Undocumented Student Services Center
April 28, 2016
To fellow undocumented students, allies, and community members across the state,
We, the Undocumented Student Organizers and Allies of the undocumented community at UC San Diego, write this letter to you with great urgency and concern regarding the current trajectory of the hiring process for the new UCSD Undocumented Student Services Center (USSC) Coordinator.
For historical context, during the initial hiring process for the first USSC Coordinator, which took place in 2014, students on the hiring committee were 1) able to personally examine and score the nine finalists pre-screened by the UCSD Human Resources Department, 2) participate in reducing the candidate pool to five individuals who were then offered interviews, and 3) actively engage in the interview process by listening, speaking, and interacting with the interviewees and other committee members.
Following the abrupt resignation of the previous USSC Coordinator, Jessica Munoz in February 2016, a new hiring committee has been assembled, composed of the following members: Rafael Hernandez (Chair of Committee), Director of EAOP; Jon Carlos Senour, Director of UCSD Student Legal Services; Luz Chung, Education Studies Lecturer; and Belinda Zamacona, CASP Program Manager. However, we would like to call in question the relevance and validity of these particular committee members, especially since they were appointed without any student input and dialogue. In addition, since late summer of 2015, the USSC has been under the administrative supervision of Jeff Orgera, the new Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Retention and Success. We believe these new circumstances substantiate the need for more transparency and inclusivity of the students for whom the center is purposed to serve. However, to our dismay, we have observed exactly the opposite, with offenses far preceding the ongoing hiring deliberations.
For this interview cycle, students were restricted from accessing information to the pool of 20 final candidates, unlike the 2014 hiring process. We question this unexplained discrepancy in protocol as well as the Committee Chair Rafael Hernandez’s decision to invite students to “serve on the Interview Committee,” as communicated via email on April 8, 2016, while proceeding to reduce the pool of 20 finalists to 4 individuals without any student input.
Students who possess the aforementioned institutional memory as well as those who have been witnessing the current hiring process have come to the conclusion that the level of inclusion and involvement granted to students on the hiring committee is severely lacking. Members and self-proclaimed allies on the hiring committee have thus far failed to show any serious intentions of acknowledging students as righteous stakeholders in deciding who the next coordinator of the USSC will be. It is imperative the hiring process for the USSC Coordinator be as transparent and inclusive as possible. Failure to see why undocumented students deserve the major role in deciding who the next coordinator will be implies inexcusable ignorance and disregard for undocumented student voices and lived experiences. It is our firm belief that we have given members of the committee sufficient opportunities to improve the hiring process, but they have yet to leverage their power to do so, contrary to their expressed interests and obligations.
Case in point, when an undocumented student expressed concerns regarding these issues before the committee, both Committee Chair Rafael Hernandez and Human Resources Manager Mary Maldonado harshly reprimanded him in front of committee members and prevented students from speaking during the first interview process that took place on Monday, April 25, 2016. We perceive this unprofessional, paternalistic, and punitive action antithetical to the hiring committee and Assistant Vice Chancellor (AVC) Jeff Orgera’s desires to include undocumented students in the hiring process. In fact, this unethical scolding of the undocumented student committee member goes against several sections of UCSD’s touted “Principles of Community” and is hypocritical of the administration and Human Resources department to not abide by their own policies. We refuse to be exploited and disrespected as subjects of tokenism in what seems to be an attempt to make a mere gesture of inclusion towards undocumented students on this campus.
We call upon members of the past hiring committee (Esteban Marquez, Associate Director of the UCSD Financial Aid Office; Edwina Welch, Director of the UCSD Cross-Cultural Center; Jon Carlos Senour, Director of UCSD Student Legal Services; Tom K. Wong, Professor of Political Science, and Cynthia Davalos, then assistant to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) to vouch for a new and more student-centered hiring process, even at the expense of restarting the entire hiring process, as we find it imperative to hire a new coordinator based on actual student voices over the need to fill a spot for the sake of timeliness.
We would also like to bring to attention the list of 33 demands released by Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA) and Migrant Rights Awareness (MiRA) as a response to the racist and anti-immigrant incidents that transpired since April 8, 2016. This list encompasses 6 demands that directly impact the undocumented student community and the Undocumented Student Services Center at UCSD:
List of 6 Relevant Demands (numbers correspond to their order in the original document):
Demand #8 addresses the funding and staffing of the USSC, which means the Chair of the Committee and the AVC should place particular focus on this hiring process as a step toward instituting these demands. The aforementioned demands have yet to be addressed by AVC Orgera or anyone on the committee, which points to their dismissiveness and lack of urgency in addressing real issues concerning the undocumented community.
Although we feel that the current hiring process should resemble that of the 2014 hiring procedures, we also demand that non-student hiring committee members actually act upon student input, lest they repeat the final mistakes of the previous hiring committee.
Despite the mostly inclusive process in 2014, by the end of the hiring deliberations, administrators proceeded to reject candidates ranked most highly by the student committee members. It is important to note that these rejected finalists demonstrated not only relatability, but also competence, because they were subsequently hired as coordinators at other UC campuses. To this day, two of our former finalists assist and advocate for their undocumented student communities at their respective campuses.
Meanwhile, we have been left to find a replacement for our former coordinator, who vacated her position before establishing a vibrant and empowering space for students. The former coordinator reinforced feelings of invisibility and isolation for undocumented students by neglecting the need to facilitate proactive affirmation of undocumented student identities and experiences. Below are grievances from students who have interacted with the previous coordinator:
The reality is, no amount of sheltering or assimilating will change the risks and vulnerabilities of being undocumented. We need a coordinator who understands this reality and the need to create a space conducive to both service and advocacy. We need a coordinator who understands the violence of the DREAMer narrative and its role in reinforcing the myth of meritocracy and the trauma of juxtaposing our utility and innocence against our parents who are then criminalized in this process.
As undocumented students at UCSD, we demand answers to alarming discrepancies in hiring practices, as well as a meeting with the Chair of the Committee Rafael Hernandez, Assistant Vice Chancellor Jeff Orgera and Chief of Staff Cynthia Davalos, to address these issues by Friday, April 29 at 1:30 pm. We demand to meet at this time knowing that the hiring committee has already scheduled time to debrief on the current final four candidates. We call on the rest of our community and allies to join us in demanding that Committee Chair Rafael Hernandez halt this process founded in exclusion of undocumented students. We demand the reinstatement of a process modeled after the first hiring process in which student input was at the core, as well as ensuring that students get to decide the final candidate with a majority of undocumented student votes.
To reiterate, we call on AVC Orgera and Committee Chair Hernandez to:
We will no longer remain in the shadows, we will no longer be silenced, and we will no longer allow this university to dictate our futures and aspirations. We do this not only for the current undocumented student population, but for those generations that will come after, to ensure they truly have a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment that respects their well-being and upholds their humanity.
Undocumented Student Organizers & Allies of UC San Diego