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K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

K. Lloyd Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific Research Institute and has been widely published on topics including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform, and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]

Goodbye to "terrorist tech"...

[K. Lloyd Billingsley] 2/11/05

Most Californians have never heard of Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University, which last month lost its accreditation. Policymakers, taxpayers, parents, and students may draw some lessons from the story. It began in 1970, when the U.S. Army announced plans to close a communications facility in Yolo County, west of Davis and not far from Sacramento.

UC Davis’s Native American and Chicano studies programs asked for the property, but UC Davis also wanted the land for a primate research facility. When the government sided with the primate plan, Indian and Chicano activists occupied the property. After five months of occupation, the university withdrew its claim and the government duly caved.

In 1971, Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University, named for a prominent Iroquois and an Aztec prophet, opened its doors. Its mission was to united indigenous people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Local law enforcement and the FBI called the place “terrorist tech.” While that threat never materialized, neither did much education.

Courses were highly politicized, such as Environmental Issues 301, about uranium mining on reservations, and Social Science 242, an Indian interpretation of early U.S. history. The reading list was a politically correct litany of militants. There were plenty of those in the 1970s, including Dennis Banks of AIM, the American Indian Movement. He fled South Dakota after a gun battle in a courthouse and California governor Jerry Brown granted him asylum. Though not known as a scholar or administrator, Dennis Banks duly became chancellor of Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University in 1975.

During the early 1980s, federal auditors cited DQU for various violations, failing to enroll enough students and leasing land to farmers. The audit recommended that the land be returned to the government. Management and financial problems continued to plague DQU, subject to a U.S. Department of Education investigation about mishandled financial aid. The Bureau of Indian Affairs also withdrew $300,000 in aid because of declining Indian enrollment.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, an arm of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), has been pushing the school to recruit and train board members – they have six but are supposed to have 16 – hire qualified faculty, and provide courses that lead to an associate degree. According to press reports, DQU president Peter Gabriel has only a bachelor’s degree from UC Davis, has never attended graduate school, and has spent most of his adult life as a jewelry maker.

Last month WASC terminated DQU’s accreditation. None of the school’s classes now counts for credit. But on “ceremonial grounds,” students can participate in powwows or congregate in a canvas sweat lodge to pray, apparently without violation of the First Amendment or complaint from the ACLU. Some diehard students plan to carry on but others will transfer to more conventional colleges, a move surely in their best interests. That probably spells the end for DQU, despite calls by newspapers for Indian casinos to fund the place.

In education, incompetence still shows remarkable staying power, partly because politically correct administrators and journalists hesitate to criticize accredited victim groups. Politicized education, a ‘60s legacy that is still widespread, promises a lot more than it can deliver. The DQU story should tell governments that if they cave in to militants, the result will not necessarily be beneficial for the disadvantaged those militants claim to represent.

copyright 2005 Pacific Research Institute




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