The law that banned ethnic studies courses in the Tucson Unified School District may extend to universities if an Arizona policymaker can successfully push the initiative.
John Huppenthal, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, told Fox News Latino that he wants to suspend Mexican American studies in Arizona universities because these courses teach students to resent Anglo-Saxons.
Huppenthal helped pass Arizona’s House Bill 2281, which banned courses in public schools that promoted racial resentment, overthrow of the U.S. government or catered to specific ethnic groups. If schools that provided these courses did not comply, they would lose 10 percent, or about $14 million, of their public funding.
“The 10 percent is far more beneficial to the district as a whole than that program is for such a small, specialized group,” said Zoey Kotzambasis, vice president of the UA’s College Republicans and a political science freshman, a supporter of the ban.
To eliminate a program at the UA, certain procedures and steps must be followed. First, the department’s dean must write a resolution to explain the reason for elimination, which must then be approved by the Faculty Senate and the Office of the Provost. Once approved, the elimination resolution is presented to the Arizona Board of Regents, which makes the final decision.
Although the bill impacted public schools in Tucson, people from around the state are advocating against it. Carlos Ovando, professor of transborder studies at Arizona State University, said he is “outraged” with Huppenthal’s actions. A university should be a marketplace for diverse ideas as well as a place where ethnic history contributes to American history, he said.
“If you look at the history of the United States, it becomes part of the Mexican history and Americans should be informed of how the U.S. was shaped,” he said.
While Huppenthal successfully dismantled the courses from public schools, Ovando said, he will have a much harder time doing so at universities due to student opposition.
Antonio Estrada, head of the UA’s Mexican American Studies department, said banning these courses at the university level would harm academic freedom.
“I believe it would be an uphill battle for Huppenthal or anyone on ABOR (Arizona Board of Regents) to recommend the elimination of MAS (Mexican American Studies), Gender and Women’s Studies, Africana Studies, or any studies that focus on the history, culture and contributions to society that these disciplines provide,” he said in an email.
Jennifer Contreras, a senior studying Mexican American Studies and history, said banning ethnic studies is an attack on the human race itself. Contreras said although Huppenthal has gotten this far, she does not see him “stopping any time soon.”
“In my book it is plain racism,” she added. “They saw a program that was very effective … and they saw that as a threat.”