Student groups plan boycotts of MESA hiring process over lack of Latinx representation

Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 7:55pm

Multiple student organizations are boycotting the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs’ search for a new associate director after members of the Latino community asked for stake in the hiring process and were not given an opportunity to. The group sough to increase Latino representation in leadership positions at the University of Michigan due to the continued lack of Latino representation in University administration.

After the recent appointment of Nadia Bazzy as MESA director, La Casa, the Latinx Alliance for Community Action, Support and Advocacy, has asked other groups to boycott the hiring process and asked the three candidates to decline to be interviewed until the University’s “exclusionary practices” are addressed, according to a statement. As part of the Office of Student Life, MESA offers programs, outreach and student training to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.

“The lack of representation of the Latinx community in leadership positions directly opposes the University’s highly promoted goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the statement reads. “These exclusionary practices further exemplify that the Latinx voice is not valued by the University, Latinx students and community members should not aspire to be leaders on our campus, and that the Latinx community has no value at the University of Michigan.”

In a previous statement regarding Bazzy’s new role, La Casa said they were dissatisfied “not with the individual appointed as the new director” but with the procedure by which she was selected, citing a hiring process that “denied the Latinx voice.” According to La Casa, Bazzy is the fifth consecutive hire MESA has made that did not result in the employment of a Latino individual. 

Public Policy junior Yvonne Navarrete, lead director of La Casa, said programs intended to support underrepresented groups often don’t take Latinx students into consideration.
 
“There is a disconnect with these offices as they do not actively engage with our community  in order to understand our needs,” Navarrete said. “The Latinx community should have a voice during hiring processes and when evaluating candidates for positions that affect our community.”

The executive board of the United Asian American Organizations and the Muslim Students’ Association have expressed support for La Casa, and stated they will not be participating in the hiring process for the new associate director.

In an email obtained by The Daily, the MSA executive board wrote that La Casa’s concern about the selection of Student Life administrators was “legitimate.”

“We can attest the process by which students are involved in Student Life hiring decisions can be inconsistent and lacking in transparency,” the email read. “Every group on campus should have a voice. If one of us is silenced, we are all weaker for it.”

The listing for the associate director position was posted for three weeks on various job boards, including U-M Careers and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Numerous MESA administrators and Interim Director Linh Nguyen reviewed applications, and after conducting phone interviews, on-campus interviews were offered to several candidates — none of whom were Latino.

In an email, E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student life, said student perspectives are “critical.”

“Student participation in the hiring process helps us identify candidates who embrace the goals of the office and carry them forward,” Harper said. “When we are at our best, we create a diverse candidate pool and work in partnership to identify strong candidates for any position.”

According to the University’s Enrollment Overview, the percentage of Latino students on campus has risen over the past several years; total enrollment of Hispanic students was just under 5 percent in fall 2013 and has since grown to 6.67 percent this past fall. However, the University currently has no deans or assistant deans from the Latino community.

Navarrete said the University must take steps to ensure Latinx candidates are notified about and considered for positions.
 
“The University should advertise positions towards Latinx professionals, because to accept a candidate pool with no Latinx candidates insinuates that the University believes our community is not capable of providing qualified leaders,” Navarrete said. “Being able to identify with faculty, staff, students and administrators who share our identity is crucial to allowing for genuine connections and providing an environment for the Latinx community that is inclusive and welcoming.”