Saturday, August 13, 2011

Revisiting The 1970 Hispanic Takeover At UW-Milwaukee Demanding Equal Access To Education

Photos: UWM
(L-R) Jesus Salas, Gregorio J. "Goyo" Rivera, Marla O. Anderson, Dante Navarro and Jose Luis Huerta-Sanchez were arrested on August 27, 1970 at Chapman Hall, UWM during a protest.

Commemorating 41 years since the takeover of the university by the Latino community.

By H. Nelson Goodson
August 13, 2011

Milwaukee - On August 27, the 41st Anniversary of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) takeover will be remembered by surviving family members and those who actually participated in the 1970 historical event in Wisconsin's history. At least 500 people took it upon themselves to stand up and challenge the UWM discriminatory policy that prevented Hispanics and other minorities from enrolling at the urban university.
Four men, Jesus Salas, Gregorio J. "Goyo" Rivera, Dante Navarro and Jose Luis Huerta-Sanchez and one woman, Marla O. Anderson were taken into custody for protesting the discriminatory policy that kept Latinos from enrolling at UWM and for refusing to leave UWM Chancellor J. Martin Klotsche's office on that August afternoon. The UWM protest began with about 150 people and within days, it grew to more than 500 people.
Klotsche refused to meet with the protestors, but after three days of hunger strikes by the protest organizers, the stalemate broke and Klotsche finally met with them.
By September 1970, UWM along with members of the Hispanic community created the Spanish Speaking Outreach Institute (SSOI) to offer academic counseling, recruit and retain potential students. The SSOI would especially serve nearly 30,000 Latinos living in the Milwaukee area.
Believe it or not, the 1970 takeover of UWM quietly faded away in the memories of those who participated and went on with their lives. After 31 years, it resurfaced again when the first comprehensive article detailing the accounts was written and published in 2001.
The following article depicts true accounts of the UWM takeover in 1970 that was first published in El Conquistador Newspaper in the July 13-19, 2001, Vol. 4, Issue 29 and then revised on August 24, 2001.
In July 2001, the National Council de La Raza (NCLR) Annual Conference was taking place in Milwaukee. NCLR organizers had become amazed with the large number of highly educated Hispanic volunteers and organizers involved with the conference compared to other states. The NCLR organizers wanted to know how did Hispanics in Wisconsin get a college education when many barriers existed in the 1960's to early 1970's, which kept Latinos from higher education opportunities.
The story you are about to read is just a memory to some that experienced those moments in 1970. But to us, the generations that followed see those moments as achievements and the success our Hispanic community had in making Milwaukee and Wisconsin a better place to live. The time has come for us to once again commemorate them and let us never forget their endeavers, it's part of our never ending struggle to succeed, it's part of our history and culture in Wisconsin.
The chain of events began on August 27, 1970 when approximately 150 Hispanics converged at the office of former UWM Chancellor J. Martin Klotsche to meet with him. In the Fall semester of 1970, there were only 14 Hispanic students enrolled at UWM, most of them from South and Central America compared to 25,000 students attending classes.
For the Hispanic community, "In Milwaukee many barriers existed blocking their paths to higher education. Their language and cultural distinctness were frowned upon, and they had limited access to information about educational opportunities and few professional role models. Discriminatory treatment was the norm." (Cited from Myriad Magazine UWM 1990)
In 1968 to early 1970, teachers and academic counselors at South Division High School in the South side and other schools in the Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system didn't make it a priority to advise Latino students about enrolling in college and the educational opportunities available to them. School counselors weren't prepared to handle an influx of Spanish speaking migrant students from Texas, California and other states and Puerto Rican students arriving from the island with limited English. Most of these students were considered with language disabilities and treated differently until the Hispanic community fought to establish the model Bilingual program that is still in effect today in MPS.
In the late 1960's, Milwaukee public school administradors considered Hispanics as a growing fountain of cheap labor workers with few skills. Until August of 1970, when the Hispanic community had enough with the educational discrimination that existed limiting access and educational opportunities for Latinos.
The whole educational reform for UWM dealing in enrollment and accepting Hispanics students began in 1970, when the Council for Education for Latin Americans (CELA) staged the marches and sit-ins that sparked the beginning of a new breed of Hispanic intellectuals in Wisconsin. "Venceremos," (we shall overcome) a mighty slogan that would become an echo that bounced throughout the walls at the UWM campus. When Chancellor Klotsche decided to cancel a meeting for the third time with CELA, the group stormed into the chancellor's office spreading the huge doors apart, while his secretary asked, "What are you people doing?" Some of the Hispanics sat directly on top of the chancellor's desk in a gesture that they meant business this time around. The Chapman Hall siege was sparked by the frustration people had to endure with prior cancellations with the chancellor.
