CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnNueva Yorkrnby Robert BermanrnThe Elite of El BronxrnThe Hispanic elite have decided thatrnthe best way to control the lives of millionsrnof Latin immigrants and illegalrnaliens flooding into America’s cities is tornprevent them from learning English.rnThe elites can then preside over arnseparate, parallel “Hispanic Nation,” fullrnof angry, illiterate victims of “whiternracism.”rnRecent developments at the City Universityrnof New York (CUNY) reveal thernnature of “bilingualism” as the bestrnmethod yet devised to prevent studentsrnfrom learning English. While eight ofrnCUNY’s 17 two- and four-year collegesrnhave English as a Second Languagern(ESL) programs, Hostos, Bronx, andrnKingsborough community colleges havern”bilingual” programs. However, Hostosrnis unique in having been founded inrn1970 as a “bilingual” (read; English-free)rncollege.rnA Bronx-based bastion of Puerto Ricanrnseparatism, Hostos CommunityrnCollege became a cause celebre thisrnMay, when students boycotted the EnglishrnWriting Assessment Test (WAT), arngraduation requirement at all CUNYrncolleges. It seems that the passing raternfor the WAT had dropped from 20 percentrnin 1995 to 12.8 last year. The boycottersrncomplained that the test was toornhard, and had too much influence onrntheir Knal grade. After all, their professorsrnwere giving their class work passingrngrades. Why were strange professorsrngrading the exams? One student explainedrnto a reporter that she “knew” English,rnjust not how to speak or write it.rnBacking her students. President IssaurarnSantiago-Santiago decreed that Hostosrnwould go its own wav, and no longer requirernthe WAT. But’CUNY ChancellorrnW. Ann Reynolds, besieged by a disgustedrnpublic, mocked by editorial writers atrnthe Daily News (“Tutor U.”) and NewrnYork Post, and pressured by Mayor Giulianirnand Covernor Pataki to raisernachievement levels, instructed Santiagornotherwise.rnActually, Hostos had already institutedrnits own, dumbed-down version ofrnWT. But because only 15 percent ofrnher students could even pass this exam,rnSantiago changed the house rules tornmake the new test account for only 30rnpercent of a student’s final grade, thusrnenabling a student to graduate despiternflunking the exam. An Hostos instructorrntold me that the school had already illegallyrngraduated students who had neverrnpassed their English classes.rnIn the men’s rooms, signs requestrn”Este es su bano, Favor, Mantenerrnlimpio.” Hostos’ halls, elevators, andrnmany of its classrooms ring exclusivelyrnwith the sound of Spanish. Full-time positionsrnare divided among well-to-do Hispanics,rnwhite feminists, and blacks, fewrnof whom attended CUNY. Posters celebratingrn”Racial Justice Day” depict twornwhite cops beating a prostrate, facelessrn”minority” with nightsticks, while trumpetingrniSin justicia, no hay pazl (No justice,rnno peace!). School documentsrnabound in improper English: “All thingsrnconsidered, what is you overall rating forrnthis courses?”rnIn The Bronx, Hostos is called “la fahrica”rn(the factory), though “el prision”rnmight be more apt. Its predominantlyrnfemale immigrant and Puerto Rican migrantrnstudents take language and socialrnscience courses in Spanish. (Separatistrnprofessors insist to bewildered studentsrnthat studying Spanish will help their Englishrngrammar.) Many instructors inrnHostos’ ESL classes assign no homeworkrnat all, or do not correct what they dornassign. Professors and administratorsrnchampion belligerents who consider thernrequirement to speak English in Englishrnclass a sign of “disrespect.” Serious studentsrncomplain of their classmates,rn”They just here for the money.” Hostos’rntwo-year graduation rate is .4 percent.rnThat’s right: only four out of 1,000 Hostosrnstudents graduate after two yearsrnwith an Associate’s degree.rnTo CUNY’s multicultural professoriate,rnliberal Republican Mayor RudolphrnGiuliani and upstate conservative GovernorrnGeorge Pataki are indistinguishable.rnBacked by the Village Voice, activistsrnblamed New York police for “instigating”rnthe March 1995 City Hall riot over thernCUNY budget. At the scene, however, Irnobserved disciplined officers arrestingrnbottle-throwing students egged on inrnpart by the “role model” professors whornhad canceled classes to “show solidarity”rnwith them.rnTwo-thirds of Hostos’ 4,700 studentsrnare reportedly on welfare. When MayorrnGiuliani insisted that students on therndole work 26, then only 20 hours a weekrnfor the city, CUNY officials were outragedrnthat recipients should have to workrnat all, and demanded that all “workfare”rnjobs be at students’ schools. Giulianirnsuspects that students would be allowedrnto study while at “show-no” campus jobs.rnNew York’s City Council supports allowingrncampuses to determine workfare assignments,rneffectively eliminating thernwork requirement. Also winning him nornfriends at CUNY, Governor Pataki’s planrnto reduce the “double-dipping” of FederalrnPell and New York State Tuition AssistancernPlan grants would have cost 66,000rnof CUNY’s projected 215,000 (1996-97)rnstudents up to $ 1,000 per year, saving thernstate over $44 million. But a State Assemblyrnsuffering election-year jittersrnoverrode the governor last year.rnCommunity college students at Hostos,rnBronx, and Kingsborough already getrnfull credit for classes taken in Spanish,rnmost of which look the same as Englishlanguagerncourses on their transcripts.rnThe CUNY ESL Council puts ESLrnclasses on a par with foreign languagernclasses, proposing that students receivernacademic credit for such classes. Thernspring 1994 “Report of the CUNY ESLrnTask Eorce” emphasized that immigrantsrndid better academically than their American-rnborn CUNY classmates, as if thisrnwere good news. The American-bornrnstudents in question often function on arngrade-school level. ESL officials note inrnprivate that a rising percentage of Latinrnstudents are illiterate in Spanish. Spanish-rnlanguage courses are given by Hispanicrninstructors whose loyalty to Hispanicrnstudents often compromises theirrngrading.rnIn fact, many of Hostos’ ESL instructorsrnillegally coach their students withrnthe exam questions in advance, thus invalidatingrnthe results. Many studentsrneven write their essays in advance, or hirernthem out, and copy them from cribrnsheets. And yet, as a veteran ESL professorrnwho coaches her students reports, 50rnSEPTEMBER 1997/41rnrnrn