#Human Rights
President Simon, Michigan State
United States of America

Within the past decade, great strides have been made in Chicano/Latino Studies at MSU. Some of the successes include:

A specialization in Chicano/Latino Studies was created for the first time, open to all students of the university to gain exposure and expertise in Chicano/Latino scholarship;

A unique mentoring program was developed, led by students for students, as a way to strengthen community and promote Chicano culture on-campus. Over 200 students have participated in the Chicano/Latino Fellows program since its inception;

A space for Chicano/Latino Studies was created, expanding from a one-room to a visible six-room office on-campus to support student social and academic activities;

A stand alone Ph.D. program in Chicano/Latino Studies was created, the first in the Midwest and only the second in existence nationwide;

An intellectual community of undergraduate students, graduate students, and core faculty committed to Chicano/Latino Studies has emerged, engaged in word and action to social justice and collective empowerment.

These accomplishments of the past decade, preceded by at least twenty years of struggle by Chicano students at Michigan State, are significant for at least two reasons:

First, there is now a greater institutional presence of Chicano/Latino Studies within the university;

Second and most importantly, these accomplishments reflect an intentional process by the former Director of Chicano/Latino Studies, Dr. Theresa Meléndez, to engage in principles of collective decision-making and mutual respect, whereby students and core faculty alike had a voice in the direction of the program.

For all of these reasons and more, it is unfortunate to have to come to you now and express that Chicano/Latino Studies is facing a crisis.

The demise of the program began after the appointment of Dr. Sheila Contreras as the new Director of Chicano/Latino Studies in the Fall of 2008. With the support and encouragement of MSU's administration, Dr. Contreras has single-handedly undermined the last 10 years of hard work and collective effort, primarily by refusing to listen to the voices of the undergraduate and graduate students. Dr. Contreras has even been unresponsive to concerns raised by core faculty members since her appointment, her own colleagues in Chicano/Latino Studies.

After being unsuccessful in attempting to share our concerns directly with Dr. Contreras, the Real Chicano/Latino Studies (RCLS) was formed in the spring of 2009 as a symbolic expression of opposition to the direction and current leadership of the program. Subsequent attempts to share our concerns were taken to the Dean of the College of Social Science, where the program is housed, and after no resolution, to the Provost of the University. Despite the concerns repeatedly raised by the majority of all involved directly in the program, the administration of the University has ignored them and continued to support the Director.

We are, thus, writing you today, asking for your help!

CONTACT PRESIDENT LOU ANA SIMON and demand that Michigan State honors the students’ request for new principled leadership in Chicano/Latino Studies. President Simon can be contacted by EMAIL at presmail@msu.edu and laksimon@msu.edu, or by PHONE at 517.355.6560. If you email, you can copy the State News at opinion@statenews.edu.

In solidarity with core constituents of Chicano/Latino Studies at MSU:

We demand the removal of Dr. Sheila Contreras as director of the program, as requested by the majority of all three tiers of Chicano/Latino Studies;

We demand that MSU applies its mission in advancing knowledge and transforming the lives of tuition-paying students, not to dismiss them or silence their voices;

We believe that the university exists to serve the students, not just administrators. Student rights are human rights and deserve to be recognized, including the right to dissent;

We believe that a Ph.D. degree does not grant someone a license to belittle and dehumanize students, staff, or persons in our community;

We believe that Chicano/Latino Studies exists to serve the needs of the greater Chicano/Latino community, not just for self-promotion or at the pleasure of the administration;

We are the Real Chicano/Latino Studies.

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The Call For Solidarity for Real Chicano/Latino Studies at MSU petition to President Simon, Michigan State was written by Real Chicano Latino Studies and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.