Sunday, February 28, 2010

Response to Durant Hall Occupation Statements

I want to respond briefly to the various accounts that describe the history of Durant Hall and why it was occupied.

The "Occupy California" website states that "Durant Hall had once been a haven for East Asian Language studies, but is now being remodeled into another administration building."

Reclaim UC states: "No longer is there any trace of the library it once was -- the East Asian Library, now moved across campus to a new building named after an insurance mogul who founded the notorious AIG. Language has been uprooted, pruned, and replanted as well. The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures went with the library, and in the process lost half its Japanese, Korean, and Chinese classes as well as the faculty that taught them -- over 1,500 curious students will be turned away this year."

Durant Hall was far from a "haven" for the Asian language lecturers who were continually marginalized, disenfranchised, and excluded on a daily basis in their departments within that building -- something that continues today. The language programs have been slashed for years, so the claim that EALC "went with the library" is, I think, a false one: these programs had been disappearing for years as the result of a slow but continuous slashing of sections and funding even before the library moved from Durant Hall to the new C.V. Starr Library in 2008. When the administration threatened in 2008 to cut the language programs and lecturers by upwards of 50%, students and lecturers held massive protests and press conferences and were in fact able to reverse those cuts. This is not to say that everything is fine in EALC because those cuts were reversed -- things are far from fine. Budget cuts continue to shave away language classes one section at a time; the language lecturers -- particularly pre-six lecturers -- continue to bear the burden of the cuts because of their weak job security; students on overflowing waiting lists are turned away from language sections because the university refuses to open up more sections, to hire more instructors, and to acknowledge that there has been and continues to be a very real demand for these classes that the university is not meeting. Yet it is absolutely essential to understand the actual internal politics of Durant Hall and EALC before publishing statements like "Why Durant Hall?" and "The Durant Riot: Initial Brief," both of which disguise the fact that Durant Hall was in fact a symbol of repression for the very language lecturers who worked inside of it as well as a symbol of vast inequalities between the EALC literature program and the EALC language program.

I know that these statements were made with the best of intentions and I appreciate that Reclaim UC is giving attention to a program that has been and continues to be devalued by the administration, but please make sure that these statements are factually correct before passing them out to the campus community. We have a great opportunity here to reach out to a segment of the campus community that has been actively fighting for EALC language programs and lecturers for years, but in order to do that we need to understand EALC and Durant Hall's true history and politics. If you're interested in learning more, APIEL NOW! (Asian Pacific Islander Education and Languages NOW!), EALC lecturers and SSEAS lecturers have been working on a task force report that documents these inequalities and the long degeneration of the programs in detail.

-- Katherine Lee

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