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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Faculty supports ethnic studies

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Daily Wildcat Antonio Estrada, head of Mexican American studies at UA, joins others in the Catalina Room of SUMC on Tuesday in favor of ethnic studies continuing to be taught in public schools. Several UA staff and faculty are siding with TUSD in their desire to bring ethnic studies back.

Amid Arizona’s ethnic studies controversy, the Faculty Senate Task Force on Equity and Fairness called for “open discourse” during a forum on Tuesday about the Mexican-American studies debate and academic freedom.

Students, professors, faculty, administrators and members of the community filled the seats in the Student Union Memorial Center’s Catalina Room, with some attendees sitting on the floor. Those who tried to enter halfway through the forum were turned away due to lack of space.

The forum, which lasted more than two hours, featured two panels of distinguished UA faculty members who presented their research about ethnic studies and scholarship. It featured the ongoing debate over whether or not Mexican-American studies courses should be taught in schools and universities.

“Out of our discussions we came up with this idea to do an event sponsored by the president that would reaffirm our commitment here at the U of A to academic freedom, to the diverse field of ethnic studies and to make sure we were affirming and enabling that we believe in this work and need to pursue it freely in our research and in our classrooms here,” said Miranda Joseph, chair of the Faculty Senate Task Force on Equity and Fairness and associate professor of gender and women’s studies.

Jacqueline Mok, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, opened the forum and emphasized that there are many points of view within disciplines such as ethnic studies. This is important, she said, because the standard is not to have one point of view but a variety, which will allow multiple arguments to be challenged and considered.

Following Mok, a panel of three faculty members discussed their research and each had 10 minutes to speak. Panel member Gary Rhoades, a professor for higher education, said all matters should be discussed regardless of how controversial they may be.

“I think our responsibility as a university is to take a stance for open discourse, for intellectual freedom, for academic freedom, not only in our corridors but in our communities, and to defend the pursuit of knowledge that all of the studies we engage in represent,” Rhoades said.

When the speakers finished, an audience member asked the panelists how each of them have reached out, collaborated and supported the teachers and leaders at the forefront of the ethnic studies battle. Each of them provided examples of faculty involvement at various levels, as well as asked audience members to challenge the social order.

“I put out a call to our college to form a group of faculty who will meet with students and express the conception that rather than seeing them as people who are only going to succeed by going to the classroom and sitting quietly and obeying, that all change in this society depends on challenging the social order,” Rhoades said.

Some forum attendees appreciated the open discourse, but said they were disappointed it had not happened sooner.

Kristel Foster, a Tucson Unified School District Governing Board candidate and an educator who works with undergraduates studying elementary education, said she wished the forum happened last year when the ethnic studies debate started heating up.

“It’s been a long time coming and I think these perspectives and all of this knowledge is important to get out there in the community,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be more active and engaged in the struggle that we have here in Tucson right now to support the schools of this program specifically.”

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