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In My Own Words PDF Print E-mail
Written by Guillermo Aviles-Rodriquez   
Thursday, 08 May 2014 05:22

Guillermo Aviles-Rodriquez

I was born to a single mother who had her first child at fourteen, she spoke no English and got as far as the 6th grade. I was raised in the community of Watts where the life expectancy for a male was 18.

If anyone would have claimed that I would be where I am today, it would have been fair to call them a fool … and yet here I am a college instructor teaching in a community that I have fallen in love with, and doing my best to shake every single one of my students out of their self-imposed torpor, and wishing and praying that they will all one day also achieve more than anyone would have ever thought possible.

It is for them, my students, that I am writing this.

Since being denied tenure in November 2013, I have been repeatedly humbled by the torrent of support from L.A. Mission faculty, staff, students and the Sylmar community in general. All the work people have put into saving my job has made me realize that I have in fact managed to positively impact students over my four years at L.A. Mission.

I think it is fair to say that not many people expected such an outpouring of support on my behalf and I know that no one expected it to be sustained for this long. I mean how could an instructor who has been justly denied tenure by a fair and balanced tenure review committee be supported by so many people and for so long? Maybe the students are being manipulated and the community is too senseless to know what a good professor is? I am happy this question is being asked at all.

Speaking of good questions, you may be wondering why I was denied tenure, and all I can say to that is, so am I. I wish I knew what I did or failed to do to have my tenure denied if, for no other reason, than to avoid going through what I am going through ever again. But I digress: this write up is not coming from a disgruntled employee, it is coming from a thankful and humble teacher whose students have heard that I am not good enough to work at Mission (or any other college in the LACCD) and who have started to ask questions, good questions that should have been answered instead of ignored and mocked.

I am fond of telling my students to think of me like a glorified waiter, serving them an education cooked up by the greatest writers and scholars of our time. I tell them that if they find that my lecture soup is cold or my PowerPoint has a hair in it, that they should send me back to the kitchen to work up a better presentation. So if my customers think of me as an excellent instructor, it is the biggest tip I could ever get. It is my students and the faith in me as a person and an instructor that keeps me strong.

I am so proud of the way my students have begun to find their voice, and that is the real jewel of this whole situation for me. After all, what negative feeling could anyone possibly have about an organized, respectful and passionate group of students who have found a cause to rally around? Is this not what college is all about, finding one’s voice, speaking truth to power and not letting oneself be intimidated into silence?

As I move forward I am acutely aware of how much my students and many community members have sacrificed and it is my wish to honor them all with these words. I believe that it is they who, in the end, will prove the most important in this saga.

Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez is the Drama/Cinema Professor at L.A. Mission College. On campus he wrote and directed the theater production “Crossing The Line: A Latino Kyogen,” and the community production “Voices of Pioneer Cemetery: ALMAS Day of the Dead” which was held at the Sylmar cemetery. Both productions, while praised by the community, were criticized by campus administrators. His appeal to deny his tenure has been turned down by President Perez and he is currently seeking support from his union. Unless the decision to deny his tenure is reversed, his last day to teach at Mission College is June 30.

More than 1,000 students have signed a petition urging LAMC administrators to reconsider.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 05:28

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