EOP - The Beginning - 1969

Historical Background

The social and political atmosphere in the 1960s was highly charged. Many communities reawakened and experienced a resurgence of self-determination and empowerment. Communities and colleges were fertile grounds for change. During that time, even though California’s population was changing to include greater numbers of people of color, most students in the state’s universities and colleges did not reflect that diversity. The college student population at that time was comprised of mostly white, middle- and upper-middle class students. Clearly, change was needed.

The civil rights movements of the 1960s inspired many college students to play an active role in affecting changes within a system that created economic and social barriers. Poverty, discrimination and other socio-economic barriers began to be linked to the lack of higher education opportunities for many minority and socially disadvantaged students. Mexican American/Chicano and Black/African American students on the Campus of California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State L.A.), as well as across the nation, questioned access to higher education and access to quality jobs. These groups first met informally within their communities. By 1967, the Mexican and the African American communities at Cal State L.A. formed their own organizations: the United Mexican American Student Association (UMAS) and the Black Student Association (BSA). Their agenda was clear: Question the access of students of color to the university and usage of university funds, and inform other students about these issues.

Through the diligence of these two organizations, the "two percent rule” was discovered. After conducting extensive investigations into the university admissions process, UMAS and BSA discovered that two percent of the previous years entering first-time freshmen might be designated as "Special Admits." That is, two percent of entering students were allowed to enter the university without meeting all, or even any, of the university's requirements. As Special Admits, students who would otherwise be denied admission due to low-test scores or non-satisfactory academic performance were allowed admission under the two percent rule. However, in investigating the "two percent rule", UMAS found that the two percent rule was not being used to provide access to the disadvantaged minorities. Instead, it was used as a loophole for athletic recruitments.

Student protest against the two percent rule eventually caused Cal State L.A. to revise its admissions policies. This allowed a passage for African American and Mexican American students to gain access to higher education. In 1967, through the educational committee of UMAS and BSA, the concept of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) was founded, utilizing the two percent rule for minority students who would otherwise be denied entrance to the university.

By June 17, 1968, Associated Students Incorporated (ASI) at Cal State L.A. voted to give BSA and UMAS $40,000 to run a "Minority Student Program." In addition, state funds were allocated to help fund administrative support and supplies. Under the direction of Monte Perez and Ralph Dawson, as well as the BSA and UMAS advisors, potential admits were interviewed for the program. In 1968, 68 entering freshmen comprised the first class of the Minority Student Program, which later became the Educational Opportunity Program.

In April 1969, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 1072 (the Harmer Bill) which established EOP at the California state institutions of higher learning. More than 40 years later, the EOP program is going strong, with access provided to first generation, low income, historically disadvantaged students.

From Idea to Inception

Senate Bill 1072 provided for a state college student assistance program specifically geared for students whose families were economically disadvantaged, often from inadequate educational environments, but who displayed a potential for academic success. SDSU’s mission has always been to provide low-income students with educational opportunity. Through EOP, the legislature and the California State University declared their commitment to educating deserving students.

SDSU’s Challenge

SDSU’s program began in the fall of 1969 with fewer than 300 students. At that time, the campus atmosphere was fraught with tension within the administrative and academic structures, as well as between the institution and student organizations. Although SDSU did not experience the extreme police interventions and beatings that characterized student demonstrations at other universities, EOP students nevertheless incurred blatant hostility.

Significantly, in the spring of EOP’s first year of operation, on April 24, 1970, an editorial in The Daily Aztec described, “several hundred blacks and Chicanos, screaming, yelling, and threatening [AS] Council members and generally causing havoc and creating an unbelievable mob scene, the like of which has never been part of AS government.” The editorial went on to accuse ethnic student organizations of “blackmail, coercion, and piracy in regards to AS budget appropriations.” The editorial ran next to a cartoon that depicted ethnic students as banditos, spear-chuckers, samurai warriors, scalping Indians, drunks and pirates.

The dynamics at the time were such that various ethnic groups felt the need to have their own programs; and, thus, an EOP was formed for African Americans, another for Chicanas and Chicanos, another for Native Americans, and another for Filipinos and Asian Americans. In the beginning, EOP was decentralized. Changes in California demography pushed the University to alter the status quo, open its doors to non-white students, and re-examine its policies on admissions, employment, and curriculum.

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A Decade of Consolidation, Growth, and Continuing Struggle - 1970's

Growing Pains

In the early 1970s, the separate EOPs were integrated into one centralized unit. In 1974, Gus Chavez was appointed director and charged with restructuring and realigning the five separate EOPs into one unified program.

