Graduate Student Senate backs Latino studies minor

Stacey Alex, a graduate teaching assistant in Spanish and delegate to the University of Iowa Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, wants the UI to add a Latino Studies minor. But so far, no minor has been added. So, Alex will leave the UI.

As the demographics in the university begin to shift, the Graduate Student Senate decided to vote to pledge its support to the long-debated idea of creating a Latino Studies Program. An initiative to start a Latino Studies Program was put forth in 2006, but it stalled following leadership changes in the university. At Monday’s meeting, the students voted on whether to advocate for a new initiative to be put before UI President Sally Mason and Chaden Djalali, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Alex proposed the resolution in support of a Latino Studies minor to the Senate after working with two professors who also backed the minor. Alex stated in her resolution that Latinos are the largest minority group in the United States, as well as the largest domestic minority group on the UI campus and in the state of Iowa.

“Iowa’s the only school in the Big Ten without a Latino Studies Program,” Alex said, noting that Northwestern’s program began in 2009, and Iowa State began its program in the ’90s. There have been numerous undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty members, who have expressed interest in the creation of a Latino Studies Program, including UI doctoral candidate Carla Gonzalez, who spoke with Alex at the meeting.

Gonzalez and Alex said there are plenty of current classes that would qualify for a Latino Studies minor and would just need a slight redesign. Alex said she was, in fact, leaving the UI because there was no Latino Studies Program, and the lack of the program might lead to other students to either leave the university or, in some cases, to not come at all.

“I’m really interested in social justice,” Alex said. “That’s just not happening at Iowa.” The resolution asked the Senate to support the addition of a Latino Studies minor and to advocate that the initiative be brought up in discussions with Mason and Djalali. The motion was voted on and passed without objections.

Bryan Brown, the president of Graduate Student Senate and a delegate to the Executive Council, said members would draft a letter to Djalali to show their support of the program. “We are now in support of [the resolution’s] position to make a Latino Studies minor,” Brown said. “This is just evidence that there’s student support.”

Ben Gillig, the president of the Executive Council, said he would be happy to have a discussion about his group’s support for the Latino Studies minor at its next meeting. There will also be a vote in the UI Student Government and Diversity Committee to support the program. “Just from hearing what was said tonight, I definitely agree with Stacey Alex that it’s a big part of moving forward,” Gillig said. “I think it’s important that Latino Studies is brought into the mainstream.”

The resolution also asked that the Latino Studies minor would be available to students by the fall semester, because needed programs already exist. “I think that fall 2014 is perfectly reasonable,” Gillig said. “We’re happy to provide our input.”

While Alex works to bring Latino Studies to the UI, she said Iowa is “headed in the right direction” and dreams of something even bigger than just a Latino Studies minor. “Hopefully, that minor will one day blossom into a major,” Alex said.

Originally published at The Daily Iowan.