Dissenting TAs Ousted From DOC

[http://ucsdguardian.org/viewarticle.php?story=news02&year=2007&month=04&day=30] or see below:
Dissenting TAs Ousted from D.O.C. Program

Tutors dismissed after criticizing the writing program for having narrow views of social injustice.

By Christopher Stuhrenberg
Staff Writer

April 30, 2007 — Two Thurgood Marshall College Dimensions of Culture teaching assistants were declined renewal of their yearly contracts following their open and adamant criticisms of the writing program.

D.O.C. program Director Abraham Shragge cited Scott Boehm and Benjamin Balthaser's unwillingness to teach the course as it is currently designed as one of the major reasons for not renewing their contracts.

"They had not been teaching the course as we had asked, according to the syllabus and according to the rules we set down," Shragge said.

Boehm and Balthaser are members of the Lumumba-Zapata Coalition, an organization of faculty, staff, TAs, graduate students and undergraduates created this year with the explicit purpose of changing the program to better represent, according to the group's standards, its original purpose and mission.

D.O.C. was created to challenge students to question assumptions about race, ethnicity and gender. But according to Boehm and Balthaser, the program has become uncritical and patriotic, while failing to adequately investigate past social injustices.

"[The D.O.C. program] has been significantly watered down," Balthaser said. "The faculty has radically changed, the key readings have radically changed, the writing prompt also radically changed."

Changes made to the D.O.C. program, assert LZC members, endanger the integrity of Marshall's commitment to goals such as social justice and racial equality.

On April 13, the LZC presented a list of demands to Marshall Provost Alan Havis, calling for a number of alterations to the D.O.C. program.

One of the main changes the LZC hopes to institute is the creation of a D.O.C. advisory committee to be established by the end of May 2007.

The proposed committee would include two TMC Student Council officers and two Student Affirmative Action Committee officers as well as four TAs and four UCSD faculty members not from D.O.C., but whose academic work pertains to the program's curriculum, such as critical race theory, ethnic studies, critical gender studies and American studies, among others. The committee would serve as an independent reviewing body of the current program in order to suggest changes to the provost and D.O.C. director about course curriculum and the hiring, recruitment strategies and retention of teaching staff.

Also included in the list of demands is a return to the principles of the original D.O.C. plan and curriculum. The LZC said this could be achieved through several means, namely by hiring more staff, faculty and TAs whose academic training suits the D.O.C. program, and recruiting more minorities. The demands also included stopping the militarization of D.O.C. curriculum and tailoring the extracurricular activities of Marshall and D.O.C. to their respective histories and principles. Finally, the LZC called for the cessation of the intimidation and harassment of staff who raise concerns and challenge the direction of the D.O.C. program.

Shragge, however, insisted that D.O.C. has not drifted from its original mission.

"Thurgood Marshall College, from the very beginning, has been dedicated to the ideals of the scholar and citizen, knowledge to action, social justice, equal rights, equality of citizenship," Shragge said. "I very strongly believe neither the college nor the program has strayed from its purpose."

Havis offered to continue talks with Boehm and Balthaser, but said in an e-mail that Marshall "continues to exemplify 'scholar and citizen' symbolism and a far-reaching inclusive social vision toward egalitarian life and full societal justice."

The LZC said that numerous organizations such as the Cross Cultural Center, the Black Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanola de Aztlan, Native American Alumni Association, Asian and Pacific Islander Student Alliance, Students with Disabilities Coalition and Muslim Student Association, among others, have endorsed their efforts.

Shragge said he has not been approached by the organizations listed by the LZC concerning this issue.

"Nobody has come to me," he said.

The LZC plans to hold a demonstration May 3 at 11:45 a.m. in front of the Marshall administration building to instruct students about Marshall and D.O.C. history while voicing opposition to the current direction of the program.

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