By ALICE LIANG ’16
Recently, students on campus began a movement to push for a Latin@ Studies minor amid a discussion for greater inclusion of ethnic studies on campus. In recent years, students have made strides by creating individualized majors and by advocating the Asian American studies minor that was passed last spring. Establishing a Latin@ Studies minor would create an introductory course dedicated to Latin@ studies, in addition to other related classes. A long-term ethnic studies major would allow for an interdisciplinary approach to some of the most pressing and crucial issues facing America today.
Wellesley is a unique place in that classes across many departments study feminist critiques from women and people of color in response to traditional theories. Yet we also need to have specialized courses to study how power systems, including education institutions, have systematically affected people of color in history. Beyond theory, this includes studying the politics and literature of people of color. Some of these courses are currently offered in the American studies and women’s and gender studies departments. However, formalizing these inquiries as a discipline allows us to reconstruct the often biased idea of what an “American” identity includes. What ethnic studies represents is at the core of a liberal arts education. Because Wellesley particularly values diversity of experience and impact in the world, it would be the best type of institution to host ethnic studies.
However, proposed budget cuts at Wellesley will replace retiring faculty with beginning assistant professors, and the total number of faculty members will decrease. In light of this, students must show increased interest and support to reinforce the need for professors who specialize in ethnic studies. Students should support the effort to establish a Latin@ Studies minor even if they don’t plan on minoring in it themselves. Students from all different disciplines should take classes in ethnic studies, even if—and especially if—the focus of the class they are taking is not their own identity. Many students would like to take such classes but cite the need to finish courses in different majors and distribution requirements. One requirement, the multicultural requirement, should be again revisited and revised to ensure that students graduate from Wellesley with an understanding of how ethnic studies affect our everyday lives.
The conversation around ethnic studies at Wellesley is building, but day-to-day microaggressions against certain groups on campus remain. Wellesley shouldn’t be just a place to prepare us for a harsher world; Wellesley should be an example for what society should be. The first steps to institutionalizing this require strengthening the multicultural requirement, creating a Latin@ studies minor and building an ethnic studies curriculum at Wellesley.