx/Latinx students have been at the forefront of social movements to transform this campus. In 1994, nine Chicanx/Latinx students went on a hunger strike to create the first ever doctoral program in Chicana/o Studies in the world. More recently, Chicanx/Latinx students mobilized to save El Centro Arnulfo Casillas from possible demolition.
Given our past and present, the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies endorses the general strike on March 5 that graduate students overwhelmingly voted to support. To demonstrate our support for the general strike, our department will be closed for the entire day. Labor will cease on that day. Everyone is encouraged to join the striking students at Storke Tower.
Moving forward, after March 5, the Department pledges non-retaliation for all teaching assistants who are involved with the strike and who choose to withhold grades. We understand that faculty and teaching assistants may make accommodations for those undergraduate students (e.g. those on academic probation, international students, etc.) who need their grades immediately.
Chancellor Yang we finally appeal to you to call on your fellow Chancellors, UC President Janet Napolitano, and the UC Regents to resolve this impasse in a timely and respectful manner. State funding for higher public education has been systematically cut back for decades. Undergraduate and graduate students are living in their cars and skipping meals. Lecturers, staff, and many untenured faculty are forced to commute from outside Santa Barbara. People can only hustle for so long. It is inspiring to see graduate students rise up and demand social change. Please listen not only to them Chancellor Yang but everyone on campus who is struggling for fairness and decency.
The Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies Faculty
- department statement