Over the weekend, students and faculty at Harvard Graduate School of Education pledged their solidarity with SF State through social media in the wake of the potential College of Ethnic Studies spending cuts.
The Facebook page Defend and Advance Ethnic Studies at SF State posted a picture on Friday of Harvard Graduate School of Education students holding a banner that read, “In solidarity with SFSU defend & advance Ethnic Studies.”
The picture was organized by Christina Villarreal, an adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who graduated from SF State in 2010 with a master’s degree in Ethnic Studies.
“Ethnic Studies raised me,” Villarreal said. “It helped me get into Harvard the first time.”
Villarreal helped create an Ethnic Studies class at Harvard based off of courses and lessons learned from SF State.
“Last year, a group of doctoral students … fought to get an Ethnic Studies class,” Villarreal said. “They got an independent study, but not a full course. It became very popular. I gave them my syllabus from San Francisco State as a resource. SF State is all over the East Coast right now.”
Villarreal believes that all universities, even those as storied as Harvard, will be negatively impacted if SF State’s College of Ethnic Studies is cut.
“If you attack the roots, you poison the tree,” Villarreal said. “As the movement grows out here, what good is that branch growing out if the roots at home are not intact? We’re not asking. Give us enough water for the next day for our roots. Give us the nutrients.”
It has become much more than an SF State issue, said Jason Ferreira, an associate professor in the College of Ethnic Studies.
“People recognize Ethnic Studies at SF State,” Ferreira said. “If things go well here, things go well in other places. If Ethnic Studies is under attack, that does not go well through other institutions. We are the mothership.”
Once Villarreal heard about the financial difficulties at SF State’s College of Ethnic Studies, she took immediate action with her students.
Faculty and students worked together to show their support with the banner and T-shirts that say, “No History, No Self. Know History, Know Self. #TWLF 2016 #MeetTheDemands #Advancing Ethnic Studies.”
“There was an immediate response of, ‘What do we do?” Villarreal said. “The solidarity was immediate.”
Villarreal’s students were so disheartened when they learned about the potential cuts that some of them offered to fly to San Francisco to show their support.
“It wasn’t even a question,” said Michael Lee, a second year student at Harvard’s Graduate Student of Education. “We were like, ‘Are we going out? When are we going out?’”
It’s unclear if this type of support will influence the administration’s decision, but it demonstrates the College’s impact and reach.
“(President Leslie E. Wong) can choose to stand on the right side of history,” Ferreira said. “That is his choice. He can get out ahead of this. He can be remembered as the president who invested material support to Ethnic Studies, or he can be this generation’s S. I. Hayakawa and be remembered as the president that stood in the way of Ethnic Studies.”
As SF State faces the potential cuts, students and lecturers across the country are standing up and voicing their support to show how important Ethnic Studies really is.
“Ethnic Studies is one of the most important courses that we can implement in schools,” Lee said. “Without Ethnic Studies, my time here isn’t worth it. If I could go back and do it again but didn’t have the opportunity to take Ethnic Studies, I wouldn’t do it.”