The group of Hispanics had also wanted to negotiate educational opportunities with the chancellor. But, Dr. Ernest Spaights, the Assistant Dean of Student Relations and Dr. Lynn Elly, Assistant to the Chancellor dealing with UWM Relations told the group Chancellor Klotsche was out of town and would not be able to meet with them that day. The chancellor would be expected to meet with the group on Monday the following week. The Hispanic group at that point said, "enough was enough" and decided they would stay in Klotsche's office until he met with them. A member of the group shouted, we are tired of waiting for tomorrow, "We as Latinos have been long ignored," responded Enriqueta Gonzalez, a Milwaukee Public School teacher.
A consensus was reached by the group that they would stay until the chancellor would return. As time continued to run out on Thursday, the office of the chancellor was ready to close at 5:00 p.m. for the day and the Hispanic group wouldn't leave. The Milwaukee Police were called to clear the offices. The officers arrived in riot gear and warned people to remove their jewelry because they were going to arrest all of them. The people were also threaten by some of the officers and other Anglo-Saxons that photos taken of them would be used by the U.S. Immigration Naturalization Service to deport them... "they would try to scare us and disperse some of the demonstrators," according to Arnoldo Sevilla, who at the time was an undocumented immigrant himself, but has legal status today.
Then, as Milwaukee Police and UWM Police began to surround the group in the office, they closed the circle by placing their batons side ways in front of them while walking forward and making the circle smaller and smaller letting those people close to the door out one by one.
Finally, a detective pointed at five Hispanics left in the office and they were taken into custody. One of them was Marla O. Anderson, a mother of six siblings; Dante Navarro, a candidate for State Assembly, District 12th in that year; Gregorio J. "Goyo" Rivera, a community activist; Jesus Salas, the main leader of the protest and a UWM student; and Jose Luis Huerta-Sanchez, a student, according to the UWM Police offense report filed on Friday, August 28, 1970.
They were later released by former Milwaukee City Attorney William Gardner, who found no just caused to charge them. Navarro said, "they actually released us from the Milwaukee city jail about 11:00 p.m. because they knew that about 500 people had gathered at UWM and they didn't want a riot to ignite. The police never informed us prior to our release that a huge number of people had united at the UWM campus." While the five protestors were being held, hundreds of protestors began to gather at the campus by word of mouth and breaking news reports being aired by media outlets.
Navarro remembered when they were released, some of them wanted to go home. They paused for a moment and Marla O. Anderson helped encourage everyone to return to UWM, eventhough they were expecting everyone would be gone. But they wanted to finish what they had started. To their surprise, about 500 demonstrators remained and were already spending the night on the grounds at UWM. Navarro says, when he saw all those people, tear drops formed in his eyes and he felt so proud to see all of those people camped outside Klotsche's office. The support and welcome that they received from the demonstrators made them feel that their arrests were not fruitless, Navarro said.
Someone from the chancellor's office asked Salas, if he could tell the people to leave the grounds. Salas got on top of a vehicle and told the people what the spokesperson from the chancellor's office had requested. The people refused to leave, according to Navarro.
The next day, Chancellor Klotsche once again said, he would not meet with them until Monday. The group had wanted to meet with Chancellor Klotsche to introduce an 11 point proposal for a Spanish Speaking Outreach Institute. But Klotsche's refusal to meet with them, ignited a series of marches around the campus. The demonstrators began to chant in harmony "Venceremos, Venceremos" and the words echoed throughout UWM.
The marchers sang various songs in Spanish while others played their guitars, which enhanced the pride and spirits for everyone. "They marched and sang from 8:00 a.m. to late at night without even taking a break to eat. Some would endure the hunger rather than give up and we ended up at Chancellor Klotsche's front door chanting Venceremos," Enriqueta Gonzalez said in an 1985 interview.
Then the demonstrators began the sit-ins on the grass and attended a vigil on the grounds of Chapman Hall where Chancellor Klotsche's office was located. The next day on Friday at about 11:00 a.m., a mass was held by Father John Maurice of the Spanish Center for those who had spent the night at Chapman Hall. After the mass, the group decided to head on and try to register for classes at UWM. The group composed of Hispanics of all ages went to the registrars office and when the UWM administrators asked what they wanted, the group only responded in Spanish. The group would say, "Queremos matricularnos en el colegio, porque no nos dejan registrarnos... nosotros tambien pagamos impuestos". The administrative workers couldn't understand them and 18 students who worked in the registrars office decided to walk out of their jobs in sympathy and support for the demonstrators. Another 60 Hispanics went to the UWM library to look for Spanish books. They only found a few of them in the library.
