Students Demand Professor of Pilipino American Studies

Kim-Mai Cutler covers diversity. E-mail her at [email protected].





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Approximately 20 costume-clad UC Berkeley students transformed the front of Dwinelle Hall into three landmark moments of anti-Filipino discrimination as they urged the university to hire and retain a Pilipino American studies professor.

The ethnic studies department placed an advertisement for a Pilipino American studies professor earlier this month with the goal of hiring a tenure-track professor who would start in June 2003. The position will remain open until Nov. 5.

Several faculty members from the ethnic studies department and one sociology graduate student will serve on the search committee, said UC Berkeley senior and organizer Karmela Herrera.

Many students performed in intermittent "guerrilla theater" skits at Dwinelle Plaza yesterday, surveying a century of discrimination.

"It's a way of expressing political ideas in an artistic manner," Herrera said.

The performance recalled Filipinos being caged and exhibited at the World's Fair in 1904, Filipinos protesting a forced eviction in San Francisco in the 1950s and how post-Sept. 11 regulations on airport security screeners have put many Filipinos out of work.

Statewide, students have mobilized in support of Pilipino American studies as students have organized visibility weeks at several other UC campuses including Irvine, Riverside and San Diego.

"The Asian American studies program holds really esteemed and famous faculty, yet still Asian American studies is definitely not complete without Pilipino American studies," said Herrera, noting Filipino Americans are the second-largest Asian ethnicity in the United States.

The Asian American studies program has hired lecturers to teach courses in Pilipino American history, and the Southeast Asian Studies department offers courses in Tagalog, the national language of the Phillipines.

But some students said such courses do not offer the needed continuous support for the student community.

"What happens is that a class is offered by a lecturer, and then they have to leave," Herrera said. "There's limited faculty interaction. We need to have someone to represent us on the faculty level."

Supporters said a permanent Pilipino American studies professor could serve as a mentor for students and would be able to cover topics such as the Filipino Diaspora and Filipino American identity.

UC Berkeley senior and organizer Alynn Umel said she has had to look outside the university for trained advisors when writing papers on Pilipino issues.

The process for hiring a professor starts with the Asian American studies program, followed by the ethnic studies department, then the dean of social sciences and on to a budget committee, said ethnic studies department manager Rosa Johnson.

In the past, the ethnic studies department has employed two Pilipino American studies professors, who were denied tenure and subsequently left, resulting in an absence of a Pilipino American studies professor.

"The process got in the way," said Student Regent Dexter Ligot-Gordon. "We have the students' support. They understand the system and the hiring process, and they're not going to let this happen again."

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