Latino students send demands on representation to 'U' administrators
The Latinx Alliance for Community Action, Support and Advocacy, an umbrella student group representing members of the Latino community at the University of Michigan, released a list of demands to administrators Monday morning outlining steps they feel the University needs to take in support of Latino students, faculty and staff members.
The demands revolve around Latino representation within offices, departments and administrative positions, as well as acknowledging the presence of the Latino community, the largest and fastest growing underrepresented minority, on campus. This school year’s enrollment report found the Hispanic and Latino community to comprise about 6 percent of the student body.
In December, La Casa led a boycott of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs after the office’s hiring search for a permanent assistant director returned no Latino candidates (Krishna Han was selected for the position earlier in January). The demands claim other departments that feature little or no Latino presence include the Center for Campus Involvement, University Housing, the Comprehensive Studies Program, the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
The demands originally began by citing anti-Latino bias incidents such as the defacing of the Rock at the beginning of the school year with slogans such as “F— Latinos” and President Trump’s slogan “MAGA,” short for “Make America Great Again.” Administrative responses included a condemnation from University President Mark Schlissel in his convocation speech and an email from Chief Diversity Officer Rob Sellers. The list of demands critiques these actions as insufficient and lacking in consistent follow-ups after the initial impact at the beginning of the semester.
La Casa external director Yezenia Sandoval, an LSA junior, said University officials have not exhibited urgency in responding to the needs of the Latino community.
“We’ve had meetings with Schlissel, (E. Royster Harper), and Sellers and we saw that the responses were like, ‘Yeah we understand,’ but there was no urgency attached to it,” Sandoval said. “They said, ‘We don’t know how we can help.’ Now, they’ve had time to understand what we’re going through. Now, it’s time to act, to back up their work. This is an accountability mechanism.”
University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen wrote in an email statement the University is aware of La Casa's demands and is currently reviewing the best methods by which reforms can take place.
E. Royster Harper, vice president for Student Life, wrote in a December email she aims to make hiring processes as inclusive as possible, with a focus on selecting the most qualified candidates.
“When we are at our best, we create a diverse candidate pool and work in partnership to identify strong candidates for any position,” she wrote.
Sandoval said a lack of Latino professors across programs negatively affects Latino students and their studies when they don’t see more representation leading the classroom.
“I’m a Political Science major and I take a class with Mara Ostfeld, the one junior faculty member who is Latina in the entire department,” she said. “In a department dominated by white men, just seeing someone reflect my background and share commonalities makes me feel more comfortable. But that doesn’t just have to be Latinx individuals, but those who have experience working alongside Latinx community. It brings a sense of belonging.”
The Latina/o Studies Program, the fourth demand, called for support for Latino faculty who are doing the vast majority of mentoring of Latino students. The group requested resources to nurture and establish research relationships between Latino undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members. La Casa also requested a “LatinX Campus Climate Study” to assess the opinions of Latino students, faculty and staff on campus and to further support additional programs.
Results from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Campus Climate survey released last fall found Hispanic students are 132 percent more likely to experience discrimination on campus
The next two demands — the creation of an “Institute for Latinx Research” and more Latino-inspired spaces on campus — outlined the need for spaces in the community that commemorated Latino people. The institute would focus on the study of Latino communities in the 21st century.
“We want a university in which we can all learn and thrive,” the report reads. “We want a climate free from hostility. We want to see ourselves reflected in the University’s leadership, in its student services staff, in its faculty and in its classrooms. We want classes and curricula where Latinx contributions to literature, arts, culture and society are not ignored. We want support for our research at all levels. We want a space where our culture is centered and we do not have to feel like outsiders. We want a university that reflects the reality of a country that is now, and always has been, shaped by our presence.”
Sandoval said the demands are a product of several generations of Latino activism on campus and brought together students with older faculty and staff.
“There’s history here,” she said. We’ve never seen organizing to this extent we’ve never seen anything like this. It’s been really cool for staff, faculty, and our members to see that. Everyone’s been very excited and hopeful, to see our community come together to advocate for ourselves.”
In order to remain sustainable, the demands request the University recognize La Casa as a central voice in the representation of the Latino community, and guarantee $65,000 in funding for program support. La Casa specifically requested financial support of the Assisting Latinos to Maximize Achievement orientation program, as well as allowing the program to start before the University’s move-in date.
Other demands include “the creation of a University of Michigan outreach initiative that specifically targets underserved communities with a significant presence of Latino students, modifications to the Wolverine Pathways program, sufficient staffing to promote Latino student outreach efforts, and a new presidential advisory board on Latino affairs.
Sandoval said the demands are meant to go beyond administrators, “all the way to the Regents.”
“We just want recognition that the Latinx community is present,” Sandoval said. “And then representation. It’s so cool to usher this moment—hopefully, one day we end up in the archives.”
Managing News Editor Riyah Basha contributed reporting to this article.
Update: This article has been updated to include statements from University spokeswomen Kim Broekhuizen.