There is currently a push for a few academic programs to be added to the school’s curriculum. Black Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies and members of the Native American Society are all seeking higher levels of accreditation. Black Studies and Chicano/Latino Studies, both of which offer minors and certificates, would like to have majors added to their programs. The Native American Society is seeking establishment as a department that can offer a minor.
Maria Ruiz, coordinator for Chicano/Latino Studies program and one of the primary proponents in its quest for adding a major to its curriculum, feels very positive about her department’s progress.
“We are definitely heading in the right direction, and it is just a matter of time now until we can offer a major,” Ruiz said. “Probably another three to five years.”
The department has been recognized since 1995 but took until May of 1998 to receive official approval for offering a certificate, so Ruiz surmises it will take longer than those three years to make it to the next stage of being offered as a major.
Ruiz is one of three professors currently working in the department, and at least two more will need to be added to support the major program, which means more salaries to be paid out of a budget that is already stretched thin.
That is why fund raising continues to be a primary means for offering Latino students scholarships, like the Chicano/Latino Gala fund-raiser taking place at Portland’s Convention Center on Oct. 26. More information can be found at the Web site www.psulatinogala.org.
Also sharing in the financial woes of limited resources is the Black Studies program. Administrators want to be assured that enough revenue will be generated from courses to justify spending the money on teachers and other expenses, which is frustrating to Kane Lowry, coordinator of the Black Cultural Affairs Board.
“The Black Studies program is one of the top money generators in its college, yet the money gets spread out over other departments rather than being focused on Black Studies efforts,” Kane said. Members of the affairs board feel there is too much resistance from the administration, which questions the demand for the program and sources of funding.
“There is no reason to doubt a positive response from students, because a year ago more people received minors and certificates in Black Studies than majored in history,” Kane said. “Plus, every Black Studies class has been filled, and they continue to be filled.”
There are also several students who feel the program should have implemented a major since its inception almost 30 years ago.
“Our university claims to be diverse but will not be completely until its educational programs are equally diverse,” stated Jason Lowry, supporting member of ASPSU. “Our motto of ‘Let Knowledge Serve the City’ should mean all knowledge.”
Supporters feel that they have jumped through all the necessary hoops and that it is just a matter of time until it is approved, but they are running out of patience.
“We will get Black Studies as a major by any means necessary,” said Muhamud Abi, member of the board.
The proposal is set to go to the curriculum committee this week. If approved, it will then need approval from the Oregon University System to receive accreditation.
The third program on campus that has been making advances is the Native American Society. Getting the Native American Cultural Center approved last year was a step toward acquiring a minor in Native American studies. Construction of the center began this fall and is expected to be completed by fall of 2003, by which time Francene Ambrose, AISES coordinator and recent sociology graduate of Portland State, would like to see a Native American studies section in the course catalog.
“It would justify having spent all the money and effort on building the learning center and would create a stronger interest from Native students who otherwise might not choose to attend Portland State,” Ambrose said.
Currently, there is no program established for Native American studies, although a few departments such as Anthropology, English and the School of Social Work offer courses with an emphasis on the culture.
Damion Barnett, a key figure of the Native American Youth Association, hopes that the Oregon Indian Education Association’s youth conference this upcoming spring at PSU will bring hundreds of kids from across the state and will allow them to feel more connected to the university.
“No outreach efforts from PSU to Oregon’s Native population exist,” Barnett said. “Establishing a program at our university would provide a stronger incentive for those youths to attend school here. It would also create a stronger network for funding scholarships that are badly needed for Native Americans in the Northwest.”