Though more than half of its student body is Hispanic and the University of Texas at San Antonio has been nationally recognized as a top Hispanic Serving Institution, a faculty and administrator association is challenging the university’s commitment to addressing the needs of Latino students.
La Raza Faculty and Administrator Association UTSA, a group comprising 25 to 30 faculty and staff members, published a petition Thursday that called on UTSA to embrace its identity as a Hispanic Serving Institution, a designation given to schools that enroll 25 percent or more Hispanic full-time undergraduate students. La Raza’s membership isn’t limited to Latino employees.
“First and foremost, the University must fully, publicly, and consistently center its designated identity in its mission is to serve Latina/o/x and Chicana/o/x students,” the petition states. “It must implement a strategic plan for becoming a leading Hispanic Serving Institution. … For too long, the University has sought to distance itself from the HSI moniker – opting for rhetoric like ‘inclusive excellence’ that minimizes and obfuscates the majority Latina/o/x and Chicana/o/x student population and region it serves – except when it benefits from federal monies and grants.”
The petition asks UTSA to publicly acknowledge that indigenous peoples first resided in San Antonio and Bexar County, establish an office of the Vice Provost for HSI initiatives and Strategies, and create a Westside SA Initiative to promote engaged scholarship, critical service learning, and educational pathways to higher education for the predominantly Hispanic West San Antonio community.
Another section of the petition encourages UTSA to hire faculty and university leadership that mirrors San Antonio and South Texas demographics. As of Monday morning, more than 750 people signed the petition on change.org. The petitioners aim to reach 1,000 signatures.
Enrique Aléman chairs La Raza and serves as a professor and chair in UTSA’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. The petition made public Thursday is the result of community conversations over the past several years, he said.
“La Raza was concerned about UTSA not really capitalizing on our majority population, our majority Latina and Latino population, and we felt we needed to go on the record as to what specific steps should happen that could position the university to move forward and serve the population that is San Antonio,” Aléman said Monday.
During these transitions, there hasn’t been a strong focus on the school’s identity as a Hispanic Serving Institution, Aléman said.
He called the petition a conversation starter with UTSA’s leadership. After the petition was published and delivered to university leaders, the university president reached out to the group. Eighmy and La Raza’s members plan to discuss the petition’s calls to action at a meeting in early December.
In a prepared statement, Myron Anderson, UTSA’s vice president for inclusive excellence, said the university has “consistently demonstrated a moral responsibility to advancing these priorities while, at the same time, recognizing the historical disparities that have existed.”
“President Eighmy, Provost Espy and I look forward to meeting with the La Raza Faculty and Administrator Association this fall as part of ongoing dialogue that fosters UTSA’s continued transformation,” Anderson said.