Jesus Salas in a 2002 interview said, the turning point of the UWM educational movement occurred when we staged a hunger strike outside Klotsche's office and the security guards began to trust us. When Salas was allowed to go inside Chapman Hall to use the restroom, he and an unidentified man locked the doors leaving the security guards outside. Once inside, Salas began to make telephone calls to other organizers to let them know they had taken over Klotsche's offices again. He was able to bring more people into Klotsche's office through the back doors.
Salas and others began to demand that community members be allowed to serve in an advisory committee in selecting the director for the newly proposed Spanish Speaking Outreach Institute at UWM, Chancellor Klotsche finally agreed.
The three day demonstrations and sit-ins convinced Klotsche to concede and soon after a group of five Hispanics were selected to meet with him. A group of UWM representatives were later sent to the Hispanic community to try and recuit students.
Chancellor Klotsche also appointed a special assistant to coordinate programs for the Spanish speaking community.
The doors to higher education were finally opened for the Hispanic community. On September 17, the chancellor's group spent long hours at the United Migrant Opportunity Services office helping those who were interested in pursuing a higher education to enroll at UWM. Armando Orellana, the leader of CELA asked for a written statement of the UWM position on all of CELA's requests, but no statement would be presented.
However, UWM finally created the Spanish Speaking Outreach Institute (SSOI) to serve nearly 30,000 Hispanics living in the Milwaukee area in 1970. Dr. Ricardo Fernandez later became the director of SSOI.
The outcome of the demonstrations finally began to payoff, as 85 students would be allowed to enroll in the first semester. The breakdown was, 10 students with a four year degree would be allowed to get a Masters degree; 25 students who were not finished with their Bachelors degree, but were doing professional work for the community were also accepted; and 50 students who have finished high school, but would need assistance to prepare for college were accepted as special students.
Gonzalez, a 20 year veteran with MPS, during an interview smiled and said, "they also accepted a lot of Hispanics and even those who didn't even have a high school diploma, with the prerequisite that they would get a GED or a high school diploma later. Many students took advantage of the offer and many of us were even married. Some who UWM accepted included Marla O. Anderson, Gloria Gonzalez, Gregorio Montoto, Dante Navarro, Tommy Rodriguez, Carlos Sevilla, Arnoldo Sevilla and others.
Even Montoto who worked for SSOI would go to South Division and recruited students for the extension SSOI office located at S. 5th St. and W. National Ave., next door to La Guardia Newspaper.
At first they wouldn't accept us because we couldn't pass their tests for admissions and now they were accepting us without diplomas," explained Gonzalez. She also recalls, Marla O. Anderson was so happy and proud that she was the only woman arrested with the men.
In 1996, the SSOI was renamed the Roberto Hernandez Center. Hernandez was one of the instrumental leaders of the UWM protests in 1970.
In the Spring semester of 2001, about 900 Hispanic students were enrolled at UWM, compared to an overall student enrollment of 23,000.
In the Fall semester of 1970, only 14 Hispanic students were enrolled and by the Fall of 1973 there was a 300% increase of registered Hispanic students. Since the 1980's, about 475 to 580 Latino students would enroll per semester.
Today, between 1,000 to 1,500 Hispanic students continue to enroll per semester at UWM alone. Recently, undocument students received a blow by Republicans making it more difficult for them to enroll as foreign students due to higher tuition costs.
The Wisconsin Republican controlled legislature repealed in-state tuition for undocumented students and Governor Scott Walker (R) signed the measure as part of the two year fiscal budget. Undocumented students were previously paying tuition as state residents, but now will have to pay as much as triple to attend public state universities or colleges in Wisconsin.
The 2010 U.S. Census reported, that the Wisconsin Hispanic population in the state grew by 74% or 336,056, an increase of 143,135 from 2000. Hispanics now account for 5.9 percent of Wisconsin's total population and more than 3,000 Hispanic owned businesses contribute more than $800 million in annual sales.
The Hispanic population in Milwaukee County rose by 126,039 and the Dane County Hispanic population grew by 28,925.
The City of Milwaukee saw a increase of 40%, 103,107 in Hispanic population, and saw a loss of 6%, from 605,013 to 594,833 of population now residing in the city, according to the 2010 census. Compared to a census report in 2009, that the Hispanic population rose about 48%, 285,827 or 5.1% of the population in the state.

This is the actual video presentation at the UWM Student Union Ballroom banquet during the 40th Anniversary and Commemoration of the 1970 takeover of Chapman Hall by the Hispanic community, courtesy of UWM and the Roberto Hernandez Center at link:

Connected by MOTOBLUR™ on T-Mobile

No comments: