The Voice

NEWS

November 3, 2003

E-mails by math professor attract attention of students, GCC president, chancellor

Marc Dean
Staff Reporter

A firestorm of controversy erupted on Oct. 22 as emails, posted on a district-wide server, naming a MEChA-sponsored celebration as “an explicitly racist event.” The emails, which were sent by GCC math instructor Walter Kehowski, were prompted by the announcement of a "Dia de La Raza" event held at Phoenix College.

Dia de le Raza, which is the same date as Columbus Day, is held throughout the Americas as a celebration of Hispanic heritage, bringing together all of its ethnic and cultural influences.

The emails contained such statements, as “It’s time to acknowledge and celebrate the superiority of Western civilization” and “the half truths of…multiculturalism and diversity versus the full truth of its anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-American and ultimately anti-White Marxist agenda.”

“I found out about the emails because someone anonymously sent me an email.” said Edgar Johnson, spokesperson for MEChA, “After I read one of them, it kind of got my blood boiling. When you distribute this type of material over the internet it creates a hostile environment.”

In an interview with Kehowski, he explained, “I simply said, why are we hosting a blatantly racist event, when people are being crucified for the most innocuous comments, they seem to be getting away with this.” Kehowski finds fault with the term “La Raza”, he said, “Because La Raza doesn’t mean me and it doesn’t mean you. It’s definitely a racist event and that’s what I questioned.”

However, Johnson says, “Our founding papers from the late 60’s talk about “la Raza” and “revolution” but our revolution is in changing our ways. We are trying to reach out to the people, since we are college students, we want to tell them to come to the universities, don’t drop out of high school. In addition, an economic revolution, to get out of government assistance, the best way for us is education. That is the kind of revolution we are talking about.”

As for the term “La Raza” Johnson said, “When we talk about La Raza it means many things, it means our community, our brothers and sisters, our culture.”

In the MEChA constitution last updated in 1987 there is no mention of “la Raza” or “revolution”, only that its purpose is to develop unity among Chicano students.

But Kehowski is firm in his belief, “They are a product of 60’s radicalism. In the political correctness certain groups end up being able to do things that would be forbidden, for example, by a white student to make such a statement.”

When asked about other student organizations such as the Native American Student Association and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Academic Union, Kehowski responded, “They’re a sign of the times, it’s all Balkanization, it’s a division along racial and ethnic lines that the assimilation ethic of decades ago really helped to erase.”

In a news release sent out by Dr. Rufus Glasper, Chancellor of MCCCD, he describes the emails as “insensitive” and “divisive” but states, “While the immediate response may be to demand that such thinking not be communicated throughout the district, such an action could seriously undermine our ability to promote true academic freedom.”

In the MCCCD’s Computing Resource Standards, the district states its “computing resources exist for Maricopa purposes-namely its educational, research, service, operational, and management purposes…Using computing resources for clearly personal-and non-Maricopa purposes would be an improper use of those resources.” But it also states that the district understands the need for academic freedom and exchange of opinions.

Trying to find the balance between free speech, academic freedom, and diversity is very difficult.

“If we violate our own district policy and curtail this one person’s free speech we curtail our own,” said George Martinez, Director of College Advancement Services. “The more we have open dialog the better…If there is an infraction of policy then that is dealt with appropriately at the college level.”

As for MEChA’s plan of action, “We need to think this through and make sure this is happening in a correct way. We are planning to write a letter to him, to his supervisors, going up the chain of command, requesting an apology,” said Johnson. “I don’t agree with what he says, but I cannot wish him any harm, so we don’t want him to get fired.”

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