A GUEST’S PERSPECTIVE: SDSU faculty Senate fails to act

by publicationarchive

The current state budget deficit has provided a great opportunity for those in power to make drastic changes, à la Reichstag Fire. While the California State University system undoubtedly has to cut enrollment because of great reductions in funding, most campuses are maintaining their commitment to local students in their service area.

San Diego State’s administration, however, has decided to sacrifice untold numbers of local students on the altar of budget cuts through a revision of its admissions criteria. This change will decrease the percentage of local-area students matriculating next fall to a minimum of 37 percent, as opposed to 54 last fall and this fall. This draconian action is elitist, exclusionary and oppressive. It slams the door on countless local students who would be first-generation college students, who are increasingly culturally diverse and / or poor and who can’t afford to attend any other university. Such people constitute the majority of San Diego’s residents and students.

The admissions criteria change is based on assumptions about intelligence and worth similar to those of psychologists Carl Brigham, Lewis Terman and Arthur Sweeney. These gentlemen collectively believed that African Americans, Mexicans and Indians should not be allowed to reproduce, could not master abstractions, but could “often be made efficient workers.” In their view, immigrants from Italy, Russia, Poland, and Ireland were genetically unfit, as were Catholics. As an aside, Brigham created the SAT, one of the two factors which SDSU uses to determine admissions. Terman created the Stanford-Binet IQ test, used to track students. Sweeney testified before Congress that Southeastern European immigrants thought with “the spinal cord rather than the brain.”

The administration’s current actions fly in the face of the CSU’s Web sitestatement from November of last year: “CSU campuses will still be required to admit all local CSU-eligible first-time freshmen and local upper division transfer students as is the usual established admissions policy. This will ensure that students who are not able to relocate, have jobs or family obligations will still be admitted to their local campus, provided they meet eligibility requirements. Many of these students are underserved, first-generation college students.”
Perhaps SDSU has no such local residents. Or perhaps it doesn’t want them. That certainly is the widespread perception of many schools, students and members of the community, all of whose voices have been completely ignored.

The admissions criteria change has created a firestorm of opposition in many quarters. Staunch opponents include the San Diego Unified School District (unanimously), San Diego area State Assembly members Marty Block and Mary Salas, most Latino members of the California State Assembly, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of San Diego, the Association of Raza Educators, the San Diego County Latino Coalition for Education and We Advocate Gender Equity.

Last Tuesday, a resolution regarding the new admissions criteria was proposed by the Diversity, Equity and Outreach Committee at a University Senate meeting. This resolution would have expressed Senate support for SDSU to maintain a minimum of 50 percent local student admits. During discussion of the resolution, a senator suddenly made a motion to send the resolution to a committee. His maneuver is the classic bureaucratic response to a proposal for change that is not favored. Many reform efforts have died in committee at all levels of government.

After a relatively limited discussion, the Senate decided to pass the motion. This decision by an overwhelmingly middle / upper class European-American group of academics took place on land that is filled with the bones and blood of Native Americans and Mexicans. It represents a profound disconnect between salaried employees of an institution which obtains its funding from its culturally diverse constituents and which was ostensibly created to serve the same (NOTE: “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Europe anymore”).

Among the questionable procedures followed at the Senate meeting were permitting a senator to unabashedly and self-admittedly promote his support of the change during a committee report, the virtual silencing of advocates of the DEO resolution, the exclusion of community representation and what appeared to be a pre-planned evasive measure to send the resolution to committee.

On February 27, 2002 Associated Students expressed “no confidence” in Provost Nancy Marlin for a variety of actions. Resolution 0102-015 berated SDSU’s chief executives for mismanagement, lack of concern regarding the quality of students’ experiences, acting in a non-collaborative, non-inclusive manner, perpetuating an elitist view of SDSU at the expense of the academic needs of SDSU students, failing to adequately diversify the faculty, and advocating policy changes in a manner which sends negative messages to the San Diego community and prospective students.

One of the documents cited by A.S. was titled “Resisting the localization of SDSU.” This undated document, apparently prepared by university officials, stated opposition to “increasing “provincialization’ of the university (or more acerbically, SDSU becoming a great-big 4-year Community College).” It advocated three measures to oppose localization and admitted that these changes would be “hard to sell” and “would have a negative effect on campus diversity.”

It’s déjà vu all over again.

The good Drs. Brigham, Terman and Sweeney must be chuckling in their graves.

– Jesús Nieto is an Associate Professor in the School of Teacher Education