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University of Arizona Professor Takes Action Against Death Threat PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andres Chavez Sun Staff Reporter   
Thursday, 16 August 2012 07:07

University of Arizona professor Roberto "Dr. Cintli" Rodriguez has served as a mentor to many of the high school Mexican American Studies graduates who choose the University of Arizona as their college. Rodriguez, a native of Los Angeles and a previous journalist is no stranger to standing up for his rights. In the 1980's he successfully sued the Los Angeles County Sheriffs after he was beaten for attempting to take a photo of a them assaulting another person. It was bold move that few took on and many were skeptical that Rodriguez could win a case against L.A. law enforcement, but he did.

Similarly, after receiving threatening phone calls at the university where he now works, Rodriguez took action.

Arizona has a history of a violent anti-Mexican strain. So on one level, it's no surprise that Mexican American Studies students' then Professor Rodriguez, a supporter of the students, received threats and insults.

In May 2011, Randall Leon Thompson, 60, left three profanity- laced voicemails where he threatened to shoot Rodriguez. Last week, Thompson pleaded guilty to one count of using a telephone to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass an individual, a misdemeanor. "The judge asked me if I wanted to put him in jail. But to me, the case had already been litigated, agreed to," Rodriguez said. "They couldn't change it to a felony. So whatever would have happened would have still been minor. If I had said, 'Put him in jail,' it would have been maybe a six month maximum.

But something like that deserves felony (charges) and it deserves hate crime charges." Arizona, Rodriguez stated, is rampant with the use of death threats. Everybody claims to get them. "People told me that they get calls like this all the time, and I told them, well you shouldn't be getting calls like that. It isn't right and shouldn't be accepted as 'normal'."

The purpose is to terrorize the community and create an overbearing climate of fear. Local police discount many of these threats as jokes. That's why he pursued the Thompson case. "It doesn't matter what the person says. Once it's out in public, that your are inciting violence, it's out of your control."

One reason for the hate threats that Rodriguez received was his strong support of the Mexican American Studies program. Depending on where you draw the line, Chicano Studies has been around almost 50 years, with a minium of 44 years. There are strong Chicano Studies programs at many major universities all over the country but especially in the Southwest. California has the strongest departments with California State University, Northridge having the largest, and according to many, the best department.

So there is a strong academic support for development of any high school program that a school district wants to develop. Tucson High School developed one of the best, but it was too successful and drew the anti- Mexican anger of Arizona state offices.

"It's an epic struggle. They (Arizona state officials and right wingers) demonized the discipline to the point that they literally believe that it exists outside of Western Civilization. Pretty bizarre. It's not very different than the Inquisition. I'm not being hyperbolic. The books, art work, posters, the lessons they were all on trial. What was being ruled on was, What is Permissible Knowledge, What is Acceptable. You would think that after 44 years of a discipline that somebody else would have caught on that here's a bad discipline. But over here they're so pompous they say, 'Oh my God, they've discovered a discipline that's bad," Rodriguez stated.

He feels that while they will probably win the legal battle, the Latino community needs to win the battle of public opinion.

He also feels the community has to become more involved in the elections. First by electing new members to the school board who reflect the opinions of the community and also throwing out state officials who advocate anti-Latino policies.

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