As many of you may know, the New York Times’ article written by Patricia Brown about UC Merced is inclusivity about Dream Act students.
The article begins to set the scene by describing the campus and the area surrounding the university. The introduction paragraph reads as follows: “The University of California, Merced rises apparition-like out of a landscape of cow pastures, cotton fields and grasslands. In the cool of the morning, the faint scent of manure, the olfactory signature of the Central Valley, hangs in the air.” Not only was this overly descriptive introduction unnecessary, but also it’s also mildly insulting. When speaking about UCLA, the description wouldn’t focus on the smog draping the city or on the obnoxious bustling of the city. It would focus on the prestige of the university and the amazing research advancements that have been made there. UC Merced deserves the same respect.
The article then continues to describe the Fiat Lux program. The author then explains that this program is meant to help students who have experienced hardship, “This program designed to reach these students, the ones who grew up sleeping on living room floors so the bedrooms could be rented out, or who learned how to rub garlic on the bottoms of shoes to ward off snakes while crossing the desert. The idea is to provide a pedagogical and social armature to help them navigate college, especially the pivotal first year that research shows is the strongest predictor of college success.” This is actually incorrect, the Fiat Lux program was actually designed to aid first generation college students, taking into account that this university was built to service the central valley and only 13% of Merced County residents have a bachelor’s degree. Of course, there are plenty of first generation students who have experienced great hardship in their life but painting a cliched picture of poverty and struggle is poor journalism. Students should have been given a platform where to share their stories without the biased commentary of an out-of-touch journalist.
To add to her overly exaggerated portrayal, Brown depicted the living conditions of Dream Act students, “And so as freshmen, 175 of the scholars, 22 of them undocumented, live together on the upper two floors of Tenaya Hall, sharing sparsely decorated rooms reflective of their modest means — a graduation watch here, a pair of Huaraches there.” First of all, most college students documented or not have sparse decoration when it comes to their freshman dorms. Dorms are cramped, there is not much room for decoration. Secondly, everyone in every University across the nation shares dorm rooms and therefore, this is not a sign of poverty.
The rest of the article continued to give detailed background stories on certain Dream Act students. Although it was amazing to finally see undocumented university students given the opportunity to share their stories, it would have been nicer to see a direct stories from the students themselves rather than retellings by the author of the article.
It’s very concerning that in the article, the author share the exact addresses and full names of the students mentioned. This puts the students in grave danger considering that we are in the midst of a very conservative county. Luckily, Housing and the Fiat Lux program has not reported any incidents and the UCM police chief gave students his personal number.
Anonymous DACA student states, “The New York Times article definitely tokenized the lives of DACA students on campus.” The moderately condescending undertone portrayed in this article reveals the microaggressions that are present in the everyday lives of undocumented students.
Although there were many pitfalls to this article, there were also many good points such as how she addressed the growing fear of the abolishment of the Dream Act program due to Trump’s immigration positions and policies. Overall, I feel like it is great to receive recognition for everything UC Merced is doing to help undocumented students from such a prominent publication. It has also been brought to my attention that after this article was published, there have been several donations and supportive letters sent to the Fiat Lux program.
Picture Credit: Marcus Fox