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Trump and the Road Ahead: Running Into Former Colleagues on the Auraria Campus; Undocumented Students at University of Colorado – Denver – Organize Student Walkout

November 16, 2016

p1000065There was a banner “Sanctuary,” and many posters. “Who Pays Your Salary?” “I.C.E In Our Raspados; Not In Our Barrios!” “Fuck Your Wall; Liberation, Not Deportation!” “AHEC: Protect Our Students!” (AHEC = Auraria Higher Education Complex) “Undocumented, Unafraid, Unapologetic! Here To Stay! Sin Papeles, Sin Miedo!”

Revisiting the Auraria Campus After Fifteen Years Where I Used To Teach

Yesterday at the rally and demonstration on the University of Denver campus in support of the Water Protectors (and in protest of a conference of national pipeline executives) I was handed a leaflet about “an action” today on the Auraria Campus organized by undocumented students calling for a student walk out at the University of Colorado – Denver. The leaflet announced that a student walkout would take place to protest President-Elect Donald Trump’s jingoist and racist comments about immigrants, both documented and non; it also called for “Sanctuary” for undocumented students on the Auraria Campus.

Immigrants, foreigners of all stripes, people of color, Jews – we all find ourselves thrown into a racist cauldron which shows signs of only just beginning as bigots of all types, emboldened by Donald Trumps harsh campaign rhetoric, take their white sheets out of the closet. The increase of bigotry nationwide includes Colorado where, as elsewhere, the incidents continue to pile up. One of the main targets of Trump’s campaign, as is well known, are undocumented immigrants. Being state institutions with low tuition costs, the Auraria colleges have attracted many undocumented youth. And now their situation, and those of their families and friends have been thrown into fear and chaos. Not surprisingly, once again, it is undocumented youth, whose future is on the line, that have begun to stand up for their rights, for their future.

Being retired and curious as to see what it was all about, I went down to the campus to watch and participate. Although I rarely step foot there, it’s a place I know well having taught at what was then called Metropolitan State College of Denver (today Metropolitan State University) for about a decade. I decided to go a little early to see who was left of the vibrant world that was the Anthro-Soc-Social Work Department I taught in for most of the 1990s.

The Auraria campus hosts three higher education institutions: the Denver branch of the University of Colorado (called UCD), Metropolitan State University and Community College of Denver. The last time I looked the combined student population of “Auraria” was near 40,000. It is easily, without a doubt the most culturally, class, age, urban-rural diverse place in the state of Colorado and probably so for 600 miles in any direction. I was an adjunct teacher in Metro’s Anthropology (Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work Dept at the time) and thorough enjoyed the teaching and the students there, the diversity of the place. It was only on the Auraria Campus I had the feeling of being “back home” in New York City. Nowhere else in Colorado did I feel so comfortable and at home. But the pay was pitiful (still is for adjuncts) and when the University of Denver offered me a considerably better deal, Metro and I parted ways. It was as simple as that.

I got to the campus early as I wanted to look around. I accidentally ran into an old Anthro colleague, Jack Schultz and stopped to talk. Of the “old guard” that I worked with, other than Jack and archaeologist John Kent, the entire departmental faculty had changed and the office had moved from one building to another.  I liked and respected most of them. Both Schultz and Kent have had a rough time. Kent as some form of lung condition and is on oxygen (emphysema?). Schultz has lost two sons in the past three years – one from an esophagus malfunction, the other the victim of a hit and run driver who was driving down Alameda Ave at 95 miles an hour. My heart went out to the guy. Our family has had its difficulties this past year…and then you hear a story so much worse. Two sons dead in three years. We commiserated and talked about staying in touch. I hope we do. Schultz and I shared a bond that remains strong – we were “professors” without phd’s both of whom survived in academia for a very simple reason: we knew our stuff and could teach as well as anyone.

Students calling for

Students calling for “Sanctuary” for Auraria campus college students

The Walkout

Deeply saddened with my discussion with Schultz and thinking about how life is so ephemeral and harsh in these “later years”I went on to look for the announced student walkout. The campus seemed so quiet, relaxed, that I wondered if anything would happen. Near the south end to the Auraria Library entrance I saw some people with signs. It wasn’t the walkout but a group of slick Christian proselytizers, slick in the sense that their signs were clever; all except for one, had nothing to do with religion. “Do you feel alienated” “Do you think about what is happening in the world around you?” “Are you upset by what you see on TV?” The only sign that suggested what was the group was about  said “Do you believe in God?”  which kind of tipped me off I guess. A woman, I’d say, young like me (early 70s), drew me in with “And what do you think about?” Trying to be polite – something very difficult for me in face of religious proselytizers, Christian or otherwise – I responded simply that whatever I think about was none of her business (no nasty adjectives added as Nancy repeatedly tells me to try to “be charitable” – something I find difficult to remember). The good woman took offense calling me “a coward” because my refusal to share my more intimate thoughts. I was a bit startled by that remark. At such moments a certain unrestrained side of my nature often undiplomatically appears out of the blue. But for some reason, my favorite John Ackroyd line from “The Blues Brothers” came to mind; rather than telling her to f^&k off or telling her where she might place her bible, I responded in my usual temperate manner, “Lady, I too am on a mission from God.”…and walked away

Where was the walk out? Actually, it was rather close by. The actual walkout itself was a modest affair but the rally and march were well attended, spirited well focused events. Looking for it I ran into former D.U. Korbel colleague Sasha Breger, now on a tenure track at University of Colorado Denver Political Science department. It was such a pleasure to see Sasha again, a young truly brilliant (a term I rarely use) political economist who I hope has found her niche at UCD. We felt a sense of loss at Korbel when she left us although we understood she had much better prospects for an academic future elsewhere.

Nearby Sasha, a number of students with posters began to gather. I asked them if they were with the walkout and they said yes. It was apparent that the walkout was rather modest in nature, but what it lacked in numbers it made up with in content. Still, the numbers were respectable enough. In no time, a group gathered that at its largest seemed to include about two hundred people. It all happened so quickly. The rally and march were well-organized; not as big as yesterday’s at the University of Denver but in its own way not just interesting but moving. There were only two speakers – both undocumented students both of whom spoke for about five minutes, one male, one female. Both had come to the United States from Mexico with their families at the age of five; both had fought for immigrant rights pretty much all their short lives including the ten-year struggle for undocumented people who live in Colorado to get in state tuition. Needless to say they were deeply concerned the Trump hammer about to come down on the country’s 12 million undocumented immigrants and called for making the Auraria Campus a sanctuary area and for the university administration to protect immigrant rights.

The slogans cheered included “Say it loud! Say it clear! Undocumented students welcomed here!” and “I am somebody; I deserve full equality, right here, right now!” Many of the students involved were Latino; there were Blacks too, some women wearing head scarfs, Anglos as well – a representative mix of the Auraria student body. Very few faculty or staff although several profs from Metro State’s Chicano Studies program were in attendance. There was a banner “Sanctuary,” and many posters. “Who Pays Your Salary?” “I.C.E In Our Raspados; Not In Our Barrios!” “Fuck Your Wall; Liberation, Not Deportation!” “AHEC: Protect Our Students!” (AHEC = Auraria Higher Education Complex) “Undocumented, Unafraid, Unapologetic! Here To Stay! Sin Papeles, Sin Miedo!” After the short rally, the participants marched to UCD’s administration building to present the college administrators with a letter asking for formal support in the difficult times ahead.

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