After a meeting with Superintendent-President Dr. Rajen Vurdien at the beginning of this month, the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán club (MEChA) is making its way to becoming the creators of PCC’s first ever Chicano Studies program.
According to the club, this is not the first attempt to create such a program at PCC. In fact, it’s been nearly 20 years since students first began the long and tiresome fight. The current MEChA members claim to be one of the first to even meet with a president of PCC to discuss a possible program.
“Basically, [Vurdien] did say that he did support it, but as president, it’s not his ultimate decision,” MEChA member Sophia Banegas said. “Just him saying that he supports us, we’re able to quote him on that, so I think that was better than the outcome we expected. We weren’t completely brushed off, but there is a little bit of fear that we might just fall to the side.”
When asked about his level of support of MEChA’s efforts, Vurdien stated, “I can only support what the curriculum committee recommends. It’s not for the president or college administration to make those recommendations. Those recommendations come from the faculty. That’s the law.”
Despite feeling unsupported by Vurdien, MEChA recognizes the need and lack of cultural understanding among their fellow students and are determined to take matters into their own hands.
“I feel we need a Chicano Studies program, along with a department, just because of the dynamics,” MEChA member Michael Montes said. “There are so many brown students here, not just on campus, but around the Pasadena area. There’s a wide of variety of people who are brown and they need courses, they need a place where they can feel welcome, a place where they can learn about their people and their culture.”
According to Banegas, even though PCC’s student population is around 40% Latino, there are not nearly enough opportunities for those who identify themselves as such to be able to obtain a deep, knowledgeable understanding of who they are and where they come from.
“The majority of people here don’t really know how it is to be an indigenous,” MEChA member Victor Varga said. “They talk about culture like they are cultured, but in reality they don’t know anything about real culture.”
The club members are inspired to create the program with not only the hope of helping students learn about their cultures and the cultures of others, but also being able to open the doors for future programs for different ethnicities.
“I feel like this could actually be like a stepping stone for other possible departments to actually emerge,” MEChA member Irving Orozco said. “It could easily branch off to starting an African American Studies department, or various specific studies here on campus so that they’re not all categorized in a homogenized bubble. It would be cool to see that.”
MEChA has been attempting to rally support for their cause among students, professors, faculty and administration, having more luck with some than others.
“We spoke to an anthropology professor [Derek Milne] a little while ago, and he told us that there is support there, but there are also professors out there that don’t actually want this because it would be conflicting with other majors,” says Orozco. “But who says they can’t coexist?”
The club is now going through the tedious process of gathering support, coming up with transferable courses, and meeting with committees and faculties.
Their first step is to officially create a Chicano Studies major.
Despite the difficulties they face, MEChA members are passionate, determined, and focused on making PCC a better place for its Chicano/Latino students.