Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Clamor for studies with Latino focus

Latino students are demanding the hire of two new Latino Studies faculty members for the eventual creation of a full department in the discipline.

Twenty-two student leaders attended a meeting Tuesday night to brainstorm ideas to draw the administration’s attention. Sonia Hart, Associated Student Government senator for Alianza, called the meeting. Hart, a Weinberg sophomore, began organizing efforts to lobby for the creation of a Latino Studies program at Northwestern after she was told Weinberg administrators’ plans to hire one professor to focus on Latino Studies in March would not be enough to start a Latino Studies department.

“Faculty members from several different departments told me that if we, the students, don’t do something now, we will only get one professor,” Hart said.

Alianza President Ana Valenzuela, a Weinberg senior, said one professor would have too many responsibilities to work toward creating a new department.

“We want two professors because we want them to communicate with each other and start planting the seeds of a Latino Studies program,” she said.

Attendees at Tuesday’s meeting included undergraduate and graduate students and students from various campus multicultural groups. Hart also created a group, “LSP, Si Se Puede,” or “Latino Studies Program, Yes We Can.” The group had more than 100 members within 12 hours of its creation, Hart said.

“We should feel more than a little embarrassed that in the 21st century this program does not exist,” Hart told the meeting’s attendees. “There is an entire generation of professional scholarship on this subject.”

A Latino Studies department would offer a major and a minor as well as graduate degrees in Latino Studies to students. Currently NU offers a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Hart said this is different from Latino Studies because it has a historical focus, whereas Latino Studies is the sociological and anthropological study of Latino experiences in the United States.

“The need for this program is not new; it’s been rumbling for a while, and people have been looking into it,” Hart said. “But right now the faculty is really behind it, and the students are behind it. It has taken a while for the demographics to be such that this is a demand and not just something that can be taken lightly.”

According to NU’s Office of Undergraduate Admission, 6.5 percent of current freshmen are identified as Hispanic. NU also has a Council for Latin American Volunteers for Education to increase the Latino student population.

Several of NU’s peer institutions, such as Dartmouth College, University of Notre Dame, Cornell University and University of Pennsylvania, have Latino Studies or joint Latin American and Latino Studies departments that offer majors as well as minors.

Hart sent a letter to Weinberg Assistant Dean Mary Finn on Wednesday and received a response saying Finn would be willing to discuss the hiring of two new professors rather than one. Finn could not be reached via phone or e-mail last week. Valenzuela said no date has been set for the meeting.

Hart said Alianza, the only Latino student group recognized by ASG, has been encouraged to use the 1995 movement for the current Asian American Studies program as a model to gain the administration’s attention. In 1995 several Asian American students went on a hunger strike to push for the creation of an Asian American Studies department. The students working for the creation of a Latino Studies program said they will not necessarily go on a hunger strike, Hart said.

“The decision about faculty is happening so soon, and I want to have this movement up and running,” Hart said. “I want this to be done the right way and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble -I think something like a rally would help get the point across.”

Members of Alianza and other attendees at Tuesday’s meeting suggested flyers, student petitions and a rally at the Rock to gain attention for their cause. Weinberg freshman Aldo Gallardo had his own idea.

“I don’t mind dressing up in indigenous Peruvian clothing at the rock to draw attention,” he said.

Reach Amanda Palleschi at

[email protected].

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Clamor for studies with Latino focus