Group gets signatures supporting reforms

With the backdrop of a brown frown on The Rock, members of ReformaNU played loud music and danced Friday while collecting signatures to advocate changes in the Hispanic studies department.

The group — which was formed in April to demand more student input, better advising, and more classes about Latin American history and culture — blasted Jennifer Lopez tunes and danced to a mariachi band as they collected about 800 signatures from students walking by.

Although ReformaNU was created in response to the department’s decision to not offer Prof. Christopher Larkosh a tenured position, students said Friday’s protest was geared at expanding their complaints.

“It’s not just the issue of Larkosh that’s making us mad,” said José Martinez, a McCormick sophomore. “There’s other issues that we want changed in the department too.”

Weinberg junior David Schneider said Friday’s warm weather made it a perfect time to hang out at The Rock and distribute information about problems in the department. He also said it gave administrators a chance to hear the students’ concerns.

“It’s about having them listen instead of listening to their double-speak,” Schneider said. “We can really talk about this now. We can change things.”

McCormick freshman Joaquin Martinez, who danced throughout the day, said he wouldn’t have helped the protest if it were disruptive.

“Nobody’s disturbing anybody, and that’s how it should be,” Martinez said. “We have to exhaust every possible option before we become more confrontational than we are. We don’t have to be confrontational to make changes.”

Martinez said he was concerned about Northwestern’s small Latino student population when he came to NU this year. But he said he chose NU over schools with more Latino students because he considered NU a challenge.

“There’s change to be made here and good change to be made,” Martinez said. “We see it’s a political format and, just like any political system, it takes time if you do it the right way.”

Martinez said he hoped ReformaNU can make a difference in the department because more classes in Latino studies will benefit everyone on campus, not just Latinos.

Weinberg freshman Patricia Guerrero, who signed the petition Friday, agreed and said more Latino studies classes could increase diversity at NU.

“The Western Hemisphere is predominately Latino,” Guerrero said. “We should know something about our neighbors. If we take classes in other people’s cultures, it’s enlightening and broadens your horizons.”

Weinberg sophomore Teresa Kao, a member of the Asian American Advisory Board, said she and other members of AAAB helped collect signatures for the petition because student input is important in every department.

“It’s all the same thing,” Kao said. “Supporting them is like supporting us.”

Sameer Gafoor, Associate Student Government academic vice president, who also helped collect signatures, complimented ReformaNU members for becoming active in demanding changes.

“This is something that will allow students to raise their voices and show they’re concerned,” said Gafoor, a Weinberg sophomore. “Just because people are here for only four years doesn’t mean you can’t make improvements.”

Gafoor said Friday’s protesters raised concerns that most students probably have, including how administrators make decisions that affect students.

“That’s one of the first things we can do — bring greater student-administrator cooperation,” he said.

Weinberg Assoc. Dean Michael Sherry, who walked past Friday’s demonstration, said the students should be vocal if they have complaints.

“They have the perfect right to do so,” Sherry said.

The group will meet with administrators May 15 to present their concerns. Alianza president Lilly González said she also hopes to meet with Department Chairwoman Lucille Kerr to find out which concerns the departments agrees need change.

Added McCormick sophomore Robert Wilczynski: “This is one step forward, and things are definitely happening.”