By Blake Neff
A Hispanic student group at Duke University has declared that they won’t help the university recruit any additional Hispanic students unless a set of 10 demands are met, which include admitting more illegal immigrants, giving the group more funding, and allocating funds for an annual awards ceremony.
Duke is currently planning a Latino Student Recruitment Weekend, but the members of Mi Gente (“My People”) say they won’t participate unless Duke capitulates to their demands, which were published Monday in The Chronicle.
“The actions that Mi Gente are taking assert that Duke University is not a safe space for Latinx’s and we no longer feel comfortable encouraging prospective students to attend a university where their numbers will be lauded but their humanity ignored,” the group said in its open letter to Duke administrators. Latinx, pronounced “la-teen-ex,” is an alternative ethnic term preferred by some of Latin American descent, which avoids the gendered nature of Latino or Latina.
The demands, paraphrased, are as follows:
- Creating a fully-funded Latinx Cultural Center, with its own facility, director, paid program coordinators and student staff. Duke must also fund annual Latinx awards, “celebrating our student leaders for their tireless efforts.”
- Creating a bigger office for Mi Gente, “not a janitor’s closet in between two bathrooms.” The office has to be in a prominent, well-trafficked part of campus.
- Fully funding Latino Student Recruitment Weekend, so that Mi Gente can spend its money on other endeavors.
- Hiring more Latinx faculty members in every department, as well as more Latinx psychiatrists and therapists for the student counseling service.
- Creating a new Latino Studies department with its own major and tenured faculty members.
- Offering need-blind admission to illegal immigrants, and taking affirmative steps to recruit more illegal immigrants to attend Duke.
- Instituting a $15 minimum wage for all laborers, “who are predominantly black and brown.”
- Holding two hearings a year in which Latinx students can present their testimonies to high-level administrators.
- Developing stronger relationships with the local Latinx community, “in all of its diversity.”
- Issuing a public apology for Duke’s past negligence towards the Latinx community.
The group gave Duke until Friday to reply to their demands. Thus far, the college hasn’t responded.
The list of demands provoked a quick reply from Alexandra Villasante-Fricke, an alumnus who served as Mi Gente’s co-president back in 2008. Villasante-Fricke argued in a letter to the Chronicle that it was at the least unproductive to simply demand a handout from Duke.
“Maybe I was naive, but I always felt like any other Duke student, regardless of my name or complexion and that I had access to campus resources as an individual and as a campus group leader,” she says in her letter. “My advice to the current leadership of Mi Gente is that you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
The demands are very similar to those issues last fall by black student groups at schools such as Oberlin College, the University of Missouri, and Duke itself.
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