1968.07.12: Problems of minority groups in law school program aired (UCLA Daily Bruin)

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UCLA Daily Bruin, July 12, 1968

Problems of minority groups in law school program aired

By Dan Ritkes
DB Staff Writer

On June 27, 1968, in the face of a KNXT News television camera, a group of Chicano students walked out of their law school preparation class. According to spokesmen for all parties involved, the walkout was indicative of the many grievances that have long been ignored by the white community.

The basis for the Chicano walkout, according to law student David Ochoa, was the fact that out of 40 students selected for the summer program, only 13 were Mexican-American. Moreover, the token number of students picked for the program was glorified by the television cameras.

Ochoa, who has worked to recruit many of the Mexican-American students into the program, said, “the ‘Man’ is displaying us to the community to show the people that everything is alright. But 13 Chicanos out of 2 million is no indication that things are alright.”

The summer law program, which involves 13 Mexican-American students and 27 black students, is designed to interest minority group members in pursuing a career in law. It is headed by Prof. Leon Letwin. 

Lack of finances

Although there were some 320 applicants for the program, only 40 were admitted due to lack of financial support. 

Reactions to the walkout from Letwin, the Chicanos and the black students were all favorable, and all were cautious on how much to expect from a minority program which has accepted only a limited number of students.

Ayuko Babu, a spokesman for the black students warned that “we must look at this program from the perspective that it wasn’t until our brothers and sisters died in the streets that this program was brought about.” Babu was referring to what he terms the “rebellions” in Watts, Newark and other cities.

Need for support

“I urge all people of goodwill, who are concerned with black self-determination, to support the financing of additional programs such as this,” Babu said. He cited the problem of financing as a struggle between “liberal and humanitarian people” and “conservatives.”

Babu praised the Chicano walkout, saying, “For once the Chicanos pointed the direction for us to follow. Where traditionally the black man has acted first, the Chicanos have pointed the direction.”

Ochoa, who is one of the Chicano spokesmen, said the program was extremely feeble, and not even a first step in the direction of equal opportunities. “It is only the beginning of a first step in the right direction.”

Selection process

Ochoa cited the disparity of black and Chicano students as one of the major week points of the program. “The selection process favored the blacks. This is not condemnation of the black students on our part, but merely a statement of fact. And we’re not blaming the blacks, for there wasn’t a single black man who had any say about who was selected.”

Ochoa also said that by selecting such a small number of Mexican-Americans, the white man was, in effect, “giving the two minorities a small piece of pie and letting them fight for the bigger piece. One wonders if it was not intentionally planned to split the two groups or whether it was a great coincidence that such small numbers of Chicanos were selected. 

“It’s the same old thing of dividing the two groups and letting them fight for the same dogbone,” Ochoa added.

“Because blacks have become more a threat to the ‘Man’, they usually get more of what they demand than the Mexican-Americans. This leaves us with a problem: Should the Chicanos resort to violence in the streets? I think that by now the white community should already be awakened, and I don’t think we have to resort to violence.”

Numerical disparity

In emphasizing the disparity between the number of Mexican-Americans chosen for the summer law program and the number of Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles, Ochoa said, “There are more Mexican-Americans mowing lawns, cleaning toilets and in construction on this campus than there are enrolled in the University. This was part of the contempt involved in the walkout.”

Both Babu, spokesman for the black students, and Ochoa would not predict further action on the part of their respective groups. Both agreed that when the situation of whether to act arose, it would be decided by the respective group at that time.

“I think that the walkout demonstrates the strength of feelings on the part of both the blacks and the Chicanos. And they have a right to be concerned,” noted Letwin.

Purpose of walkout

“The purpose of the walkout was partly to make it clear that while they are participating in the program, the blacks and Chicanos are not necessarily endorsing its adequacy,” he added.

The projected goal of the summer law program preparation class, according to Letwin, is to “expand minority enrollment, as well as interest them in law.

“Many black and Mexican-American students are deeply skeptical of our legal system, and are concerned with changing it.”

Much to learn

While Letwin said that the program is useful and that “we still have a lot to learn in this area,” he suggested that “what the law school, higher education, and I should do, is to move more aggressively to open the door to higher education for minority groups.”

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