Chavez took the lead in working with student leaders, key staff, faculty and administrators in a difficult struggle to overcome misperceptions about the worth of the program, mistrust of the people running the program, and misgivings about the loss of the different groups’ identities and autonomy.

According to Chavez, “The integrity of the struggle depended on all the directors’ and staff members’ dedication to the idea that all of the strengths of the individual programs would be preserved in the one centralized EOP.”

The Consolidation Process

The consolidation process, which took over three years, challenged the director to overcome students’ and staff members’ doubts and the administration’s desire to assimilate EOP into the traditional administrative structure of the University.

By the late 1970s, EOP had grown into a more viable program, which had significant impact on the campus and in the community. EOP programs and services grew throughout the CSU system, providing more structure, guidelines and regulations, and bringing more funding for EOP grants and services. Coordinated recruitment, admissions, and student support programs were greatly enhanced by the existence of EOP. By 1976, EOP was one consolidated program, which then expanded into The Office of Educational Opportunity and Minority Affairs. The office administered a variety of programs and services, including Core Student Affirmative Action (CORE SAA), The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), Student Special Services, the Black Communications Center (BCC), the Chicano Collection, and the High School Equivalency Program (HEP).

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Empowerment and Expansion - 1980's

From Challenge to Fruition

The seeds of change planted in the 1960s and nourished in the 1970s started to bear fruit in this decade. This was a hopeful time. By the early 1980s, EOP was an established Student Affairs department. Growing numbers of EOP students were being admitted into SDSU. EOP became a comprehensive admissions and retention program with expanded services that included pre-collegiate recruiting and pre-admission advising, academic orientation, tutoring, skills development and test preparation, summer bridge programs for freshmen and transfer students, career counseling, and EOP grants.

One of the singular distinctions of EOP services became the personal growth and development component through which professional counselors developed nurturing and empowering relationships with their student clientele. EOP students often maintain that these relationships, which begin in pre-collegiate advising and develop through graduation, are one of the primary factors in their continuing motivation, maturation, retention and graduation.

A Strong Foundation

In the ‘80s, societal changes were taking hold and EOP alumni were affecting the quality of life throughout the state of California. EOP programs contributed significantly to the emergence of a growing middle class, especially within communities of color. This growing population brought increased representation and newly empowered voices to bear on old, formerly non-inclusive conversations on issues of public policy, economic development, educational equity, legislative agendas, and communications networks. During these years, a large number of EOP students were graduating and joining the professional ranks as attorneys, physicians, corporate executives, leaders in private industry and law enforcement support and management personnel in city and county governments, and key staff members in nonprofit social service agencies. By far, the earliest and greatest impact was felt in the fields of education and counseling; in fact many of today’s leading teachers, counselors, and administrators have deep roots in EOP, which they credit for launching their careers.

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Diversity and Leadership

EOP / SOS Collaboration

Program innovation and retention initiatives became the hallmarks of EOP in the 1980s. In 1980, EOP proposed the notion of creating a centralized recruitment department. The accepted proposal combined EOP recruitment with the School Relations office, leading to the creation of the Student Outreach Services (SOS) office. EOP continued to be heavily invested both programmatically and financially in promoting its message to low-income students. Permanent funding for EOP early outreach had increased SOS’s capacity to reach low-income students in middle schools and high schools.

Hallmark Programs

In 1983, EOP began the “Intensive Learning Experience,” constructing an integrated curriculum for freshmen, and coordinating general education classes in the humanities and social sciences with developmental classes in reading and writing. Even in its first year, the ILE had a dramatic impact on freshman retention, reducing the rates of academic probation by two-thirds, and contributing to significant increases in retention of sophomores and juniors.

Building on the success of the ILE, in 1984, EOP pioneered the summer “bridge” program later called BEST (Building Educational Skills and Talents) to help students negotiate the difficult transitions from high school and community college to San Diego State University. In 1985, EOP led in the development of the freshman seminar classes designed to facilitate the transition from high school to college.

In 1986, The ILE and Summer Bridge were listed in the National Directory of Exemplary Developmental Programs, and officials from more than a dozen of the nation’s largest universities invited EOP to help them construct bridge programs of their own. By the end of the 1980s, EOP had laid the foundation for the programs and services that were later known as the Thomas B. Day Freshman Success Programs.

A New Name

In 1985, in recognition of the statewide demographic shifts and increased cultural understanding, the Office of Educational Opportunity and “Minority” Affairs took a new name more befitting its role and respectful of the communities to which it is so closely connected. Since then, we have been known as The Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs.

