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THE SELECTION OF A PRESIDENT AT UNM

Juan José Peña, Chairman - Hispanic Round Table of New Mexico

While the Alburquerque Tribune's point counterpoint article with reference to the selection of the president of UNM offered interesting perspectives as to how a president should be selected, there is another equally important perspective. That perspective is held by those of us who have paid the price dearly for this equality along with our families. We are the people who have been in this state for centuries whom the great great native New Mexican scholar Dr. Jorge Isidoro Sánchez, himself a victim of the racism at the University of New Mexico along with Dr. Arturo Campa, called "the forgotten people" in his book of the same name about Neomexicanos. It is no accident that in over 100 years, no native New Mexican Indohispano has been selected as president of the University of New Mexico.

It took a hell of a fight by the majority of the native Hispano population of New Mexico to even get the native New Mexican Hispano Dr. Francisco Angel as President of Highlands University, and we had to bring him in from the 40's in the list of the Anglo dominated selection committee to being added as the 11th candidate by means of a minority report by two of our Indohispano student members of the selection committee and finally into the presidency. He was the best president Highlands University has ever had. He brought the Hispano faculty from 5 to 68 out of 148 and the Chicano student body went from 45% to 85%, or equal to the percentage of the native New Mexican Indohispano population that the university as a land grant college was supposed to serve when it was created, along with Western New Mexico University, by don Félix Martínez. This demonstrated dramatically and definitively that qualified native New Mexican Indohispano administrators and faculty were out there and that they would come if called. It seems that the powers that be want to ensure that this would never happen again, and, so far, they have succeeded resoundingly at keeping us out of the halls of higher education at rates equal to our numbers in the population of New Mexico. We have again been relegated to second class citizenship in our own native land.

We constitute half of the population of the state of New Mexico, but we do not constitute half of the members of the state's boards and commissions, nor of the selections committees, nor are we represented by a good cross section of our people, only by a few handpicked hispanos who can be directed, guided or bent to the will of the Anglo majorities and their like-minded non Anglo political appointees on these boards and commissions. Highly qualified native New Mexican Hispanos are routinely excluded from consideration by members of these "advisory" search committees. Also, I strongly resent and take exception to Regent Larry Willard's offensive outsider insult, and, most of the UNM regents are outsiders, to the courageous native New Mexican Hispano scholars who had the intestinal fortitude to reveal the sham smoke and mirrors presidential selection process by showing that their credentials were as good or better than the candidates who were selected as finalists to ensure that we were blindsided by a secret selection process such as the one which excluded Dr. Manuel Pacheco and Dr. Tomás Arciniega, two of our brightest academic luminaries, when President Peck was chosen 9 years ago.

I have known Dr. Dan López since we were colleagues at Highlands, and I'll pit his credentials and his record against any one of the three finalists any day. He has proven his mettle time and time again at New Mexico Tech and has maintained and increased that schools standing as one of the top scientific research institutions in the nation. Can Dr. Gordon and Dr. Fernández claim that? I think not. The credentials of Dr. Lattin and Dr. Gutiérrez were outstanding, and, I dare say, better than the aforementioned non native New Mexican Hispano candidates. The "confidentiality" excuse is only a ploy to keep us as native New Mexican Hispanos from finding out who our qualified Hispano candidates are so we can't support them and so that they can more easily exclude them from the selection process without anyone being any the wiser or objecting to their exclusion. After 100 years, don't you think we'd finally catch on? ¿Qué creen que somos mensos?

We are sick and tired of being treated like stepchildren in our native ancestral lands and of being excluded from full parity and equal participation in the public bodies of our native state where we have paid dearly with our blood, sweat and tears for our equality, because our ancestors have fought for the United States in every war since the war of independence only to have our lands of La Florida, Louisiana and the former Provincias Internas taken from us to constitute half of what is now the United States. Like the Native Americans, we have been marginalized and made outcasts in our own native lands, because most of us as Hispanos were descended of Spanish and Indigenous blood, making us the children of four continents and natives of the Americas. Yet, our institutions are dominated by outsiders who exclude us no matter how qualified we are and allow only a token few representatives of New Mexico's native Indohispano administrators, faculty and students to be "integrated" into the hallowed halls of the "Harvard on the Río Grande." Should any of these token few dare to challenge the dictates of our colonial masters, they are severely dealt with, punished and retaliated against as were the UNM Hispanos who had finally had it and spilled the beans to the legislature.

The Hispanics for UNM round table discussions have been replete with horror stories of discrimination, exclusion and preference for outsiders who bring in their "buddies" as administrators, professors and professionals who then perpetuate the same anti native New Mexican Indohispano biases which create a hostile environment for our people as administrators, faculty and students. This is repeated many times over by the outsider administrators brought in over the heads of native New Mexican Hispanos to manage the other institutions of the state of New Mexico to make their fame and fortune and stay here to lord over us or to move on to greener pastures once they have overgrazed our lands, and we are left in the same dire straits to await our next lord and master, our Quetzalcóatl, from the East. After over 100 years of this, I think it is time to say enough is enough. iYa basta! We have more than enough qualified native New Mexican Indohispano professionals to give us equal participation in running all of the state's institutions, and most of them are here or are yearning to come home, and all we are asking, nay, demanding, is parity and equality in our own native land. We have earned it many times over, slaving away inside of the institutions of our native state as subordinates and as CEOs on the gypsy trail outside of the state. We have spilled our blood on our native and foreign soils. We Hispanos in proportion to our population have won more Congressional Medals of Honor than any other ethnic group in the United States. As my "good buddy" the late Howard Jarvis once said, "we're mad as hell and we aren't going to take it any more!"


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Last Updated April 17, 1998, by Juan Fidel [Larranag@eece.unm.edu] Larrañaga
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