Our Lady of the Lake University to mark 50th anniversary of 1968 Civil Rights Hearings

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A national conference at the site of the 1968 hearings will examine the progress of civil rights for Mexican Americans. Featured speakers will include former U.S. Housing secretaries Julian Castro and Henry Cisneros and U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro.

Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) will host a national conference in November that reviews a landmark 1968 hearing on Civil Rights issues facing Mexican Americans and examines the progress that has been made for the nation’s largest minority over the past 50 years.

The national conference, “Holding Up The Mirror: The 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission Hearing on Mexican Americans in the Southwest,” will be held Nov. 15-17, 2018, in Chapel Auditorium. Speakers include former U.S. Housing Secretaries Julián Castro and Henry Cisneros as well as Congressman Joaquín Castro.

The conference will include a retrospective look at the six-day, 1968 hearing -- held at Our Lady of the Lake University on Dec. 9-14, 1968 -- as well as a contemporary review of the civil rights challenges facing Latinos in education, employment, economics and the administration of justice. The chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Catherine E. Lhamon, and the staff director, Mauro Morales, will attend the conference.

“The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was the first federal agency to spend resources in an attempt to examine the rights of Mexican Americans in the Southwest,” said J. Richard Avena, retired Southwest Regional Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “Fifty years later, a group of former employees of the commission, as well as academicians, legal experts and community leaders, will come together to see what changes have been made and what still needs to be done.”

A native of El Paso, Texas, Avena attended the 1968 hearings on assignment for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He was supposed to spend six months in San Antonio. He never left.

Avena serves as a co-spokesperson for the “50 Years Later” project, along with Rosie Castro, an accomplished community leader. Castro attended the 1968 hearings as a student at Our Lady of the Lake College. She is the mother of Julián and Joaquín Castro.

The 2018 conference will feature civil-rights leaders, higher-education leaders and historians discussing current issues, such as changing civil rights, demographics, immigration, political participation and voting rights, as well as the critical issues of 1968.

At that time, for example, Bexar County had nine school districts. All of them, except one, were led by Anglo male superintendents. Today, Latinos and other minorities serve as superintendents in the San Antonio ISD, Edgewood ISD, Judson ISD, East Central ISD and other area school districts.

The 1968 hearings drew severe criticism from the established leadership in San Antonio. But the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame University and vice chairman of the commission, offered this response: “All we do is hold up a mirror to the community and let them tell us if there are any problems. And that’s what we’re doing here.”

For more information about the conference and the “50 Years Later” project, visit: http://www.50yearslater.org.

About Our Lady of the Lake University
Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU), founded in 1895 by the Congregation of Divine Providence, is a coeducational liberal arts institution with an enrollment of approximately 3,300 students. A multi-campus, regional university, OLLU has locations in San Antonio, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley, and an extensive online presence.

The university offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and minors, 12 master’s degree programs and two doctoral degree programs. Academic degree programs are offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business and Leadership, the College of Professional Studies, the Worden School of Social Service and the Woolfolk School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. OLLU incorporates a technology-rich curriculum in all areas of study and provides access to a wide variety of high-tech resources.

Our Lady of the Lake University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Our Lady of the Lake University that fall under one of these areas: (1) to learn about the accreditation status of the institution, (2) to file a third-party comment at the time of the institution’s decennial review, or (3) to file a complaint against the institution for alleged non-compliance with a standard or requirement.

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Ken Rodriguez
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