Students, allies and faculty and staff gathered on Monday night in the Brown Alley room for a community conversation about the Latinx experience at the University of Richmond.
Student leaders in the Solidarity Organization for Latinx Students led the conversation, with opening remarks from Westhampton College Dean Mia Reinoso Genoni.
At the beginning of the talk, SOLS former president and senior Miranda Barbosa, said that the primary focus of the event was to have Latinx students share their experiences from campus life, because they often felt overlooked among other students on campus.
Students voiced a need for greater diversity within the curriculum, especially within the Latin American, Latino and Iberian Studies, and the Spanish departments on campus.
Senior Alexis Aviles said she had gone abroad to Ecuador, and she had wondered why so many UR students chose to study abroad in Madrid or Barcelona, especially if they were Spanish majors or minors, rather than Ecuador, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico or Argentina, because those countries have so much Latinx culture as well.
“I don’t like that my experience in Ecuador is considered super exotic because I wasn’t in Madrid or Barcelona,” Aviles said.
Many students expressed frustration with UR's admissions process and said they believed that the university viewed them only as a data point or check box.
First-year Rosa Lobo said that she, among many others, felt tokenized because her personal challenges were being turned into a corporation’s statistics.
UR’s current policy on admitting DACA or undocumented students labels them as international students, and the Office of Admissions is need-aware when reviewing those applications, according to the Office of Admission's website.
This means that UR does consider the student’s financial need when making an admittance decision, and can result in many students not being able to afford the price of the tuition based on offered financial aid packages.
We have to convince people that we’re human first, Lobo said, in reference to UR's policy on admitting DACA students, and Latinx students' experiences once on campus.
“Seeing the way we interact with each other on this campus shows that there’s no love a lot of the time — it’s just indifference, and we’re all on our separate journeys,” Lobo said.
Faculty, staff and administrators contributed to the conversation and offered personal reflections on the students’ concerns.
Dean Mickey Quiñones, who joined the Robins School of Business this year, said that all of the faculty were committed to creating an environment where all students felt that they belonged.
“We want to be a place where you feel that you can contribute who you are and what you are to the conversation and to the learning process,” Quiñones said.
Representatives from Westhampton College and Richmond College student governments attended the event as well.
WCGA president Lindsey Paul said she was thankful to have the opportunity to attend the event and hear from the Latinx students on campus.
WCGA and RSCGA have been coordinating with student association leaders, the leaders from SOLS included, to create a proposal of actionable goals for UR's administration to pursue, Paul said.
A change in curriculum — including general education and first year seminar topics — and a change to orientation programs are among other goals in the student governments’ proposal, Paul said.
Lobo also said that discussions like the Interpoint conversation should be integrated throughout the school year on campus, along with changing the curriculum in departments.
“Those discussions are so important to have and with every new wave of students coming in, they’re going to have more to contribute,” Lobo said. “What might seem insignificant to one person could change someone else’s entire perspective.”
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