We want to thank everyone who has communicated with us in recent weeks about the Summer Institute. We write this for several reasons: to encourage members to attend the institute and to respond to correspondence from members about the 2014 Summer Institute and other organizational issues.
First, we want to begin by urging members to attend what promises to be another compelling Summer Institute from July 30 to August 2 in El Rito, New Mexico. We recently had a conversation with the Site Committee (SC) and we are assured that this summer’s Institute will be vibrant and supportive—as has become our tradition—while situating us to thoughtfully consider our intellectual, spiritual, cultural, political, and ethical histories and commitments. We also are excited to highlight the experiences of a rural campus and hope that you will join us for this unique experience! For more information visit their website.
Second, in the past few months some members have contacted us with questions about the Summer Institute. As a volunteer feminist organization, the leadership team worked to ensure that all board members were part of the dialogue surrounding these questions. While we tried to respond in a timely manner, we fully acknowledge that collective praxis does not allow for expedited responses especially during summer when many of us were traveling out of the country. The Executive Committee (EC) first discussed the questions raised during two special meetings (generally the EC meets monthly). After these EC meetings the entire leadership team (the EC and elected Representatives together comprising the Coordinating Committee) met to further discuss the matter. From our discussions we concluded that it was necessary to meet with the Site Committee to gather further information. We did so on June 25, 2014.
Questions Regarding the Site Committee Practices
We were contacted by two individuals several months ago about internal dynamics of the site committee at Northern New Mexico College. After several conversations among the members of the Executive Committee (and later, as noted above, the Coordinating Committee), we are assured that the Site Committee is working in the best interests of hosting a dynamic MALCS Summer Institute in northern New Mexico. Northern New Mexico College was asked to host the MALCS Summer Institute when no other institution was named at our last gathering; under the leadership of Dr. Barceló, this small, financially vulnerable college has gone beyond the pale to organize, fundraise, and support the efforts of hosting our Summer Institute.
MALCS does not have a history of intervening in the processes internal to colleges or universities that host our Summer Institutes. As a leadership team comprised of mujeres from across the country, we are not positioned to understand the internal issues on any campus, nor do we have the ethical authority to intrude in the affairs of a college, particularly colleges that are in the midst of major transitions that are more complex than most of us realize.
Other questions were asked about the relationship between the Site Committee and the local community. In our conversation with the SC, it is evident that the committee has developed a broad network of both participation and support among community members.
Questions Regarding Financial Support of the Institute
In May, we were also contacted by MALCS members asking if Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was a sponsor of the conference. These members suggested that this would be problematic if that were the case due to the Lab’s history of environmental pollution and association with the defense industry.
We have several responses to what is a very complex question. First, in our conversation with the Site Committee, we found that Los Alamos is not an official sponsor of the conference. Having said that, an engineering firm, which does, in fact, do business with LANL as a subcontractor, is a sponsor of the conference. Second, we understand that some of you may think we are splitting hairs. If a majority of members feel that way, then it may be time for the organization to reconsider how we coordinate and fund our Summer Institutes. Are there alternatives to the collaborative arrangements we have developed with colleges and universities and the economies that support them? This seems like a potential plenary topic for next year’s Summer Institute in which we can engage in a constructive manner.
It has become increasingly difficult to find academic institutions to host the annual Summer Institute and virtually every institution has affiliations we may find problematic. For example, most colleges and universities in the state of New Mexico have some connection to the defense industry. In addition, we know of at least one example where a previous Summer Institute received support from a major player in the banking industry during the time the donor was immersed in a foreclosure scandal. It may be time for us to consider alternative models for organizing and funding our annual gathering.
The issues raised offer us an opportunity as an organization to think strategically about future Summer Institutes, including examining and revising the by-laws or developing other organizational documents to address such concerns should they arise again. At this time there is limited information about the Summer Institute in the bylaws and no written policies or procedures. As a Coordinating Committee we hope, with the support of membership at-large, to establish a Summer Institute Handbook along with other materials to best aid future Site Committees while maintaining the spirit and mission of MALCS.
We want to thank you for your interest in and commitment to MALCS. One of the things we value about this organization is its willingness to engage in robust and sometimes difficult conversations. Despite the challenges those conversations represent, we continue to understand the value of this organization for us. We look forward to seeing you in New Mexico, and continuing our dialogue there.
The MALCS Coordinating Committee
Current MALCS Bylaws (amended August 2014)
1991 Mission statement
Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS, Women Active in Letters and Social Change) is an organization of Chicanas/ Latinas and Native American women working in academia and in community settings with a common goal: to work toward the support, education and dissemination of Chicana/ Latina and Native American women’s issues. Chicanas/Latinas and Native American women from a variety of institutions gather at this yearly Summer Institute to network, share information, offer support and re-energize. The MALCS Summer Institute is one of the few places Chicanas/Latinas and Native American women can come together without the influence of male and/or Euro-American consciousness or opinion. While some charge that this is separatist, the MALCS reply is not one of apology. This is our space. The dynamics of this Chicana/Latina and Native American woman space is worth guarding, even in the face of criticism from those we respect and work with in our home institutions. Adopted at Laredo, Texas, 1991
June 1983 MALCS Declaración
We are the daughters of Chicano working class families involved in higher education. We were raised in labor camps and barrios, where sharing our resources was the basis of survival. Our values, our strength derive from where we came. Our history is the story of the working class people–their struggles, commitments, strengths, and the Chicano/Mexicano experience in the United States. We are particularly concerned with the conditions women face at work, in and out of the home. We continue our mothers’ struggle for economic and social justice. The scarcity of Chicanas in institutions of higher education requires that we join together to identify our common problems, to support each other and to define collective solutions. Our purpose is to fight the race, class, and gender oppression we have experienced in the universities. Further, we reject the separation of academic scholarship and community involvement. Our research strives to bridge the gap between intellectual work and active commitment to our communities. We draw upon a tradition of political struggle. We see ourselves developing strategies for social change–a change emanating from our communities. We declare the commitment to seek social, economic, and political change throughout our work and collective action. We welcome Chicanas who share these goals and invite them to join us. Adopted June 1983