Densho Digital Archive
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Title: Dale Minami Interview
Narrator: Dale Minami
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Margaret Chon (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: February 8, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-mdale-01-0020

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DM: Another good example for the use was a tenure case I did for Don Nakanishi down at UCLA, Professor Don Nakanishi, who is now head of the, the Asian American Studies Center. And he was in School of Education and he had been denied tenure some six months ago, or four months ago. And so he came up north to ask if I'd represent him. I had done some tenure cases and very few people do that, and very few people stay doing it 'cause when you have to read stacks of single-spaced documents, some esoteric subject that you don't care about. And then you gotta fight an institution like UCLA, which has unlimited resources, it's protracted and it becomes, it's really consuming.

MC: Plus, tenure cases are hard to win.

DM: Oh, they're really hard to win.

MC: Because the subjectivity in...

DM: It's very subjective, yeah.

MC: Uh-huh.

DM: Secret, subjective, there's all kinds of things about tenure cases. The short story about that is when I met with Don in the UCLA, his group of friends, I basically said, "You need political support in this case. You're gonna have to fight UCLA. So if you don't get political support, I can only stop this for a little bit." I think I have, we have a good grievance. I think we'll stop him from being kicked out of UCLA, 'cause if he gets kicked out, you don't have the symbol right there in the adversary's home to create the threat. Because you've gotta create a threat. They don't, power does not respond without a threat. And so, they were, they... and then I told them, "You have to develop your own political strategy. I can't do this for you. I could stop this but I don't have the time or energy and it's not the principled way to do it." And so Glenn Omatsu, who was a old-time organizer, was down there. And he and I knew each other from Berkeley and he picked up, he became the media guy. So he kept churning out press releases to keep people agitated and informed, and energized. Some person got ahold of student groups, another person got ahold of the alumni and they formed their own committee. And Don and I, of course, then gave 'em suggestions but we worked with all of 'em. But they did a pretty good job forming this political central committee to reach out. They had demonstrations. And eventually we won a second grievance. And that even incensed them even more because it showed what unfair was done. It was really unfair what they were doing to him.

And so, so my job was just the legal arm, the political things we were coordinating. We were coordinating with the legal things that we did, but we had to do it that way, I feel. Any time that you take on an institution, my whole point was that if you file a lawsuit, it's not a threat to them because they have more lawyers than you, more skills and it goes through the court system which is a predetermined route to a predetermined result. You can't say, "Okay, I'm gonna sue you and then I wanna take your wife." They'd... you know, the court system does not allow that. It'll allow you money damages or certain other things. If you inject political uncertainty into the equation, which is what the political parts do, if you threaten to burn the place down or sit-in the dean's office, that makes 'em crazy. 'Cause that... they don't know how to deal with that. They know how to deal with the law but they can't deal with political uncertainty. And that's where the power comes in. So that was my whole point to them. That's what you have to do. You've gotta create uncertainty here, folks. You gotta scare them some ways or they're never going to ever come around and respect you. So essentially that's what we did. Until one point we held up twenty-five million dollars of his budget in the senate, in a house subcommittee in the state legislature. And when we did that he called me the very next week. The chancellor goes, "We gotta meet." And that's when we met. A week later Don got tenure. The money got released.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.