By XUEYING CHEN ’16
On Monday, Nov. 4, students representatives from MEZCLA, the Community Action Network (CAN) and the Ethnic Studies Conference planning committee spoke with Dean of Academic Affairs Richard French, Dean of Faculty Affairs Kathryn Lynch, Associate Provost and Academic Director of Diversity and Inclusion Robbin Chapman and Provost Andy Shennan about a proposal to implement a Chicano/Latino studies minor. This minor is part of a larger long-term goal to create an ethnic and diaspora studies major at Wellesley College.
The minor would focus on the history, immigration patterns and cultures of people who have immigrated from Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.
During this meeting, MEZCLA hopes to demonstrate that there is significant need for a Chicano/Latino studies minor in the curriculum.
“Wellesley prides itself as being a college that is really diverse, but a key component of diversity is also education,” MEZCLA Co-President Raquel Zepeda ’14 said. “These are classes that we want all of Wellesley to participate in so that everyone gains this understanding of what is the difference of being a Latino in the Americas and being a Latino in Latin America.”
The College currently offers a Latin American studies major, which looks at the history, politics and culture of regions of Latin America, but not the Latino communities in the United States.
“[We are] trying to get more of the student body involved in this, not just the student leaders and the cultural organization, but also to get the student body motivated and to bring awareness about this minor and the whole benefits of the ethnic/diaspora studies program,” MEZCLA Co-President Arantxa Gallegos ’14 said.
According to Gallegos, the Chicano/Latino American studies minor will most likely be housed under the women and gender studies department, because Professor Irene Mata is the only professor qualified to teach the minor. Mata teaches in the women and gender studies department but all four courses she will teach this academic year concentrate on Chicano/Latino studies.
If CCAP approves the minor, the College must hire faculty to offer more courses in the minor.
Several students think that the College could still manage to support one or two more additional faculty members because there are already courses available in the subject area.
“It’s also possible that if they introduce this minor, there will be some alumnae that would be willing to donate for the department,” Rafa Tasheem ’17 said.
The push for a Chicano/Latino studies minor arose from the successful campaign for the Asian American studies minor last year, led by Professor Yoon Lee with the help of Wellesley Asian Alliance.
“Seeing that with a lot of support from the faculty, from professors, from students, that [the minor] could happen,” Gallegos said. “It was kind of like the time to push for this and to keep the momentum going.”
MEZCLA, along with several other cultural organizations and LGBTQ groups, released an open letter to the College administration last semester about the need for more ethnic studies and queer studies, but the interest in having a Chicano/Latino studies minor developed long before MEZCLA signed the open letter.
“I think there’s been a push even before I came in 2005 and started at the College,” said Marisa Shariatdoust ’09, who currently works at the Alumnae Association office.
The presidents of MEZCLA believe that the Wellesley community supports the idea of courses on Chicano/Latino studies in the curriculum.
“I think it’s an important course selection to have,” Katherine Schwartz ’15 said. “Immigration is becoming a very prominent topic in our country so I think it’s important to know the history and backbone and what’s behind it in order to address issues in the future, become a more wholesome citizen and decrease the ambiguity between groups of people.”
The students from Mezcla, CAN and the Ethnic Studies Conference planning committee and Multicultural Affairs Coordinator Safaya Fawzi ’14 plan to pursue their work on the possible Chicano/Latino studies minor as well as the long-term push for more ethnics studies, and the hiring and retention of more faculty of color for the rest of the year.
“I think it’s a good idea and I think it gives people flexibility in their choices because if you wanted to concentrate in that, you wouldn’t be limited to women and gender studies, because that’s where so many of those courses are housed right now,” Imara McMillan ’17 said.
Xueying is a sophomore studying English and Economics. She is a China-born Seattleite. Follow her on Twitter at @XueyingC.