By Lizbeth De La Cruz
The Chicano Youth Conference (CYC) has been held for 40 years at Fresno State. The original purpose was to improve enrollment of Latino youths in the university, which was disproportionately White. The CYC has played an important role in improving the institution’s reflection of the surrounding community. In past years, it has received Associated Students Inc. (ASI) funding; the amount requested was $1,200. This year, that funding was denied.
On March 5, student organizations denied funding by the ASI formed a coalition that challenged the university’s mission statement, “Diversity, Distinction and Discovery.” These organizations have the support of professors including Cristina Herrera, Katherine Forbes and Alex Espinoza.
The Community Alliance spoke with Dulce Marin, a member of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) since enrolling in Fresno State and one of the organizers of the CYC. Marin shared that she submitted the CYC’s application for funds to ASI.
Marin acknowledged inclusion of the words “students of color” in the ASI funding application. However, she clarified that MEChA decided to include this phrase because “that is how we identify ourselves and the students with whom we work.”
Marin received a letter from ASI informing her that the funding application for the CYC had been denied by the Finance Committee. The reason stated was that the committee did not consider the event appropriate because it was a conference predominantly for youth and not initially provided to students at Fresno State. The committee also considered the application as discriminatory against some students.
ASI attributed the decision to deny the application specifically to the use of the phrase “students of color.” In its opinion, those words exclude students who do not identify themselves as students of color. Marin clarified that MEChA included a statement that “this event is open to all ethnic groups.”
ASI Vice President of Finances Rebecca Rosengarten also said the application was “confusing.”
Marin responded, “They did not appear confused based on their letter denying the application. They said it excluded other ethnic groups, which was contrary to what was actually stated in the application.”
On March 5, MEChA students went to a regular meeting of the ASI to address this issue. They found the meeting room empty and learned that the officers had moved to another location. The officers returned and resumed the meeting, claiming that they had taken a break and were not discussing official business. Had they been discussing business, it would have been a violation of the Gloria Romero rule, specifically regarding student government bodies of the UC system. All business pertaining to the student organization has to be handled in public meetings.
The Facebook message by MEChA member Juan Robles informing that “they moved the meeting” did not surprise Marin. “I wasn’t surprised, it was what I expected. During the period when the public could comment, they interrupted us each time we spoke. I am satisfied with the fact that it took something like this so that other students could see what was happening.”
Before beginning the session, Justin Whisten, an ASI officer, assigned 30 minutes to public comments. Because there were more than 27 persons interested in speaking, he stated that each would have one minute.
Whisten was rude to those who expressed concern over the denial of the funds to various university organizations while being neutral to those persons who spoke on other issues.
Robles said that Rosengarten “declared MEChA only benefits people of color…implying that MEChA excludes other groups. She clearly does not understand the experiences of marginalized people who have been oppressed.”
Marin observed that MEChA, along with the other organizations that had been denied funding for their events, comprises persons from minority and disenfranchised groups. But that can change if they continue to sponsor events like the CYC.
Marin also recognizes the lack of familiarity with the various groups on the part of ASI representatives who denied the funding, which proves another fact. The university needs to prepare public school students with basic tools, including the ability, understanding and confidence to seek positions in ASI.
Marin advises the members of ASI that they “take workshops regarding racism, sexism and class differences, in order to really understand why we have these events.” She also advised that ASI take sufficient time to read the funding applications and speak with the groups that submit them. That way, they could make decisions with concrete information.
Lizbeth De La Cruz is a Fresno State graduate and is currently enrolled in the Spanish masters program. She is president of Club Austral, and is the editor and graphic designer of Revista Literaria Austral at Fresno State. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 559-261-5630.