Sunday, May 9, 2004

Stanford University students have voted to stop funding the Chicano group MEChA after a series of articles in the conservative Stanford Review accused the organization of racism.

In what is believed to be the first such vote on any college campus, Stanford students voted 1,357 to 1,329 to withhold MEChA’s special fees, which amount to more than $40,000. The students voted about five months after articles in the Review cited anti-white statements in MEChA documents and compared the group to the Ku Klux Klan.

MEChA stands for the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan.

Stephen Cohen, Stanford Review editor, said the articles were responsible for stirring opposition to the group, especially after campus MEChA leaders refused to renounce the founding documents.

“This was a huge, huge victory for us,” said Mr. Cohen, a Stanford junior. “We were the only group calling for students not to fund MEChA, and we’ve been calling for this for years now. We didn’t really expect it to happen, so we were pleasantly surprised.”

However, campus MEChA leaders said the vote was based on “misinformation,” insisting that the modern club no longer subscribes to all the views in the founding documents, according to the Stanford Daily, the school newspaper.

The students voted as MEChA faces increasing criticism statewide for statements included in some of its original documents, particularly El Plan de Aztlan.

El Plan de Aztlan describes white people as “the brutal ‘gringo’” and “the foreigner ‘gabacho,’” saying they invade the Chicano territories, exploit their riches and destroy their culture. It calls for Chicanos to reclaim “the land of their birth” and “declare the independence of our mestizo nation.”

The plan’s motto, “Por la Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada,” means, “For the race, everything. For those outside the race, nothing.”

MEChA chapters have publicly dismissed the statements as the product of the radical 1960s, when pro-separatist sentiment was running high. Last year, Jorge Mariscal, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, called the plan “a poem written almost 35 years ago in a period of increased social activism and high-flying rhetoric.”

Founded in 1969 at the University of California at Santa Barbara, MEChA now has chapters on nearly every California college campus and in most high schools in the state.

In recent years, however, some prominent California politicians have been called on to renounce their MEChA memberships. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante came under fire for his MEChA roots in the gubernatorial race last year, as did Los Angeles City Council member Antonio Villaragosa in his bid for Los Angeles mayor.

Glenn Spencer, a MEChA critic who has produced documentaries on Mexican immigration issues, said he knew of no other anti-MEChA funding vote on any other California campus.

“I’ve been following them for 13 years, and I don’t recall them ever being turned down for funding,” said Mr. Spencer, who also operates the American Patrol Web site. “I’m glad to see the students of Stanford show some backbone and speak the truth.”

However, he also predicted that such votes could push MEChA to the political fringe. “If this starts to go to other campuses, you’re going to see a real radicalization of MEChA,” he said.

The vote doesn’t mean the end of Stanford MEChA. With a total budget of about $100,000, the organization also receives funding from the academic departments, the Stanford Fund and El Centro Chicano, the school’s Hispanic umbrella group, according to the Review.

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