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Voces Oral History Project Interview with Albert Kauffman

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0:00 - Interview Preamble 1:02 - MALDEF's Edgewood case/relation to LULAC v. Richards

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Segment Synopsis: The case was based on the allegation that the state of Texas was not fair to poorer school districts in the state and ultimately the Texas Supreme Court found that the school finance system had indeed violated the state constitution. Districts most harmed by the school finance system were heavily Mexican-American districts. Kauffman says that he feels like the state didn't make quality education for Mexican-American students a priority. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund represented low-wealth school districts in the Edgewood case. Kauffman compares the Edgewood case and the LULAC case. He explains the struggle between the low-wealth school districts and high-wealth districts. He also explains how remedies to the school finance system were made. Kauffman's experience in the Edgewood case informed how he worked on the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) case. In the LULAC case they tried to get a political solution to the problem at the beginning, rather than the end of the case. Kauffman says that he learned to start working on a solution at the beginning of a case. MALDEF combined complaints from two groups and filed the LULAC v. Richards lawsuit. Kauffman clarifies the scope of this lawsuit. They were fighting for students to get into major public universities as well as faculty trying to work in those universities. Kauffman also clarifies that the Board of Regents case did not directly affect Latino people across the state, the direct beneficiary of the case was the border region.

Keywords: Al Kauffman

Subjects: Edgewood Independent School District; LULAC v. Richards; Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Texas LULAC (Organization)

11:13 - Higher Education in the border region

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Segment Synopsis: Kauffman explains that people weren't really upset that they were just focusing on the border region. People all over the state understood that the border region needed the most support. Areas that had large Latino populations were continuously underfunded. That's the issue that Kauffman and his team at MALDEF were trying to fix. He feels as if the state was ambivalent toward the Latino population and felt like they did not need the higher education resources that other parts of the state did have. The border region came to be defined as all areas that are 150 miles or less from the Texas-Mexico border. Kauffman gives the example that when there was money for a new medical school in Texas the state chose to build it in Lubbock over El Paso. This was indicative of a larger pattern happening in Texas higher education. Segment Synopsis:Kauffman cites lack of communication and collaboration among border representatives as the reason they did not have significant political power.

Keywords: Al Kauffman; El Paso, TX; Lubbock, TX

Subjects: Higher education and the state; Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

18:18 - Collaboration for the LULAC v. Richards lawsuit

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Segment Synopsis: Universities were focused on what was good for them rather than what would be good for all universities in a certain region. Kauffman explains that for a long time Texas A & I University in Kingsville was the only university south of Austin, so it became the de facto Latino university. Kauffman goes on to explain that part of the reason that they included San Antonio and El Paso areas in the lawsuit was so that they could have the political power of their representatives being on their side. MALDEF used their contacts in the border region to create committees in the communities that they were trying to improve. Leaders in higher education were recruited from the individual communities to help MALDEF on this case. Non profits and law-reform organizations have an ability to go out and talk to the community and find out what their issues are and if there needs to be a lawsuit. LULAC and GI forum were interested in suing and they became the major plaintiffs in this case. MALDEF also worked with the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education (TACHE) because they knew the issues very well. Latino students who couldn't get into a major university and Latino students who got into the major universities but couldn't afford to go also joined the suit as plaintiffs. Though Kauffman would have liked it if a university joined as a plaintiff, none of them did. In fact, there were universities that were defendants in the lawsuit. Before the lawsuit the University of Texas system and the University of Texas A&M systems did not have any campuses south of San Antonio. Two years after the lawsuit they both merged with more southern universities in cities like Corpus Christi, Brownsville, etc. Kauffman thinks this was a good thing and takes partial credit for it.

