Groups want reasons for loss of prof

Members of several campus groups might stage demonstrations to protest the elimination of Hispanic studies Prof. Christopher Larkosh from a faculty search, depending on administrators’ response to a letter the groups plan to send today.

Dozens of administrators and faculty members will receive the letter demanding that the department disclose the reasons Larkosh was not hired back.

Associate Weinberg Dean Michael Sherry, who oversees faculty hiring, said he will respond to the letter after he receives it.

Larkosh, a popular literature instructor, will leave NU after his appointment as a two-year visiting professor ends this quarter.

“If they’re saying that he’s not qualified, then we have all these arguments to prove that he is,” Alianza president Lilly González said. “So there’s no other reason why they shouldn’t have hired him because he clearly is qualified. I don’t want them to put it off. I want them to see this as a pressing issue and deal with it now.”

The department’s advertisement for the position, listed in the Modern Language Association’s job information guide, requests applicants with expertise in fields such as Brazilian literature and gender studies, both topics Larkosh has researched extensively and taught in classes.

“What they were looking for was exactly what he is,” said González, a Medill sophomore. “If they don’t hire him, I would take it as such a slap in the face.”

The groups started an e-mail listserv called ReformaNU so administrators can send one response after reviewing the letter. They also are gathering signatures for a petition that will be presented to administrators on Monday.

Already, students who received the letter via the listserv are responding positively to the groups’ demands.

“We can only hope that after reading this letter, the administration wakes up and makes a move to retain Larkosh before it is too late!” wrote one student to the listserv Tuesday night.

Students also plan to write a letter asking for reforms to the troubled department, including more 300-level courses, better advising and consistent credit for courses taken abroad.

Some students and faculty have said the department has a conservative mindset and is reluctant to hire professors who are outside their traditional ideology. But González said a range of ideologies is essential for the program to compete with departments at other schools.

“Diversity is a good thing,” she said. “It will only improve the department.”

When Speech sophomore Lauren Ayres, a Hispanic studies minor, took Larkosh’s Introduction to Hispanic Studies class, she was surprised to find less traditional authors on the reading list.

She remembers other students and professors saying the course was “more different” than it was supposed to be.

Weinberg junior Briana Wilson agreed that other professors tend to focus on “upper-class Caucasians who come out of Latin America.”

At a meeting on Monday, groups including the Progressive Alliance, Asian American Advisory Board and For Members Only agreed to join the campaign.

Weinberg sophomore Grace Lee, vice chairwoman of AAAB, said she wanted to help Alianza because she saw parallels between the fledgling Asian-American studies program and a potential Latin-American studies program.

“If the administration thinks they can take it so lightly and get rid of someone from the Hispanic studies department so easily, what makes you think they won’t do that for Asian-American studies?” Lee said. “We’ll support them with our presence and hopefully if we have to deal with something like that in the future, we can build some kind of coalition or alliance.”

Last year, Hispanic studies students started a letter-writing campaign asking the administration to persuade Prof. Ricardo Ramos-Tremolada to stay at NU after he announced his resignation.

Ayres said last year’s campaign for Ramos-Tremolada, who now teaches at Princeton, was less organized and smaller than this year’s. After they sent the letter, the students met with Weinberg Dean Eric Sundquist to discuss their concerns.

“He was very receptive and open, but we really got no response and Tremolada left all the same,” Ayres said. “He was one of those professors who totally built up the morale and had so much passion and I feel like the university should encourage that instead of viewing it as a threat or discouraging that.”