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whose u?

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I got to the Whose University event after the play was performed. The audience got a chance to interact with the actors by stepping on stage and saying how they felt about the performance. One girl said that the message of the play touched her because her parents were going through a divorce, another said she appreciated the messages about body image that "you never hear about in school," and another audience member shared how her best friend committed suicide because of how people harassed him for being gay. I missed the play, but the play director summed up her message by saying, "I hope it leaves you always looking for ways to improve things for yourselves and others. [...] You should know that students just like you created the safe space for us to address these issues today." That is what I felt that the Whose University event was about. I stayed for an informational presentation about the campaign, addressing 3 questions:

Who has access to the University?
Who is supported?
Whose knowledge is valued?

It became clear after listening to students, faculty, and people who had not gotten into the U that these answers could not be found in the types of promotional pamphlets usually handed out to prospective students. The students started the presentation by talking about the 7 black students who took over Morill Hall in 1969 and demanded a campus that not only tolerated them, but provided a supportive and empowering environment for people of color. They welcomed a speaker from the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership, who had national and state statistics showing age and racial disparities in test scores and academic progress. She said it was worthwhile to note that regardless of race, aspirations for higher education remained high for all groups and that is why we need to ask ourselves what we can do to increase access to higher education. Then, continuing to put the problem of access in historical context, students talked about the general college that was discontinued in 2005 and noted that some departments (mostly cultural studies) had budgets smaller than the refreshments stand at TFC, and smaller than some other departments' office supply budgets! That really surprised me.
"We offer a wide variety of programs," one Asian American student explained, "and when we talk about how we have classes on the Civil War, maybe we should start including slave experiences from the point of black people. Maybe when we talk about Vietnam, we could focus less on the Kennedy policies everyone knows about, and more on the Asian-American protests happening around the country." I looked at everyone nodding their head. We are obviously missing a very crucial voice by eliminating these points of view in our curriculums.
A graduating student of Chicano studies talked about why La Raza cultural center was so important to her. Nontraditional students have unique problems and experiences, and safe spaces are not just built into the plan, they are fought for and never permanently established in Coffman. She noted how the University liked to pay lip service to diversity by saying there's a place for everyone here, but the reality is that they are literally trying to push the programs that support diversity out of the common space, saying that they are trying to allocate the space fairly. "This is not just another club or student union," she pointed out. "We have always, always been marginalized and underrepresented." And that underrepresentation would continue if the cultural center closed.
The vice president of the black student union had a great way of putting it.
"The black student union completely transformed my experience here. Without these spaces, students of color will have a very hard time remaining on this campus and feeling like they can and should belong here."
The rhetoric the school is using does not align with the reality of the admissions process, which excludes a wide variety of talent. As the Vice President of the Black Student Union put it, "We cannot outsource our commitment to diversity to community colleges by blocking our point of entry."
The increasingly narrow criterion for admissions has a tendency to reflect an economic and social resemblance to whiteness. "Applying for admissions made me feel like a soldier in a battlefield," said one student who didn't initially get in. She talked about how her school was poor, did not encourage her to apply to colleges, and she had to go above and beyond what most high school seniors do in order to get into the U.
I'm glad I went to this event because it made me realize how important it is to speak up when an institution you pay for and attend is deliberately trying to remove cultural safe spaces from a student center. I knew they were debating space but wasn't very informed until I came to the event. I feel like I have a better understanding of what sorts of power operates in making these decisions and maybe I should get more involved in trying to help this campaign in its commitment to change.

Whose Univerity?

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The event called "Whose University? A Day of Education", Wednesday, April 20th, was hosted by a group of University of Minnesota student who are dedicated to making the University more welcoming for students of diversity and to make the voices of those who do not usually get the attention that they deserve heard once again and to make it known that these students demand equality on campus. On April 20th, they had many different events going on that teach people from within as well as out of the University about things such as diversity and its importance, and about standing up for yourself, making your voice heard and demanding equality. The event that I was assigned to attend was about things like safe spaces and interacting with others. So, the first thing we did was play a simple game where everybody in the room walks around to find a spot the he/she feels most comfortable; whether it was by a door, by a computer or near an electrical outlet. I chose my "safe spot" to be on the couch because it made me feel at home. The main purpose of this activity was to demonstrate how people of diversity (ethnic, religious, sexual, etc.) feel when they first attend the University of Minnesota; that they need to find a place or person that they feel the most comfortable being around or at. Then, we moved on to doing many other activities which were meant to demonstrate how people at the University need to connect with each other and learn to work together and help each other out. After all the activities, the event hosted a rapper, whose name I cannot recall, to come to the University and rap about standing up making your voice heard, I found this to be very effective and entertaining. It was a very interesting overall event, with a very positive message.