Keywords: Al Kauffman; El Paso, Texas; San Antonio, Texas; TACHE

Subjects: MALDEF; Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Texas A&I University; University of Texas System

29:34 - Effects of LULAC v. Richards and South Texas Border Initiative affected Texas university systems

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Segment Synopsis: Kauffman explains that the universities that needed the kelp from the border initiative weren't able to assist MALDEF with the lawsuit because they were a part of larger university systems that were defendants in the case. However, he thinks that in the long run it's a good thing for a university to be a part of a larger system so that they get more funding and more lobbying power. UT Brownsville and UT Pan American join merged in 2015 to for UT Rio Grande Valley. Now, there is finally a medical school in the border region. It will be a truly bi-lingual medical school, one of the only in the country. This is important because there are special circumstances that are causing people along the border to need medical attention. Before, there were Latino students who were admitted to a major university, but couldn't afford to attend. These students were essentially forced to attend their local universities that did not have all of the programs and resources that the larger universities had. The mergers provided access to more and better programs for local Latino students.

Keywords: Al Kauffman; University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley; UT-Rio Grande Valley

Subjects: Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; University of Texas Brownsville; University of Texas Pan American

37:12 - Getting lawmakers involved

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Segment Synopsis: Lawmakers from the border region who were also lawyers joined the suit as co-counselors. This was beneficial because they had intimate knowledge of the issues facing the region. Kauffman says he hoped that by having them as co-counsel the state might take them more seriously. However, they were not involved in the trial. Essentially, they just signed their name on it. At the time, there were no Ph.D. programs in public universities along the border and a university president told Kauffman that the reason these funding models were not in favor of the border universities was because of past discrimination. Schools like the University of Texas at Austin had more money because they had more Ph.D. programs like physics, engineering, etc. That's how they were able to expand. People in higher education knew this, but not very many other people knew about it. Also, part of the problem was that the state had a rule that you had to have more than one Ph.D. program to add another Ph.D. program. Kauffman says the "structural racism" shoe fits. The school finance system was built on a discriminatory system and continued it. He believes that part of the discrimination was intentional. He think that people didn't believe that the border was ready for prestigious academic programs. There were list of issues that needed to be addressed all the way from access to pre-K to access to advanced science Ph.D. programs. The South Texas Border Initiative gave border universities the seed money to start new programs.

Keywords: Al Kauffman; South Texas Border Initiative

Subjects: Higher education and the state; University of Texas at Austin

47:41 - Outcomes of the case

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Segment Synopsis: The jury found that the state had discriminated against the border area, however they did not find that the board of regents at the University of North Texas had purposefully discriminated against people from the border region. The judge gave MALDEF and their plaintiffs credit for the issues they did win which is consistent with Texas law. The judge took questions from MALDEF and the defendants and included them in the jury questionnaire. Ultimately, the judge found that there was proof that MALDEF's allegations were right. In 1993 the Texas Supreme Court reversed the previous decision and ruled against the plaintiffs. Kauffman believes that the court misread the case and that's why they ruled against them. He clarifies that he and his team were arguing that there are Mexican-Americans in the border region who have legal rights, not that that the border region in and of itself has legal rights.

Keywords: Al Kauffman; South Texas Border Initiative; University of North Texas

Subjects: LULAC v. Richards; Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Texas LULAC (Organization)

53:36 - Challenges of border university advocacy

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Segment Synopsis: When the Texas Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit the lawsuit didn't have any more power. But, they had a court injunction requiring higher education finance to be constitutional, which was an important power. However, it was difficult to get the coalition back working together after the supreme court threw the case out. Kauffman says that MALDEF's job was to develop a plan and they did, so when this case was over they moved on to other lawsuits.

Keywords: Al Kauffman; South Texas Border Initiative

Subjects: Higher education and the state; Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

57:14 - How the initiative changed border communities

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Segment Synopsis: The University of Texas at San Antonio had no doctoral programs before and now they have about 25. By having these programs in things like engineering, high-tech businesses are attracted to the state. Now there are the resources to study border issues in Laredo. Anecdotally, Kauffman says that he thinks that the initiative boosted morale and made people proud to support their local universities.

Keywords: Al Kauffman; Laredo, TX; South Texas Border Initiative; University of Texas -- San Antonio

Subjects: Higher Education