LATINO STUDIES STAGNATION
By G. Cristina Mora, Nicholas Vargas & Dominic Cedillo
Higher education, much like the U.S., is becoming increasingly Latino. With more Hispanic Serving institutions than ever before, and more Latinos in college, the future - by these measures - seems increasingly more just. Yet recent data collected by UC Berkeley professors G. Cristina Mora and Nicholas Vargas (incoming July 23) and UCB undergraduate Dominic Cedillo suggest that there is significantly more to be done to ensure Latino equity and thriving in higher education.
Drawing from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) and analyses of program websites, the researchers show that investments in Latino Studies, as defined by the establishment of degree-granting programs or departments, have not kept pace with Latino Student enrollment or HSI growth. Indeed the work finds that only 89 of the nation’s 2,600+ four-year higher education institutions currently offer a Latina/o/x Studies major. And of those, they found that the majority of programs established after the Mexican-American and Puerto Rican student movements of the 1960s and 1970s, are dramatically under-resourced; many with only 1, and sometimes even 0 core tenure-track faculty allocated to the program.
The data also show that the growth of Latino Studies since the 1960s is patterned with most new programs established in private compared to public institutions and with an increasing number of programs established in the east coast and midwest.
Finally, we note that Latino Studies does not stand alone in its limited representation. Like Latino Studies (3 percent), dedicated African-American/Black Studies (9 percent), Asian-American Studies (2 percent), Native-American Studies (3 percent), and even broader Ethnic Studies programs (5 percent) are glaringly absent in the vast majority of today’s colleges and universities.
These preliminary findings suggest a troubling paucity and stagnation of the academic field that, more than any other, was established to operate in concert with justice, transformative change, and a full recognition of humanity for Latina/o/x peoples. Fifty years ago there were well-organized and impactful efforts to found Latino Studies as a program of instruction. Today, there are no known concurrent efforts to advance this form of representation, and we know of no systemic efforts to detail the state of Latina/o/x Studies units across all of higher education. Like other racial and Ethnic Studies disciplines, Latino Studies is at its most impactful when it exists as a core centralized place for community building and support. Yet such initiatives need to be resourced with adequate faculty allocations, organizational agency, and not comprised of hires made for alternative purposes. So, we exclaim--For interdisciplinary understanding of Latinx livelihoods, and multi-faceted theoretical and methodological interventions that come from an engaged community with shared goals of improving conditions for ethnoracially marginalized groups, it’s past time for a renewed support for Latino Studies.