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‘Our University to shape’: Latinx students publish proposal to U.Va. administration

The 12 proposed policies focus on improving admissions efforts and institutional, academic and financial support for Hispanic and Latinx students

Hispanic and Latinx student organizations released a proposal Monday to the University administration, which calls for increased support for Latinx students and increased Latinx representation among faculty and students. The document is titled “Our University to Shape,” alluding to the University’s bicentennial slogan, “Ours to Shape.” 

A group of eight University students led the effort in creating the proposal. One of them, Angie Aramayo — a fourth-year College student and president of Latinx sorority Sigma Lambda Upsilon — said the document is a deliberative response to what the group believes are the most important ways the University can further support the Hispanic and Latinx community at the University.

“A lot of us, including me, have put a lot of time and dedication analyzing what are the needs of the community and if we can we achieve these needs,” Aramayo said. “We are challenging the administration because we know that they want what is best for our community as well.”

The proposal focuses on efforts to admit more Hispanic and Latinx students to the University, provide Hispanic and Latinx students with the necessary support and resources, offer translated financial aid documents and tours in Spanish and Portuguese and employ more Hispanic and Latinx faculty. 

The proposal follows an open letter released Oct. 15 and signed by student organizations, current students and alumni, calling to attention many of the same issues cited in the “Our University to Shape” proposal. These issues included the need for increased diversity among U.Va. students and faculty and more financial, administrative and counseling support from the University.

The letter was vandalized with racial slurs and hate speech Thursday, which the University administration strongly condemned.

“This proposal, and more important this movement that we’re trying to push forward is very inclusive of every community,” Aramayo said. “With the rhetoric used on the open letter … it’s important now more than ever for us to support one another to have a sense of awareness of what’s happening.”

Members of the University administration have previously responded to some of the concerns voiced in the open letter, which also appear in this latest proposal. One concern raised in both documents was the need for increased Hispanic/Latinx representation among U.Va. faculty and staff. Vicki Gist, assistant dean of students and director for Multicultural Student Services, said this is a concern that she has been working on with students during her time in the position. 

“The need for more Latinx faculty and staff is a specific concern that Latinx students have presented to me during the two years I have served as Director for Multicultural Student Services,” Gist said in an email statement provided to The Cavalier Daily. “For members of groups that have been historically disenfranchised or marginalized, having mentors and role models with whom they identify results in higher educational aspirations, better grades, retention, persistence, and overall satisfaction with university life.”

Another proposal is to provide more resources to the Outreach Office of Admissions so that admission tours can be offered in Spanish and Portuguese. Pilar Jimenez Larre Borges, a second-year College student and Latinx Student Alliance secretary, said her first memory of the University was translating an entire admissions tour to her father, who is not fluent in English. 

Jimenez said she is now a part of the University Guide Service, which offers tours in Spanish, but are not sufficiently publicized.

“After I came to University I joined the Guide service and learned that tours were available in Spanish,” Jimenez said. “But the University Guide Service isn’t getting the support it needs from the Admissions Office. I have a friend who was told no tours in Spanish were being given when in reality the University Guide Service can give tours in Spanish.”

Other recommendations in the proposal include establishing a Hispanic and Latinx student center separate from the Multicultural Student Center, additional counselling specifically for Hispanic/Latinx students and increased Latinx studies course offerings.

Student Council co-sponsored the proposal, along with 18 other Hispanic and Latinx and Hispanic/Latinx-serving organizations. Alex Cintron, Student Council president and a fourth-year College student, said the proposal has so far been well-received and includes concrete steps for better serving Latinx students.

“The proposal itself is less interested in conveying frustration and more interested in articulating specific policy issues and how best to address them,” Cintron said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “I am excited, from a Student Council perspective, to see what we can do to address some of these concerns ourselves and working with other organizations to address the issues discussed in the proposal along with University administration.”

Student Financial Services Communications Manager Chris Doran previously told The Cavalier Daily last week that the demand for translated documents was “the first time to their knowledge that a student or a student group has suggested that the absence of translated documents has prevented students from completing their application for financial aid.”

In an email to The Cavalier Daily, University Dean of Students Allen Groves said he plans to review the proposal in the next few days.