Jennifer Etsitty/Arizona Summer Wildcat (From left) Isabel Garcia, a representative of Derechos Humanos Coalition, Dr. John Bowens, faculty member at Pima Community College, Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva and Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith, adjunct lecturer of Mexican-American studies, voice their opinions and support for Salomon Baldenegro at a Friday rally. Baldenegro was fired from his position as the UA's assistant dean of Hispanic Student Affairs.

By Bryon Wells Arizona

Summer Wildcat July 8, 1998

Firing of Hispanic affairs dean prompts rally

Arizona Summer Wildcat

About 40 people squeezed into the shade under the Administration Building's canopy Friday to protest the firing of the UA assistant dean of Hispanic Student Affairs.

Praise of Salomon Baldenegro's accomplishments was peppered with resentment toward the administrators who decided to let him go. But the overriding concern was getting Baldenegro reinstated.

"We need to work hard to open the doors and to keep our students here. And one of the people that has been most instrumental in doing that is Mr. Salomon Baldenegro," said Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith, adjunct lecturer of Mexican-American studies. "It is a grea t mistake, and I certainly hope that it can be reconsidered as soon as possible."

Melissa Vito, assistant dean of students, said she has offered Baldenegro another position researching minority retention for the dean of students, but would not comment directly on reasons for his firing because of an Arizona Board of Regents policy exem ption concerning personnel issues.

Baldenegro holds a position with the university that is subject to contract renewal every year. If the university decides not to renew the contract, policy dictates that the employee be given a 90-day notice, which Vito said Baldenegro received. Under the se terms, Baldenegro's contract will be extended until Sept. 30.

Mar"a Rodr"guez, vice president of the University of Arizona chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Atzln, said she is suspicious about the decision not to renew Baldenegro's contract.

"It was a decision that was made during summer, when our numbers are really low," she said. "This is obviously a student issue and they didn't consult any students and they especially didn't consult any Chicano/Hispano students which would be the populati on directly affected."

Rodr"guez said that during Baldenegro's work at the university, the retention and graduation rates of Hispanic students have increased.

But, Vito said, while retention rates are improving for Hispanic students, they are still not as proportionally high as those of Anglo students.

"If you look at the numbers there is still a significant gap between the number of Anglo students graduating and underrepresented minority students graduating," Vito said.

Vito added that between the UA Hispanic and Anglo populations, "There is still a significant gap in the graduation rate.

"And that's what we've got to close," she said.

Pima County Supervisor Raul Grijalva said he came to campus Friday to demand the reinstatement and the renewal of the contract for Baldenegro to ensure "continuity of services at that (Mexican American Student Resource) center."

Grijalva said he believes an underlying reason Baldenegro's contract was not renewed was because he has a "philosophical position" in his community.

"Part of the problem Mr. Baldenegro is having at this university is that there was a real effort on the part of administrators and leadership at this university to sanitize points of view. We all know Mr. B doesn't fit that role. And that's one of the rea sons why we wanted him to have this position in the first place," he said.

Neither Vito or UA spokeswoman Sharon Kha would comment on that allegation or any other reasons for the dean of student's decision.

Kha said that Baldenegro's contract had been extended 90 days since July 1 and he was offered a new title, with no reduction in pay, of special assistant to the vice president to do research on minority retention.

If Baldenegro chooses to renew his contract under the new title, he would hold that position until the next contract review period in September 1999.

"He can say, 'No, I'm not going to sign that contract' and his (current) contract will expire Sept. 30," Kha said.

Vito said an interim replacement will be named within the next week.

Baldenegro did not return phone calls and messages left to his office. Those present at the rally directed pleas to UA President Peter Likins to reinstate Baldenegro, but Likins was out of town and unavailable for comment.