CMAS: The Unnecessarily Controversial Beginning

The late 60's and early 70's were tumultuous times for Chicano and Black students fighting for a greater voice and representation in the student body and faculty at the University of Texas at Austin. In spring 1969, various students of color had proposed degree plans specifically catered for their needs as "minority" students. The then-Mexican-American Student Organization (MASO) had asked for the creation a Bachelor's degree program for Mexican-Americans, and after an Ad Hoc Faculty Council Committee recommended such a program for Mexican-Americans and Blacks on May 20, then-President Norman Hackerman gave an official response that okayed a Mexican-American center that would have an independent budget to be used for staff, research, and publication purposes, with Dr. Américo Paredes serving as its first president. However, over the succeeding years, they encountered an administration, faculty, and student body that was at worst overtly critical, racist, and hostile towards their goals and at best apathetic to their concerns. Administrators, specifically, threw up roadblocks - whether intentional or not - that stifled their efforts to establish a genuine Chican@ degree plan, and not just a general "Ethnic Studies" degree plan that Dr. Paredes termed "bland and meaningless."

During this time, the Mexican-American Youth Organization (MAYO -- formerly MASO), lead by Beatriz Gonzales, spearheaded the effort for greater Chican@ participation at the University. There were numerous rallies, forums, and meetings with administrators that furthered MAYO's goals. For a university that was exclusively Anglo until only a decade or two prior, UT-Austin proved to be a difficult place to include people of a different skin color for many years. Direct action and protests were the most useful tactic in garnering attention and incrementally gaining a voice that students and faculty have had to continue to fight for.

The following is a general but incomplete timeline of events, starting with efforts to recognize the need for a Mexican-American degree plan before the eventual establishment of a Mexican-American Studies (MAS) department and Center for Mexican-American Studies (CMAS) -- as well as documenting a concurrent "brain drain" of reputable professors. Dr. Américo Paredes served as the first director until he expended all energy, and after the frustration took a toll, he resigned his directorship. See Nick Schwellenbach's paper, With His Pen in His Hand: Chicano Studies at UT and the Resignation of Américo Paredes, for a good general overview of Paredes' efforts and the first few years of CMAS.

    

1970

May 11

Ross Letter to Juarez, outlining the CMAS plan

May 27

CMAS Meeting minutes, setting the stage for CMAS

June 4

CMAS Meeting minutes, sent out by Dr. Paredes that included the previous meeting notes, highlighting plans for the Mexican-American degree plan

December 7

Paredes Letter to Ross, addressing allegations of kickbacks by Dr. Paredes that is not discussed elsewhere

December 11

Ross Letter to Paredes, responding to Paredes, closing the matter of alleged kickbacks

1971

December 7

Mexican American Educational Needs in Texas: College and University Level

1972

circa January 17

Student is told by his degree checker that the 36-hour Mexican-American program does not exist. Provost Stanley Ross places the blame for this administrative "mistake" since it was lost in his secretary's file.

January 20

Consequently Dr. Paredes submits his resignation letter, citing this "mistake" as the last straw in a long line of confrontations with the University administration over the establishment of a Chicano Studies Program.

January 25

"Paredes Plans to Quit: Chicano Director Blasts Administration."Daily Texan. The first of a series of articles highlighting CMAS' struggle to exist at UT-Austin.
McLemore Letter to Paredes in response to the Daily Texan article.

January 26

Paredes to McLemore

January 31

"Ross Admits Mistake: Error Delays Chicano Studies Program."Daily Texan. Includes the first mention of MAYO's 7 demands to President Spurr.
"Editorial: Administrative faux pas..."Daily Texan. Editorial blasting the administration's actions and intransigence.

February 1

Letter from Paredes to Colleagues in the Mexican-American Studies Program, Students and Other Interested Parties. Letter from Dr. Paredes explaining his reasons for resigning. This is possibly the best simple timeline of events, placing most of the blame on James Roach. He also requests that he be replaced as CMAS director by August 31, 1972, exactly one year before his previous date.

February 2

"Gibbs' Resignation Termed 'Loss'." Daily Texan. Gibbs cites the recent UT Board of Regents' decision to establish a minimum workload as "punitive" and the fact that the faculty has lost all "control over the conditions of their work." Gibbs followed Standish Meacham, who resigned January 11 as chairman of the History Department. Gibbs warned of the University becoming a "corporation."
"MAYO Gets Senate Votes." Daily Texan. MAYO received several big votes of confidence from the Student Senate.

February 3

"Weismann Vacates Chair; Objects to Teaching Load."Daily Texan.
"Paredes, Sanchez Charge Tokenism."Daily Texan. George I. Sanchez, professor of Latin American education, also resigns.

February 7

"MAYO, Officials To Study 7 Claims." Daily Texan.

February 8

"MAYO, Administration Map Additional Talks on Demands."Daily Texan.
"Statements to Air Faculty Discontent."Austin American-Statesman.
"Low Faculty Morale Deplored by Senate."Daily Texan.

February 9

"Professor Resigns, Cites UT 'Decline'." Daily Texan. Linguistics Prof. Emmon W. Bach says that lack of "control of the faculty has in determining how the University is run" had a major part to play in resigning.
"The Tower is bright with orange light but it's dark here below ." Daily Texan. Poem by Professor Wheelock.

February 10

"Spurr Promises Reply to 7 Mayo Demands."Austin American-Statesman.

February 11

Administrative Response to the Issues Raised by Mexican-American Students. President Spurr replies to MAYO's 7 demands.
"UT Gives MAYO Progress Report."Austin American-Statesman.
"Spurr to Discuss MAYO's Demands: 4 New Proposals Submitted."Daily Texan.
Henson Letter to Paredes(pdf)

February 12

"MAYO Is Briefed On UT Response."Austin American Statesman.

February 16

"Chicanos Set Panel Talk." Daily Texan.

February 23

"Roach Resignation Asked by MAYO."Daily Texan.
"MAYO Calls For Provost's Resignation, Alleges Racism." Austin American-Statesman.

February 25

"Chicano Lacks Vital Resources."Austin American-Statesman.

February 29

Guzman and Blake Letter to Paredes

March 13

Paredes to Guzman and Blake

March 17

"Students Rally for Minority Demands." Daily Texan.

June 9

Paredes Letter to Ross
El Chisme newsletter 1

July 22

Bensusan Letter to Paredes

July 28

Paredes Letter to Bensusan

September 7

El Chisme newsletter 2

November 6

Paredes Letter to J. F. Epstein, brief history of the period