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Erosion, Challenge and Change - 1990's

The Economic Value of Diversity

EOP students graduating from SDSU had a far-reaching impact during the last decade of the century. With the growth of the global economy, many EOP students found that their degrees, combined with their language skills and unique cultural backgrounds, were newly valued assets in the marketplace. For the first time, business and non-business entities around the world openly recognized the economic value of diversity.

Civic Prominence

With the increased prominence of EOP graduates in well- respected positions in both business and community leadership, they have been able to continually influence policies affecting not only people of color but also all of society. Efforts have been focused on key areas such as the preservation of educational access and opportunity, student retention, economic development, civic and political participation. For example, Senator Hilda Solis, the first Latina senator, is a proud EOP graduate of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Erosion of Hard Won Gains

In spite of all the progress made, challenges prevalent throughout the 1990s threatened to erode many of the hard-won gains. In California, Propositions 187, 227 and 209 had a chilling effect on program development and access to education for underrepresented students, many of whom come from low-income families. Because these initiatives dealt with educational opportunity, health, curriculum and instruction, and access to public education, visible consequences of these propositions were visible in campus struggles and community uncertainty. Policy decisions led to heightened anxiety regarding the ramifications of projected increases in the number of students who will seek admission to college in future years. EOP, its students and their families, and its community partners recognized the challenges as well as the opportunities that these changes posed. As in the beginning, EOP continued to play a critical role through its ongoing commitment to providing educational access and opportunity.

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The New Millennium

Entering the Future

When EOP celebrated its thirty year anniversary, more than 250,000 students had graduated throughout the CSU system because they were EOP students. In thirty years EOP had grown to a $30 million program statewide and the CSU had over 35,000 EOP participants with a financial need of more than $305 million. EOP at SDSU was the fourth largest program among all the California State Universities and had served more than 22,000 students in its first 30 years.

Influencing Public Policy

Despite the challenges and changes that started in the 1990s, EOP Director Gus Chavez was excited about the future of EOP and programs like it.

“New leadership throughout California is prompting the creation of new public policies and funding opportunities for programs like EOP,” he said. “I’m hopeful that such leadership will increasingly include graduates from programs like EOP because their educational experiences can influence public policy in new and exciting ways.”

Prompting Social Change

Chavez saw positive steps in other areas as well. For example, significant generational and cultural changes were reflected by the greater number of women who entered and graduated from SDSU with the help of EOP.

Facing New Hardships

More than 7,400 prospective students sought admission to EOP for fall 2000. Continuing to be a high-demand program, EOP at SDSU averages serving more than 3,200 students and awarding more than $1.5 million in grants annually. However, EOP students have an unmet need in excess of $1.4 million. Many students incur substantial loan obligations in order to meet their educational costs.

Continuing Contributions

EOP’s contributions to the University and to the communities it serves are being felt and appreciated by our students, staff and faculty. Student testimonials, elegant in their simplicity, capture the essence of the program and our lasting commitment to its ideals:
“It’s done more good than anything I’ve seen,” exclaimed one alumnus from the early 1980s. “If it weren’t for EOP, I would not be a doctor today,” a Hanford physician and 1980s alumnus said gratefully. And a 1990s alumna insisted, “It’s a crucial program which must be kept alive.”

Another Decade

In 2014 EOP celebrated its 45th anniversary at a conference in San Diego.

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EOP Directors & Associate Directors

  • Shareka White - Director (2022)
  • Andrew Mertig - Associate Director (2022)
  • Miriam Castañon - Director (2016)
  • Shareka White - Associate Director (2020)
  • Dr. Henry Villegas - Associate Director (2016)
  • Dr. Emilio Ulloa - Director (2015)
  • Bevery Warren - Director (2013)
  • Wendy Craig - Associate Director (2007)
  • Jay Anderson - Associate Director (2006)
  • Dr. Reginald Blaylock - Director (2004)
  • Dr. Evangeline Castle - Associate Director (1996)
  • Gonzalo Rojas - Associate Director (1976)
  • Jerome Foster (Black EOP)  (1974)
  • Gus Chavez - Director (1970)
  • Romulo Sarno (Filipino EOP)  (1970)
  • John Rouillard (Native American EOP)  (1970)
  • Jorge Baca (Chicano EOP)  (1970)
  • Waymon Johnson (Black EOP)  (1970)
  • David Crippens (1969)
  • Vicente “Bert” Rivas (1969)
  • Geraldine Rickman (1968)

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