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Two Separate Views At Mission College - Students See Tenure Rejection As Veiled Attack On Chicano Studies PDF Print E-mail
Written by NoAuthor   
Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:00

By Stephanie Arellano, Lisette Asturias, Samantha Jo Jaffray, Joshua Rojas, and Hugo Sanchez.

The more we LAMC students dig into why our beloved professor has been targeted, the more rotten facts we seem to find.

For example, is it fair for two voting members of Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez’s committee to be allowed to vote on whether Aviles-Rodriguez, a Mexican American professor who includes information on Chicano theater and theatre of the oppressed in his lessons, should be granted tenure when they themselves are opposed to offering Chicano Studies classes to students?

Leslie Milke, Senate President, and to Deborah Paulsen, Department Chair, have communicated their objections to students being offered opportunities to take Chicano Studies classes. How can these educators, who appear to have so much trouble with Chicano Studies, be allowed to vote and evaluate on a Latino educator who is known for enlightening students on said curriculum?

Most troubling however, is the clan’s dictatorial tactics that these faculty members choose to use. Why do so many of the faculty members at Mission fear the student's right to learn about positive examples and contributions that Chicanos have made, along with their history? As they say, something is “rotten in Denmark” when a few professors run our school like it’s their own private institution.

They wave around fake “collegiality” flags and attack good, caring professors all within the darkness that they have created. Well, students are fed up with this comportment, and will bring to light all the things that are going on. And when we are done, some will lose their jobs but it won’t be Guillermo. Let’s start by comparing two programs overseen by the chair of the Media Arts Department, Deborah Paulsen: one is Music, led by an Anglo professor, and the other, Theater, is led by a Latino professor. The data shows a big disparity. While one program, Music, receives a disproportionate amount of resources because it seems to fall in line with what Chair Deborah Paulsen’s vision of what art should be: sanitized, censored, perhaps-Caucasian.

Another program, Theater: vibrant, active, reflective of any undermined community, and one which shares that experience with the community at large, has been treated with extreme prejudice.

Despite having an unfinished degree and consistently struggling for enrollment, the Music program is currently offering nine classes this Spring Semester. One class, Elementary Choir, has only fourteen out of fifty spaces filled. Is this a good use of resources?

It may have been more efficient for this class to have been canceled, and perhaps it is just another example of favoritism blatantly ignoring the real needs and wishes of so many students. Hard work was put in by both students and Prof. Aviles-Rodriguez to build theater up at LAMC, and the recent attacks on the Theater Department are a slap to the face; we will not take this any longer.

We students always get Deborah Paulsen’s passionate emails recommending classes in the Music program, aiming to drum up enrollment. Where is this support for our Theater program? Well, for one, we only get two theater classes offered and they are packed.

During the Fall Semester, we students met with college President Dr. Monte Perez. In the meeting, students expressed their desire for a degree and requested reasons for the hold-up. To this day, we are still waiting for any kind of response from administrators. The sad fact is, the Theater degree has been finished and has been awaiting approval for over two years.

Why? Why is there so much hatred for theater? Or is the hate directed at another source? Unfortunately, this type of situation is not news to any of the faculty or staff at LAMC. The small squad of administrators, Senate and faculty that run the show at LAMC, seem to practice their petty power plays in a culture of favoritism and retaliation.

It seems that if you are “in” and you kiss up enough to the power players then, as in the case of music, funding comes your way: classes, adjunct professors, time off to go to conferences, release time, money for guest speakers… the list of possibilities is endless.

If you are “out”, then you are targeted and the allocation of funds will mysteriously dry up. Classes in your program will be cut, the adjuncts in your discipline will be let go of, or perhaps one’s tenure will be denied.

As we looked up some facts, we found that Guillermo has accomplished something which no one at Mission can claim to have done, he has single-handedly researched, designed and created a Transfer Model Curriculum (TMC) AA Degree in Theater Arts for Transfer. At the same time a languishing Music program is supported despite the fact that it has yet to produce a TMC degree, and has low student demand.

If LAMC is clearly willing, and has the means to provide such resources for the musical artistic modality-- as it should, --then those of us with interest in the theatrical modality of art, ask for the same treatment. Should LAMC fail to praise and support instructors who despite all odds still find ways, through hard work and dedication to provide their students with a degree?

Why has the Theater program been put on ‘hold’ for the last two years despite high student involvement, enrollment and retention rates at more than 90%? No one wants to inform the students; maybe because, if exposed, the answer would prove all too embarrassing.

As far back as the late 90s, Leslie Milke has been fighting against the establishing of the Chicano Studies Department. It seems that Ms. Milke has associated theater with a subject that she does not find valuable enough to support-- Chicano Studies. But the fact is, the Chicano Studies Department at Mission has done little to nothing to support this just cause.

Remember the LAMC culture of retaliation? Prof. Aviles- Rodriguez’s denial of tenure is in large part the direct result of his tenure review committee’s personal dislike of his community based, Chicano artistic aesthetic, and perhaps, sadly, even paired with his obvious melanin distintion. It should be noted that only one member of the committee took the time to show up and support us students in our last show, “Almas,” only to later realize that the sole reason Ms. Paulsen attended, was to look for things to criticize.

From where we are, it looks like instead of actually spending time actively creating a department that fosters respect, and a meaningful dialogue about art, Ms. Paulsen uses her 1-2 days per week on campus to covertly sabotage one program in favor of another. Several staff and faculty members have noted Deborah Paulsen’s consistent willingness to complain about LAMC theater productions, and Prof. Aviles-Rodriguez, to anyone who will listen.

In fact, one staff member commented that they, along with several others, had already known of Mr. Aviles-Rodriguez’s denial of tenure, weeks prior to an allegedly confidential committee meeting. Was this spilling of information due to Ms. Paulsen’s lack of any type of discretion when speaking of the confidential matter? Or did this divulgence of information occur via one of the other committee members.

Ms. Paulsen has been known to refer to LAMC theater productions, which have all had themes which reflect the history of the area and community and the Chicano experience, as “pornographic.” In fact, when the LAMC Drama Club produced “ALMAS: Voices of the Pioneer Cemetery” in conjunction with the San Fernando Historical Society, after having viewed the production which featured performances based on the history of those buried in the cemetery, Ms. Paulsen told Mr. Avilez-Rodriguez to warn audience members of “adult content.”

This attempt at censorship failed when the show’s producer, and board member of the San Fernando Valley Historical Society, Jacky Walker, politely declined the suggestion. Deborah Paulsen later used this incident as one of the reasons for Guillermo’s denial of tenure, stating that he did not follow the chairs “suggestions.”

Apparently, at LAMC, not following suggestions based on artistic censorship and the personal opinions of one person, are grounds for dismissal.

Guillermo has received notice from the Los Angeles Community College District that he will be fired as of June 30th. Perhaps Ms. Milke, Ms. Paulsen, and Mr. Stage will finally get what they seem to want: students in “whiteface,” performing an ethnocentric, sanitized, Anglo vision of what art should be. Judging by the current demographic wave of students at LAMC, we wish you luck with that!

The commentary was written by Los Angeles Mission College students.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 19:06