Whose U Empowers the Voice of all

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I was quite impressed with the Whose University program. I was able to attend from about 1:00 to the end. The initial, "Because Knowledge is Power" program was quite powerful, if not moving. I walked in about a half hour after the program had started, so the atmosphere had already started to set in. There were college and high school students, faculty, and interestingly some outside people all packed into the Great Hall of Coffman Union for the Day of Education.
Students shared their stories about their experiences in higher education. One of our classmates spoke about his activism for immigrant students, and greater immigration reform. He cited the Dream Act as a feasible option for granting decreased tuition for immigrant students if they had lived in the United States for 5 years or more, and chose to serve in the military. Another one of our classmates also shared her experience with General College in her first year at the University of Minnesota. We had talked about this before in class, but it was still a sad reminder of the systematic elimination of opportunities for less privileged individuals.
The most striking testimony though, came from an individual who was denied from the University of Minnesota. He spoke to how he could not get into the U of M, despite having average grades and the minimum ACT score. He isolated his feeling of disenfranchisement because he felt only like a number in such a large school. Getting denied form the U didn't end his academic pursuits though; he met with a recruiter from Hamline, who offered him a full ride scholarship and he is now a top student majoring in mathematics.
Another surprise happened when I went to the Faculty Panel on Ethnic Studies, and my African Studies Professor, Dr. Rose Marie Brewer was actually the moderator of the forum. She gave a great overview of the situation with ethnic studies within the liberal education experience, and each department was able to field her questions, and questions from students.
Initially, I was surprised to learn that the College of Liberal Arts offered an Asian American Studies degree. Despite it making a lot of sense to have one, I didn't really think of it as something you could major in before... and I still don't because with funding getting cut for the university, one of the first places that cuts are being dolled down in is CLA, and that prevents the Asian American Studies minor to not be able to grow to become anything larger than it already is. Also our Chicano Studies department only has two professors, and they have both a major and a minor (though Graduate Classes have since been cut).
To end the Day of Education, Whose University brought in a few groups of artists to display their talents. My favorite, hands down, was Poetry Assassins. It was way more powerful than any rap, and despite not having a beat, I felt the flow was still there, but the words were more meaningful and easier to listen to because there was no beat and no hook to distract you from the song's meaning. I also enjoyed the Chicano dancers that were at the very end as well.

BONUS EASTER EGGS:
-I saw the vlogger we featured in class on April 4th. He was filming some of the event, though he was fitting the normative constraints of wearing a shirt.

Panel Discussion

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In the Panel Discussion on April 18th, Chavez talked about the coalition movement. She spoke about a re-imagining of belonging, where queer politics and immigration policy meet. Much of her discussion was on the Dream Act. The Dream Act has many parallels to queer LGBT movements with the idea of "coming out". The concept was that the knowledge of coming out will compel change. The primary goal of the Dream Act, however, was singular, focusing only on the passing of the act. This ignored the intersectionality and layers of power/categories that are related to the issues the act addresses. Although word about the act was vast, media was manipulated and much discussion was on this topic, in the end the Dream Act failed to pass.

During the Q&A time Chavez explained her perspective of coalitions. She stated that if one is not shaken to the bone then they are not participating fully in a coalition. She spoke about how coalitions are about pushing boundaries. One thing that really resided with me while listening to Chavez and the other panel members was when someone asked how to create a coalition that expanded to a larger culture and how is it possible to create possibilities for social change. What Morris discussed ignited thoughts to flame in my mind. He responded by saying how the education curriculum needs to be manipulated for change; how this change can also be achieved through legislation. That the seed bed of interest that was planted in the past must be attended to and we must "trouble the notion of socialization". What are ways we can trouble the idea of socialization when so many systems are institutionalized and influential? Do you trouble socialization? Have you ever?

News from our Families

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Chavez's talk about "News from our Families: at the Borders Talk" featured Dr. Daniel Brauer, Dr. Charles Morris. This talk addressed the LGBT adoption, sexual orientation, military service; hate crime law, call for immigration equality, a change in anti-discrimination laws against LGBT people and also a call for coalition. These speakers were able to discuss the pain and oppression faced by gay, lesbians, and undocumented workers by presenting stories regarding HIV positive born child with two gay parents, military services against homosexuality, and so on. For instance, Dr. Morris was able to discuss this hardship in details sharing with us a news story that featured a boy born with HIV with two gay men as parents. With this story, he was able to discuss the rejections faced by these two gay men to serve as a parent and how it eventually became a positive influence on the community after the child died. These speakers were also able to discuss how homosexuality is viewed as a degrading act among military men and women. Also how they viewed homosexuality as an act that would create an acceptable risk to the high standard of moral and discipline that are the essence of military capability.
At the end of their talks, they were able to call for a need for belonging that "calls us to reckon with the ways in which we are oppressed so that we may place ourselves where we can have an impact and where we can share experience". They discussed a need for a "change for legalization not acceptance". They also encouraged the audience to share their stories because "our lives and stories serve as a tool for political change".

Whose University?

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From my understanding the Whose University event is about promoting equal access and opportunities for underrepresented groups at the University of Minnesota. This issue has arose because the space designated for certain cultural centers in second floor Coffman Union are being threatened. This event was designed to bring visibility to these issues and put pressure on the administration to listen to the students, the people whose lives are affected by these changes.

I attended the 3:00 presentation featuring various dance and step groups. There was a live DJ and a light party mood throughout the room. The event starts with two men from a fraternity doing some sort of step dance and chant. Each of the speakers had an uplifting message that "our" [student] voices matter; it seemed basically like a rally for change. For example, one of the rapper's rapped,"we need choices, we need justice, we need action." At one point leaders of certain groups spoke about the need for student voices to be heard, and even more importantly the voice of the underrepresented. I thought this event was a breath of fresh air because it showed students doing something to get their voices heard. The men up on top may think they have all the power but the students that go to this school and study here should have a say. I think the students who organized Whose University showed just that.

DE for april 20

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Group C should post their DE entries by Monday evening and Groups A and D should post their comments by Wednesday at noon.

This week (4/18 and 4/20), we are reading Chávez's essay, "Border (In)Securities" and parts of Families, Unvalued (note: Read 7-18, 135-144 and closely skim 46-91). For this DE, reflect on the following questions:

  1. How do the authors discuss family values in these readings?
  2. Any terms/concepts/ideas that are confusing for you?
BONUS EXTRA CREDIT: Earn 15 extra points for your total grade by attending one of the following events and posting a 200-300 entry about it by April 22. File your post under the category, "extra credit":