Second letter regarding proposed budgetary cuts in the CSUB academic programs.

26 10 2009

October 25, 2009

Dr. Horace Mitchell, President
California State University Bakersfield
9001 Stockdale Highway
Bakersfield, CA 93312


(click here for letter)

Dear Dr. Mitchell,

This is my second letter which I write to you regarding discussions currently being held regarding proposed budgetary cuts in the CSUB academic programs.  After I sent you my initial letter last week,  I have been observing a continuing growth in the number of letters and overall correspondence directed to your office and to CSUB.  It is because of the severity and enormous consequences that I write a second letter to you.

First, I realize that all campuses of the CSU system are facing difficult decisions.  No one wants to see programs or departments cut or eliminated from a campus, and to see campuses across the state debate and argue as what programs and or departments to cut or eliminate. It is widely recognized of the severity of the budgetary situation state-wide.  But at the same time, it is hoped that whatever actions are taken that they have the least negative impact and the most minimal effect  on the university and the community which is served by the university in question.  It has come to the attention  of the academic community at CSUB, and the community in Kern County and Bakersfield,  that the Department of  Modern Languages and Literatures (Foreign Language) and other academic connected classes like Chicano Studies are being considered to be eliminated as a result of deliberations now taking place now with the ultimate decision to be made by you in  December, as President, based on the advice and recommendations of your administrative staff.  Based on the information that has circulated throughout the campus, the “moratorium” being considered would effectively result in the elimination of the undergraduate language programs as well as the graduate level programs.  It is my understanding that based on a letter by one of your professors that the Dean of the Humanities & Social Sciences Division met with the Chair of the Modern Languages Department and informed him that he would recommend a moratorium on majors in their program – effectively killing the program.

As many other professors and scholars have written to you, the possibility of this action occurring would go contrary to the idea that CSUB has a comprehensive mission supporting diversity and excellence  in its curriculum and students.  It has been asked already, how can a modern California university with a huge Latino population where being bilingual and bi-literate is an asset and a sign of an educated society even consider such an outrageous proposal?  I am sure you already are aware that your Latino student population already constitutes 45%, that the Bakersfield City School District has a 76% majority of Latino students, the Kern High School District has reached 87,042 which is 50% of the total while the under 18 age group of Latino students is 35,683 or 61.9% according to the California State enrollments figures for 2000. The  total public Latino enrollments  in Kern County already constitute a majority of students at 56 % in 2006-2007.

These figures are offered to demonstrate that the population figures already constitute the majority of students in the County, that they will continue to grow and that eliminating the proposed programs at CSUB can only be interpreted as an attack on the student population at CSUB at 45% and the rest of the Latino population in this region.  Think of the thousands of high school students currently taking language courses at their high school.  Word has reached them of this proposed action, and not only are they stunned and in shocked, but they are  angered and bewildered by the potential disastrous impact this could have on their lives.

Secondly, it should be noted, according to sociologists and other social scientists, that such an action that is being contemplated  is tantamount to an institutional act of cultural genocide.  I realize that these words might sound harsh, but the reality is that this action can be seen as a means in which the power structure, institutionally speaking, decides to eliminate a academic, curricular program and this action results in a rejection of the idea of language diversity.  Institutional cultural genocide can be defined as the elimination (i.e., extermination) of  cultural traits, practices, values, or a language of a particular group that generally is powerless to the destruction to occur.  Most informed people are aware of the U.S. policy of attempting to wipe out the use of the indigenous languages and to try to “kill the Indian” not by a physical extermination which failed, but by attempting to destroy their culture and language by forcibly removing children by their homes and placing them in homes of white English speaking Americans and to make these Indian children “white.”

At CSUB there is not the presence of a sufficient number of Latino / Hispanic administrators to effectively debate, oppose, and block this action.  Everyone knows that the lack of  Latino /Hispanic administrators on your staff is a fact which at the same time in incredible in light of the fact that your administration has grown 45% since 2000 according to CFA statistics.   It has obvious that faculty have not been listened to,  according to reports that have come from the campus. Students oppose this action.   This  action of a university which goes contrary to its mission of reflecting the diversity of its community and student body in the programs it develops, maintains, and protects is highly troubling.  Hence, the potential destruction of the curricular program of languages and their academic connections to other courses like in education and Chicano Studies  at an institution of higher education where its’ study contributes to the following points listed below can be seen as difficult to comprehend and academically impossible to fathom.

(1) the language program contributes to our national security, according to several U.S.             Presidential task groups;

(2)  These language programs contribute to an economic, political, and social  necessity          where a huge percentage of our state, regional, and national population engages and      communicates  in Spanish and with the additional realization that Latin America has             several hundred million people whose mother tongue is Spanish;

(3) the study of languages also contributes to an understanding  and usage of another             language that contributes to the life-long enrichment of our students and community.

Analysis of the size of department enrollments and the use these figures as a justification to drop these programs is a bogus argument.  There are departments that are smaller on campus, and no other CSU campus is contemplating this action.  So everyone is asking  “What is the rationale for this proposed decision?”  “It can not be an academic curricular  one,” many students, faculty, and community persons declare.  “It can not be enrollments”- state and university statistics counter this argument.  Many people have argued that  this proposed action is a direct attack against the Latino / Hispanic community.  I personally hope and pray that this is not the case, although I must inform you that since the proposal does not make sense that many people have reached certain conclusions.

In the twenty-first century in California where there are projections for the continued growth of the Latino / Hispanic population in communities and schools at all levels where we are indeed seeing the “browning of America” demographically speaking, the elimination of these programs is unfathomable that they could even be contemplated. It should also be noted that cuts and elimination of these programs would effectively cut the number of Latino / Hispanic faculty at CSUB.

Thirdly, how can a university claim that the destruction or elimination  of a program that took decades to develop keeps intact its mission philosophically speaking aligned with the need to meet the standards of “diversity and excellence?”

I believe that in addition to having a dialogue on campus regarding this issue between your administrative staff and your faculty, you would be wise to consider involving students and the community.  Then no one could charge you with not being transparent and engaging all parties concerned with this profound and important matter.  I am available to assist with this task if I am called upon.  I feel deeply about this matter.

As the President of CSUB, you have two basic choices.  You can support the recommendations of your administrative staff which are flawed and contrary to the aims and mission of our local CSU campus..  Or you can make history and win the positive acclaim of the Latino academic and general community by rejecting these insane and ludicrous recommendations as dangerous and counter-productive to the aim and mission of a university.  If you choose to reject these academically corrupt ideas of contributing to an institutional cultural genocide you could be truly considered an enlightened and wise university president.  You have a choice.  Your decision will probably be the most important of your career.  How do you wish to be remembered?


Dr. Jess G. Nieto

Executive Director

Heritage of America Educational & Cultural Foundation