I am appalled at Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds' Dec. 15, 1984, letter thanking The Times for its editorial support (Nov. 19), "Cal State: Quality With Equality." In essence, the Board of Trustees of the California State University System wants to improve quality by requiring stiffer admission requirements. This proposal naively presupposes that it will improve high school training by requiring more solid subjects for admission into the state university system. This assumption represents a total ignorance of history, a retreat from the 1960 commitment to ensure equal access to the state university system for minority students, and a return to hypocritical racist policies which have traditionally excluded minorities from higher education.
When I began teaching at California State University Northridge (then San Fernando Valley State College), fewer than 75 students of Mexican extraction attended CSUN. Two years before this, only seven Mexican-Americans studied there. Because of the civil rights struggle, the Cal State system was forced to recruit and create retention programs for minority students.
Today 1,300 Mexican-American students attend CSUN (out of a student body of 28,000. This is less than 5% of the students). This is in spite of the fact that more than 40% of the Los Angeles Unified Schools are of Mexican extraction (this figure excludes other Latino groups).
While we are not satisfied with this record, Chicano faculty and staff realize that without special programs, i.e., special admissions and retention, that this record would be even worse. We can document success stories of students who came ill prepared to CSUN and, through their dedication and that of a small number of faculty, staff and administrators, have overcome obstacles to become medical doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers, business persons, teachers etc.
Throughout this struggle, most of the CSU System was dragged along. It fought almost every innovative proposal that was made and refused to institutionalize proven programs. Its record toward blacks was bad, and toward Latinos, it was even worse. Now Chancellor Reynolds, a newcomer to California, who has had no previous track record with Latinos, states that the system wants to correct "the disparity between the proportion of minorities, especially Hispanics, who enroll in the state's universities and the representation in the population requires corrective action."
What is her corrective action? To return to the exclusionary racist policies of the pre-civil rights days when unrealistic requirements (in view of society as it was) effectively kept minorities out.
Reynolds offers rhetoric in place of substance. She assumes that the high schools in the black and Latino areas will upgrade their offerings because the state universities will it. She assumes that the public will fund an upgrading of minority high school programs. She ignores the fact that before standards can be raised in those schools, teachers' salaries must be professionalized, the student-teacher ratio must be drastically reduced, curriculum offerings must be enriched, and the students' parents must have jobs generating a decent wage. It is also necessary to have more minority teachers in the schools in order that students have proper role models.
Reynolds ignores the fact that present programs such as Student Affirmative Action, which was created specifically to recruit Latinos into the CSU System, have failed. In the case of CSUN, only 40 Mexican-American students were recruited this year. At many campuses, more students from Southeast Asia have been recruited into SAA than Chicanos.
Reynolds' plan spells doom. If it is implemented, it will reduce equal access to the CSU System. In turn, minority group members are not ready to sell out their people and worsen the present caste system. Chancellor Reynolds' proposal will force many of us to resume agitation to 1960 levels to prevent the exclusion of our peoples.
Universities play an important role in stratifying society, and history has not proved that the state system is a friend of the economically and politically disadvantaged. When the CSU system had higher requirements in 1967 than it does today, it had dramatically fewer minority students.
I recommend that Chancellor Reynolds and The Times study history and accept society as it is. Moreover, Reynolds should study the function of the CSU system which she heads. It is not a Big Ten university and it is not the University of California. She had better pay more attention to improving conditions for students and professors within that system before making assumptions about matters she knows nothing about and that may very well damage what little minorities have gained.
RODOLFO ACUNA Ph.D. California State University Northridge