The teaching contract of a 25-year University of New Mexico instructor, who supports the secession of Southwest states to form an independent Chicano nation, is not being renewed despite protests from students who fear the university is stifling academic freedom.
Dr. Charles Truxillo, a longtime Chicano nationalist, contends his firing was due to his radical beliefs.
“I know that it is my beliefs because they cannot come up with any other reason. The administration said that they were looking for full-time tenure-track faculty. I qualify … Why isn’t a position being offered to me?” asks Truxillo, a founding member of the university’s Chicano Studies department.
Truxillo, considered an American traitor to some, supports the succession of American states bordering Mexico for a separate Chicano nation. He argues that the Articles of Confederation give individual states full sovereignty and thus the states bordering Mexico have a legal right to secede.
“Universities, now, are afraid of the government,” says Truxillo, who has been an adjunct faculty member in the Chicano studies department for 10 years. Before that, he worked for 15 years in the history department.
Truxillo, who doesn’t have tenure, appealed to Provost Viola Florez. She upheld the decision, noting that the heads of the department and college decided not to renew his contract because they want to stabilize and build the program by hiring tenure-track faculty.
Truxillo concedes that his ideas are too radical for tenure. “Tenure is based on a vote from my colleagues. Few are in favor of a Chicano professor advocating a Chicano nation state,” Truxillo says.
UNM spokeswoman Carolyn Gonzales said the university couldn’t comment on Truxillo’s status because it’s a personnel matter.
Two days after Truxillo was fired, Chad Wilson, a junior anthropology major at the University of New Mexico, assembled a group of 20 students to campaign for Truxillo’s reinstatement.
The students spoke with a number of high-level administrators including Dr. Enrique Lamadrid, director of UNM’s Chicano Studies program. Wilson said he offered students little in the way of explanations for Truxillo’s firing.
“Enrique La Madrid told us that Truxillo was let go for financial purposes. We heard from another source that Truxillo’s salary had already been included for this year. The provost said that it was for personnel reasons, but we know it’s because of his beliefs,” Wilson told Diverse.
Wilson, 27, argues more than just Truxillo’s job is at stake. “It’s not a matter of Truxillo, personally. We are petitioning for the freedom of thought on campus. Information should be free, not censored. If we don’t allow professors to express themselves freely, we end up with a homogenized curriculum, like in high school.”
Truxillo plans to file an appeal with President David Schmidly. If that fails, he plans to take his case to the Board of Regents.
If Truxillo loses his job, he’ll be left without health insurance. “The entire situation is only making me sicker,” says Truxillo, who is living with liver cancer.
–Michelle J. Nealy
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