UVa Hispanic students feel left out? Really? Photo credit: University of Virginia Multicultural Services website
It didn’t take long for the University of Virginia’s new president, Jim Ryan, to have his first encounter with the university’s identity politics. A few days before his inauguration Oct. 19, Hispanic students circulated an open letter calling for more Hispanic faculty, Spanish-translated documents, and tours in Spanish and Portuguese for applicants and their families.
As of Monday, reports the Cavalier Daily, the letter had been signed by more than 70 student organizations and 450 individuals. Stated the letter:
This year, the University of Virginia admitted its ‘most diverse’ class in history. This is a great stride toward improving diversity at UVA; however, UVA cannot celebrate this when many minoritized students at the University feel underserved, underrepresented, and isolated. In order to help change this, there must be sufficient infrastructure to support minority students after their admittance to the university.
“Historically, providing and advocating for these resources has fallen on student organizations, students, and members of the community. We deserve to experience UVA as students and not as free-labored assets,” the letter read.
Welcome to UVa, Mr. Ryan!
Signatories urged the administration to expand staff in Multicultural Student Services. The letter also noted that while Hispanic students comprise 6% of the student body, there are only 24 Hispanic faculty members — 2.8% — in the College (presumably of the Arts & Sciences) faculty. Outside of the language departments, there are only 10 Hispanic professors. (The letter referred to “Latinx” faculty. I’m not ready yet to swallow that politically correct nomenclature. And for the record, university-wide, there were 80 Hispanic faculty members in 2017.)
So, Hispanic students at UVa have joined the ranks of the perpetually aggrieved. While the letter signatories purport to speak for Hispanics at the university, it’s not clear how many they actually represent. The 450 signatories are only a fraction of the number of 1,069 Hispanic undergraduates (2017 figures) and 312 Hispanic graduate students at UVa. Moreover, I’m willing to wager that many signatories are members of other races/ethnicities.
Furthermore, the letter notes that the first Latino Greek organization, La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, has been “inactive” for the past two years. Isn’t this evidence that many Hispanic students were perfectly happy joining non-ethnic fraternities, had no trouble getting accepted into them, and saw no need for an ethnic safe haven?
I suspect that the tone of whiny aggrievement and entitlement in the letter reflects the views of only a fraction of UVa’s Hispanic students.
By my count, there are at least ten active student organizations devoted to Hispanics:
- The Darden Latin American Student Association
- The Latin American Law Organization at UVA
- The Latinx Student Alliance
- The Latino/Hispanic Peer Mentor Program
- The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
- The Hispanic American Network at Darden
- Destina (a Hispanic Christian group)
- DREAMERS on Grounds
- Fuego (an Hispanic dance team)
- The Latin Student Network at McIntire
That doesn’t include a number of other groups dedicated to “minorities” and “diversity.” If these groups don’t fulfill their social and emotional needs, Hispanic students are free to form groups that do. Given the Student Council’s solicitude toward identity politics, they should have no trouble getting funding.
The freedom to form their own groups is not something the letter writers seem to appreciate. They want the administration’s validation and action. But I have to ask: How many Hispanic students at UVa genuinely feel “underserved, underrepresented, and isolated?” Is the feeling of isolation a real thing, or is it a political affectation of the Left? Do conservative, Republican, and non-political Hispanics — I’m sure there must be a few — feel left out?
How do letter writers think that expanding the staff of Multicultural Student Services will help? If the existence of 10 student groups doesn’t do the trick, what will adding a couple of multicultural staff members accomplish that students couldn’t do just as well by showing some initiative and launching their own groups?
What kind of world do these students imagine awaits them when they graduate? Do they expect their employers to bend over backwards to cater to their politically progressive Hispanic identity? Will they wilt like delicate flowers if they don’t have a multicultural bureaucracy to support them? Will they flounder if their bosses don’t “look like them”? Will they feel any responsibility to adapt to the corporate culture of their employers, or will they insist that their employers and fellow employees adapt to them?
Just as important, what kind of message will Jim Ryan and the UVa administration send their Hispanic students? Will they create a protective bubble to guard the tender sensitivities of the letter writers, or will they encourage them to grow up and learn to deal with the real world as, I’ll wager, most Hispanic students feel perfectly capable of doing?