Race matters

Race matters

By Anne Federwisch

When Antonio Estremera ’72 came to Santa Clara in 1968, he intended to major in history, not make it. But when an article using wording insulting to minorities appeared in the student newspaper in January ’69, he and some others felt compelled to respond.

The article, introducing a new English course in basic communication skills, described its prospective students as “disadvantaged” and “underprivileged,” and their home environments as “functionally illiterate.” It suggested that they had difficulty with abstract thought. Ethnic tensions were already rife in the Bay Area, with student protests not uncommon elsewhere; that article sparked a minor explosion on the Mission campus.

Several weeks later, Estremera and students from the Black Students’ Union, Mexican American Student Confederation, and Students for Democratic Action, as well as a few faculty members—about 30 people in all—demonstrated in the cafeteria during dinner. Using a speaker system, each group made its demands known to the administration, including review of the newspaper before it went to press and new courses in both Black history and Chicano history.

One month later, the administration responded to lingering discontent by organizing group discussions between faculty and students about the “minority perspective.” Ethnic studies courses were developed as part of the undergraduate curriculum that fall and a director of an Ethnic Studies Program appointed.

Thirty years after Antonio Estremera graduated, his son Michael Estremera ’02, J.D.’06 studied at SCU—as an undergraduate and as a law student. Notably, in recent years the law school has ranked in the top 10 schools nationally in terms of diversity.

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