The Hispanic Access Initiative, a recruiting program at CSUN aimed at increasing the number of U.S. military officers of Hispanic decent, remains open for discussion among students and faculty.
The U.S. Army wants to have all ethnic groups represented equally in the military, which is the primary reason the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program was brought to this campus, said Capt. Brian Johns, the officer in charge of the program.
“There is not a lot of Hispanic leadership in the Army and this is intended to get more Hispanics into those positions,” Johns said.
The CSUN ROTC, an extension of the program at UCLA, has had a consistently low number of Latino enrollments since Johns took his position in the program.
In fact, only about five cadets out of 40 enrolled in CSUN’s ROTC program are Latino. The remainder of the cadets are predominantly white and Asian, said Johns.
According to the Solomon Amendment of 1996, if the university prevents or prohibits the ROTC or military recruiters from coming on campus the Secretary of Defense can deny the institution federal funding.
However, the legislation has its critics.
“What really angers me about the (Hispanic Access Initiative) is that the federal government has created a program targeting Latinos,” said Rosa Furumoto, assistant professor of Chicano/a Studies. “But do they make a special program to make sure that our community is being well served in terms of quality education? No, not at all,” she said.
The U.S. military is looking for minorities because they are not meeting their recruiting goals, and CSUN has become part of the process by allowing access to the ROTC and not questioning their presence, Furumoto said.
She said when the ROTC program came to CSUN; a group of faculty members and students went to speak with President Jolene Koester about the controversial initiative, with no success.
“(Koester) was very clear when she said she didn’t want to have more discussion about it. She signed the contract, because if not, they were going to take away the federal aid,” Furumoto said in reference to Koester’s backing of the controversial Solomon Amendment.
For Furumoto, just the fact that the initiative has the term “Hispanic” on it means that the military is looking for a specific ethnic group, and because of that, she said, CSUN should not be assisting them with the recruitment of young students.
“Are we here to educate our youth? Or are we here to facilitate the exploitation of students by preparing them to be part of this war and destruction?” Furumoto asked.
Students need to become actively involved and aware of what is going on with ROTC and the war in Iraq, where Latinos are overrepresented in the most dangerous positions, Furumoto said.
Jabbar Magruder, junior medical physics major, said he wants to bring back the group Students Against the War to remind people that there is still a war going on and that the government needs to end it.
“There is nothing good that has come out of this war,” said Magruder, 24. “The whole connection with Sept. 11 is false and the weapons of mass destruction went to smoke.”
Magruder, who was deployed for almost a year in Iraq with the U.S. Army in 2004, said he and other members of the organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War, took a petition to Congress called “Appeal for Redress.”
On this petition, signed by more than 1,200 soldiers, Congress was asked to withdraw the troops from Iraq in order to bring them back as soon as possible.
“We’ve fought this battle and we know what’s going on and it’s time to come home,” said Magruder, who might be redeployed in 2008.
“The military targets minorities because they are the part of society that has more economic struggles,” Magruder said.
Magruder added that the HAI was only an excuse to have open access to the campus, and that they would take anyone because they just want to train more people.
Johns said ROTC does not target Latinos, or any ethnic group in particular, because the four-year program is open to anybody who qualifies – regardless of race.
“The HAI is why we were put here,” Johns said. “But if (Latinos) don’t want to be in the program, they don’t want to be in the program, and that’s the bottom line.”
Johns maintained that while cadets are enrolled in the four-year program, they simultaneously receive an education and cannot be deployed to war because their education is “a key to be part of ROTC.”
Latinos could benefit from ROTC, just like everyone else, by receiving an education and by taking leadership courses, Johns said.
Cynthia De La Rosa, senior fashion design major, said she is against ROTC because the group is only looking to meet the troop demands of the war in Iraq.
“They don’t accept Latinos here, yet they want us to go to war and fight for their country,” De La Rosa said. “Latinos need to realize that there are other ways to get an education.”
But for Margarita Qui?ones, a geography graduate student, the ROTC program does not have a significant impact on her life.
“I think it’s bad that they target Latinos but at the same time it’s an option,” Qui?ones said. “If Latinos want to join ROTC it’s okay, you always have an option.”