Currently, I am a junior in college. A long haul looms ahead of me as I ready myself for my senior year. By next Jan Term, I will have a solid idea of which campus I will be attending after graduation. My list of schools ranges from Yale School of Drama, to University of California San Diego, to New York University. However, I never would have been able to believe in myself if it wasn’t for my minor in Latino Studies.
I have seen myself grow closer to my culture in many ways through this minor. I am grateful for the instruction of theprofessors, especially my role model, Professor Sonia V. Gonzalez. I am also grateful for the classes I have taken on subjects ranging from the music of Latin America, to Latino Literature and Cultural Production, to Workshops in Performance.
However, this past registration term I was worried when I saw that no instructor was listed for the introductory Latino Studies courses. As I searched through the rest of the courses offered by the department, I found that Professor Gonzalez was nowhere to be found in the curriculum. I still have at least three courses to complete, and I am shocked to find that two of the courses are not being offered for the next academic year. Now, I don’t know if I will complete my minor before it is time for me to graduate. I also don’t know if Professor Gonzalez will keep her position.
Professor Gonzalez introduced students to the Latino Studies minor and instructed them on the completion of the degree. Today, her future at the college isn’t clear, and this uncertainty makes me wonder: what will happen to future students when they do not see their culture represented? When will the students feel their voices heard by the administration?
Whittier College pales in comparison to other Colleges in terms of ethnic studies and cultural recognition. OccidentalCollege offers both a major and a minor in the field of Latino Studies. Meanwhile, our own Latino Studies appear to be in jeopardy. This shouldn’t be the case. Whittier College is recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution. With its proximity to Los Angeles and its marketing ties to the city, one would expect that the college would celebrate Angeleno culture. A tremendous part of this culture is rooted in Latin-American tradition. Personally, Los Angeles holds the culture of my ancestors and my pueblo. My minor has enabled me to better understand my culture and its place in the world, and I have gained a global and cultural perspective that I could not have attained without it.
Back in 2014, when I first became a Poet, a student named Esperanza Fonseca published an article in Quaker Campus titled, “Whittier College Status as HSI Under the Microscope.” In the article, Fonseca spoke about the concerns students had about the school being recognized as an HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) and raised questions about how the school uses the Title V funds it receives yearly for being an HSI. Fonseca quotes Department Chair and Associate Professor of Business Administration Daniel Duran in the article as saying, “My sense is, based on ten years at Whittier College, that we’re not optimizing our HSI status, not effectively promoting it, and we’re at a tipping point in respect to the integrity and value associated with being a HSI academic institution.”
As I sit here during finals week, I am full of confusion. I am not sure what will happen with Professor Gonzalez or with my minor. I can only wonder when the college will give Latino Studies the respect it deserves. If this college wants to claim to serve a part of our identity and our culture, then the relationship must benefit both parties. We cannot know for certain what will happen, but we must have confidence in what is right. It is not new for myself or my people to have to fight. I will continue to fight like my ancestors did for me.
Si se puede.