June 2, 2000

A Report on the Summit Meeting At UC Riverside On Latino Education

By Jorge Mariscal

On Saturday, May 20, a statewide Latino Summit Conference on Educational Reform was held at UC Riverside. Approximately two hundred participants heard presentations by elected officals, students, and educators on the status of Chicano/Latinos in the K-12 system, community colleges, and four-year institutions. Dr. Armando Navarro, chairman of the Ethnic Studies department at UCR, called the meeting with the objective of mobilizing our communities for increased activism on the issue of education.

In his opening remarks, Chancellor Ray Orbach of UCR said the student bodies of all California colleges and universities must reflect the state population. He added that the curriculum should reflect the student body so that "all students will see themselves." Chicano student enrolllments are up dramatically at UCR, and the campus has just received a large grant to revise their overall curriculum in the direction of Chicano and Ethnic studies.

Dr. Ed Apodaca of the University of Texas, Houston argued that while local reforms were important, the much larger issue was demographic change and the lack of educational infrastructure. There are too few college campuses in the state to meet the needs of the growing population, especially Latinos whose numbers are expected to increase from 7 million to 28 million by the year 2040. He felt that the existing California Master Plan for Higher Education is still viable but that it must be implemented aggressively. He suggested that the state may have to convert some exisiting Cal State campuses to UC campuses and some community colleges to CSUs.

During the workshop on four year institutions, Dr. Gene Garcia of UC Berkeley focused on the issue of exclusion of Chicanos/as in both the UC and CSU systems. He reported on a meeting between a small group of UC Berkeley Chicano faculty and UC President Richard Atkinson. According to Garcia, Atkinson has agreed in principle to create a task force to study the problem of how to achieve meaningful diversity at UCB, UCLA, and UCSD.

The case of UCSD is especially troubling given the campus's failure to retain highly-qualified Chicano/a faculty, the absence of high-ranking Chicano/a administrators, and the inability to attract new Chicano/a students. Although the number of admitted Chicano/a students is up for next year—from 836 in 1999 to 953 for Fall of 2000—it is unclear how many students will actually enroll. Of the 953 accepted Chicano/a students, to date only 362 have indicated they plan to attend UCSD. An additional 5-7% is usually lost before actual Fall matriculation.

Dr. Garcia, who is chairman of the School of Education at UC Berkeley, also is arguing for two other major changes in UC admissions procedures: 1) the dropping of SAT exams, and 2) the use of community college courses in lieu of Advanced Placement courses. Many Chicano/a and poor students in the state do not have access to or cannot afford AP courses or fail AP exams because their AP teachers are not well-qualified.

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