Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) vetoed $1.5 million in funding Friday that would have expanded the Center for Mexican-American Studies at the state’s flagship university, local media report.

The veto dashed the hopes of those who want to develop the center into a full-fledged academic department, U.T.’s school paper the Daily Texan reports.

“It’s terrible,” Mexican American Studies graduate student Jaime Puente told the Daily Texan. “It’s part and parcel of what I think is a concerted effort by Rick Perry to attack the University of Texas. If the center can’t fund its graduate students, it will definitely affect recruit.”

Perry said in a statement explaining the veto that he opposed a trend over the last few decades in which public universities receive funds as special items rather than requesting money through the main budget legislation.

“The university did not request this special item in its Legislative Appropriations Request for FY 2014-15,” said Perry in a statement explaining the rationale for the veto. “If the Department of Mexican-American Studies is a priority, the university can use its $2.2 million appropriation for Institutional Enhancement.”

U.T.’s Mexican American Studies Center wasn’t the only one that saw a funding request rejected by Perry. He vetoed more than $5.2 million in special funding for the Office of International Affairs at Prairie View A&M University, the University of Houston’s School of Public Affairs and Texas A&M International University’s Petroleum Engineering program, among others.

The Republican Texas governor and like-minded conservatives have long viewed the state’s premier university as an overly expensive luxury whose intellectual ambitions should be scaled back to cut costs to the state and tuition-paying students, the Associated Press reports. That position has locked Perry in a political battle with the university’s advocates who regard the elite institution as a public good that should be expanded.

Some conservatives have also taken an interest in the content of U.T.’s classes. A bill proposed this year by conservative state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) would have exempted ethnic studies and other courses from counting toward state-mandated history requirements. Latino activists, professors and the U.T. administration viewed the proposal, which failed to pass, as an attack on academic freedom.

Perry vetoed a slew of other legislation on Friday as the regular session came to a close, including a bill that intended to prevent wage discrimination against women, several that dealt with transparency issues, and a bill that would have provided $10 million for the state to train teachers who arm themselves at school.

All told, Perry’s vetoes trimmed some $500 million from the biannual Texas budget, an amount the Houston Chronicle referred to as “a small share of a state budget for the next two years that totals $197 billion in state and federal funds, plus a supplemental measure that includes spending about $4 billion from the state’s rainy day fund.”

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  • Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña

    The most successful book written by professor Rodolfo Acuña, "Occupied America" represents all that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne opposed in the Mexican-American Studies program when he launched the attack against it. Horne viewed the curriculum as separatist and ethnically divisive. HB 2281, the law used to <a href="http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/hb2281s.pdf " target="_hplink">ban TUSD's Mexican American Studies</a> program, prohibits courses that "promote the overthrow of the United States government" or "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group." "These people think you're a separatist if you want to teach and include people," <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/14/local/la-me-0114-tobar-20110114" target="_hplink">Acuña told the <em>Los Angeles Times</em></a> in 2011. "I don't want to be part of Mexico ... That's a stupid thing to argue."

  • 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, compiled by Elizabeth Martinez

    This compilation tells the story of Chicano history from before the European conquest of North America, through colonization and into the present day. The book describes the Southwest as "Occupied America" -- a term that Arizona conservatives often view as unjust and disparaging. Actor Edward James Olmos felt differently: "If young people read this book, they will be strong and proud in new ways," he said on the dust jacket to the 1990 edition. "It's a real education, in the true sense of that word."

  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire

    This seminal work by Brazilian education professor Paulo Freire argued that students learn best when treated as equals and engaged on their own terms. Freire argues against the "banking model" of education, in which teachers treat students as passive recipients of knowledge. His work is studied by education specialists throughout the hemisphere. In a 2012 interview, <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/04/19/neither-banned-nor-allowed-mexican-american-studies-in-limbo-in-arizona/" target="_hplink">Arizona Superintendent of Education John Huppenthal </a> explained why he viewed the book as problematic: <blockquote>The title of Paulo Freire's book is 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed,' and so the question is, who is the oppressed? And as we looked at what was going on in the classroom and looked at what was in the materials, we saw they were putting together a Marxian model in the classroom in which the oppressed are the Hispanic students and the oppressors are the white Caucasian power structure. We came to the conclusion that it wasn't O.K. to be preaching that model in the classroom.</blockquote>

  • Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow

    A collection of essays, interviews, lesson plans and other materials, <em>Rethinking Columbus</em> aims to change the way students understand the first interactions between the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Europeans. One contributing author, <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/01/13/whos_afraid_of_the_tempest/" target="_hplink">Tucson's own Leslie Silko</a>, boasts a Native Writers' Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.

  • Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado

    The academic field of <a href="http://spacrs.wordpress.com/what-is-critical-race-theory/" target="_hplink">critical race theory challenges</a> traditional ways of looking at race and racism. The field's theoreticians argue that supposedly neutral concepts and institutions, like meritocracy or the legal system, mask systemic inequality and institutionalized racism. Richard Delgado's books is one of the discipline's classics. Some conservatives <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/03/11/What Is Critical Race Theory" target="_hplink">view critical race theory as "dangerous"</a> because some of its proponents view the Constitution and the fabric of American democracy as imbued with racism. During the course of several interviews in 2012, Julio Cammarota, a professor of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona, "You can see the problem, can't you? One side doesn't want to talk about race, the other side wants to talk about race all the time."

  • Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez

    The term "Aztlán" refers to the mythic homeland of the Nahua of Central Mexico. Intellectuals of the Chicano movement adopted the term to describe the southwestern United States. Mexican-American Studies teachers at Tucson Unified School District taught those concepts with books like this one, by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez, a writer and political activist who helped found the Chicano Movement in the 1960s.

  • Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, by Arturo Rosales

    This well-regarded study of the Chicano movement serves as a companion to the 1996 PBS documentary of the same name.