In recent years, the University has increasingly sought to diversify its student body in terms of race, ethnicity and national origin. This year’s was considered the most diverse to ever matriculate into the University with 34 percent of the class identifying as a racial minority, which is more diverse than the Commonwealth of Virginia — where the minority population hovers around 32 percent.
While these gains are important to note, some Latinx students feel that the University has not done enough to increase diversity and accommodate their community on Grounds. In an open letter this week, Latinx students at the University described how many members of their community feel, “underserved, underrepresented, and isolated,” and several demands to solve this problem. Given this sentiment, there is clearly more the University must do to promote diversity on Grounds and to serve minority students once they arrive. The administration should take this letter seriously as many of the proposals would serve the University community well if implemented.
In order to continue to promote diversity at the University, more outreach must be done to to attract members of the Latinx community to Grounds. The open letter outlines several ways that this could occur, including increased outreach to Latinx communities, the availability of translated paperwork year-round and the option of Spanish or Portuguese tours and information sessions. These steps have the potential to make the University far more accessible to the Latinx community and increase their presence on Grounds, which according to the petition sits at only 6 percent of the undergraduate student population, compared to the of Virginians that Hispanics/Latinos comprise.
The petition is also correct in stating that the University needs to do more to make Latinx students feel welcome on Grounds. To this effect, more Latinx professors and administrators should be hired — considering they comprise a percentage of the faculty — and because having more diversity amongst faculty would contribute to some students feeling far more comfortable on Grounds.
Ensuring students feel comfortable at the University is important. A lack of diversity leads to some as though they do not belong here which could affect their educational experience. One only has to look at the Latinx Student Alliance to see many Latinx students’ stories about feeling underrepresented and underserved on Grounds.
Increasing diversity among faculty and the student body also is a net benefit for the University community. By doing so, the University will expose students to different ideas and cultures, which can only have a positive impact on students’ educational experience. In addition, diverse environments are usually more to creativity and problem solving because they challenge students to think about topics from other perspectives. In fact, have found that more diverse groups are better at problem solving than more homogeneous groups. With these facts in mind, it would be a mistake not to prioritize diversity on Grounds.
Expanding Latinx course offerings outside of language-specific departments would also be incredibly beneficial for the student body. Not only would the introduction of Latinx courses across several disciplines include elements not encapsulated in the current language majors, it would also create more avenues for students to learn about Latinx history in culture, which should be a priority at any university seeing as Hispanics comprise the ethnic/racial minority group in the United States.This particular demand is especially feasible seeing as the University currently a Latinx Studies minor, which could benefit from more available classes.
All in all, the policies Latinx students at the University are asking for are not unreasonable precisely because they would do a lot to improve life at the University. It is clear that the student organizations and individual signers believe this is true, as the petition has already amassed hundreds of signatures from individuals occupying disparate corners of the ideological spectrum. While it is important that students are joining in on this movement to demand more from the University for Latinx students, it is up to the administration and empowered student groups to implement these proposals. We urge them to do so and hope they view the letter not just as criticism, but as an opportunity to further the progress we have made in making the University more diverse, accessible and equitable for all students.
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