Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Ethnic Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Daryl Maeda

Abstract

In the spring of 1994, SCAEP (Student Coalition for the Advancement of Ethnic Plurality), along with UMAS (United Mexican American Students) y MEChA (Movimento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) worked together to form what they called “The Alliance.” This coalition of passionate and dedicated young people led the way to the creation of the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB). This thesis examines this grassroots student movement for racial justice and equity by using oral history interviews and archival research to explain how and why coalitions bridging differences were formed and maintained. It pays specific attention to how race, ethnicity, class, culture, gender and sexuality informed and impacted the student movement. This thesis finds that the student movement for Ethnic Studies at UCB was part of a long-lasting struggle for racial justice and equity that escalated when three Latino faculty confronted discrimination in their department. UMAS y MEChA mobilized to protect them and simultaneously, SCAEP organized to fight for an Ethnic Studies Department. The Alliance between UMAS y MECha and SCAEP organized rallies, marches, sit-ins, and a six-day hunger strike. I argue that the political moment of the early 1990s, institutionalized support structures on campus for students of color, mentorship of staff and faculty, and an ever-present legacy of radical student activism were key to the movement’s success. My study reveals both the challenges faced by social movements that attempt to create coalitions across racial and ethnic divides, and the power generated when those alliances are successfully built. By studying the case of CU Boulder, this thesis contributes to understandings of coalitional social movements, coalition building in the early 1990s, and the institutionalization of Ethnic Studies as a discipline.

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