Wellesley to consider a Latin@ Studies minor

LUChA to also push for additional classes and new professor

By GRACE BENNETT-PIERRE ’16 

with additional reporting by ANNA TUPPER-BRIDGES ’14

Staff Writer and Head Copy Editor

Hannah Degner '15  Co-Photography Editor 

Hannah Degner ’15
Co-Photography Editor

Latin@s Unidas Changing Academia (LUChA) is currently campaigning for the administration to add a Latin@ Studies minor to the academic curriculum at Wellesley. LUChA, a group of eight Mezcla members, has put forward a three-pronged proposal, which includes adding a Latin@ Studies minor under the American Studies major,  creating an introductory course for the minor and hiring a new tenure-track professor with training in Latin@ Studies. LUChA presented their proposal at Senate this Monday and urged senators to inform their constituents about Latin@ Studies.

Wellesley is one of only two Seven Sisters institutions that do not offer a Latin@ Studies minor. Last spring, presidents of various cultural groups on campus wrote a letter addressed to President Bottomly, Dean Lynch, Dean French, Provost Shennan and Dean Chapman calling for the addition of Latin@ Studies to the curriculum at Wellesley.

This fall, students and faculty organized a symposium on the broader topic of ethnic studies at Wellesley. Professor Yoon Sun Lee, director of the American Studies department, is heading an ongoing faculty working group on ethnic studies. Student representatives have also spoken to the Committee on Curriculum and Academic Policy (CCAP) and the deans and provost of the College.

In addition, LUChA has presented information to a faculty working group, composed of faculty interested in Latin@ Studies and tasked with determining what shape a Latin@ Studies program could take at Wellesley. In their meetings with the faculty working group and CCAP, LUChA included archived letters from Latin@ students to the administration beginning in 1973. The letters request that the College add more Latin@ Studies courses to the academic program and hire additional Latin@ faculty. Nancy Negrete ’14, a member of LUChA, explains that the letters show that Wellesley students have wanted a Latin@ Studies program for many years.

“This conversation has been going on for about 40 years, and the administration has not done anything so far. It shows the urgency that we need to do something now,” Negrete said.

Additionally, LUChA has distributed a survey to measure the student body’s awareness of and interest in Latin@ Studies. Their preliminary sample consists of a little over 500 students, of which 22.25 percent identified as Latin@ and 72.75 percent identified as non-Latin@. The survey showed that 77.25 percent of polled students have an interest in taking courses in the subject while 33.5 percent of the polled students would like to complete a Latin@ Studies minor.

Members of LUChA hope to collect an additional 500 survey responses in the next two weeks. They also plan to distribute a petition advocating the creation of a Latin@ Studies program and addition of a new faculty member. In the next week, they plan to make a video showcasing student opinions about the proposal.

Irene Mata, a professor in the women’s and gender studies department and a member of the Latin@ Studies working group explains that the introduction of a Latin@ Studies minor curriculum would be even more relevant today than it was 40 years ago.

“The Latin@ community is the fastest growing community in the country, and I think that many of the stereotypes about the Latin@ community come from a place of not necessarily of malice but of ignorance,” Mata said. “Having a Latin@ Studies  minor would give all students on our campus the opportunity to learn more about the Latin@ community.”

Robbin Chapman, associate provost and academic director of diversity and inclusion, attended only the early CCAP meetings regarding Latin@ Studies but stated that the committee remains in the initial assessment and planning stages of creating a Latin@ Studies program at Wellesley.

“CCAP is now taking an active role [in considering the minor],” said Chapman. “That actually already tells you that it’s really moving through the process. It has traction, clearly.”

Chapman suggested that a Latin@ Studies program could begin with courses and faculty already present at Wellesley. However, according to LUChA, the only faculty member currently at Wellesley who is trained to teach Latin@ Studies is Professor Mata.

Dean French, chair of the CCAP, is hesitant at this point in the planning process to say whether hiring new faculty is necessarily the right option, but acknowledges that the expansion of current course listings or the addition of faculty may prove necessary to establish a minor or another type of academic program.

“Any proposed minors, concentrations or, eventually, majors will need to have clear curricula goals, a set of well-defined courses and a program of study that is intellectually coherent and rigorous. As far as the staffing needs for these proposed programs are concerned, these must emerge in part out of the proposed curriculum. No minor or major at the college can rest on the shoulders of a single faculty member or rely on one single course,” French said.

Mata remains skeptical that a successful Latin@ Studies program could be built without the addition of a tenure-track faculty member trained in Latin@ Studies. She said that hiring a faculty member trained in Latin@ Studies would demonstrate the College’s commitment to a Latin@ Studies program.

“In order to build a sustainable curriculum, it is important to have a set core group of courses and faculty to teach. A non-tenure track professor can have wonderful credentials and be completely qualified to teach the courses, but they do not have the same job stability as tenure-track professors,” she said.

The Asian American Studies minor underwent a similar process of faculty working groups and consideration by the CCAP before its approval last spring.

Students, Faculty and administrators see the Asian American Studies minor as a possible template for a future Latin@ Studies minor or academic program at Wellesley, though students eventually hope to see Latin@ Studies become a concentration within an interdepartmental Ethnic Studies major.

According to French, any prospective academic program must be first proposed by the CCAP and then approved by the Academic Council, which comprises the many academic committees of the college.

Chapman echoes French’s commitment to establishing a sustainable curriculum, even if that may take an extended period of time.

“Ultimately we want to build something that is robust and relevant for whoever is looking at it, whether that is faculty or students,” Chapman said.

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