Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Why can’t UT-Austin hire, keep Latino faculty? [Houston Chronicle Editorial]

The report of the Independent Equity Committee at the University of Texas at Austin, comprised of Latino full professors, is still getting much-needed attention.  Here is the latest by the editors of the Houston Chronicle.  Click here to download the entire report which is in the public domain.

-Angela Valenzuela

Why can’t UT-Austin hire, keep Latino faculty? [Editorial]

In a message posted on the University of Texas at Austin website, President Gregory Fenves touts the institution’s commitment to diversity.
“Our history of exclusion and segregation gives us a responsibility to stand as champions of the educational benefits of diversity,” the statement says.
It is a worthy goal — one backed by research showing that all students benefit from a diverse learning environment. Unfortunately, UT’s pledge doesn’t always translate into reality.
A recent 188-page “Hispanic Equity Report” found “gross disparities” and “discrimination” for Latino faculty at the state’s flagship university.

History professor Alberto Martinez, chair of the committee that produced the report, described the inequities to the editorial board in three words: Flabbergasting. Demoralizing. Heartbreaking. We’ll add another: Unacceptable.
Consider these findings:
Latino professors are paid less than their white peers, ranging from a difference of $10,000 for associate professors to $25,000 for full professors. The pay gap is even wider for Latinas.
Latinos are virtually shut out of leadership positions. Among the 130 dean positions, only 7.7 percent are Latino and none are held by a Hispanic female. In Texas, Latinas are 20 percent of the population. Some departments, such as the 130-year-old history department, have never been chaired by a person of color.
The Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, named after an Hispanic alumna who endowed it with $15 million, has had no Latino directors since it was founded in 1940.
Only 62.5 percent of Latino applicants received tenure from 2010-18, compared with 85 percent of white applicants.
The report recounts the experience of a Latino professor who was denied tenure despite having a resume that includes three single-author books, two edited volumes, more than 30 scholarly articles and book chapters in print, and others in the works. “Very few candidates in the humanities have such extensive scholarly publications when they receive tenure,” the report noted.
Denials despite professional achievement are common, Martinez says. Qualifications aren’t the issue. The problem, he says, stems from a lack of Latino representation on committees that determine hiring, promotion and salaries.

UT-Austin has fought successfully at the U.S. Supreme Court to include race as part of its holistic student admission criteria, arguing that a diverse student body “brings with it educational benefits for all students.”
That idea must extend to the university’s faculty, as Fenves himself noted after the 2016 court ruling.
It’s especially critical on a campus where 23 percent of undergraduate students are Latino, and in a state where nearly 45 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds are Latino. At UT, only 7 percent of tenure and tenure-track professors are Latino. Compare that with Texas A&M, where 22 percent of students and 16 percent of the faculty are Latino.
The disparity means that many Latino students never have a Latino professor during their time at UT, missing out on mentoring opportunities — or simply the connection to a faculty member who shares the same cultural background. Studies show that Latino and black students perform better with teachers of color who serve as role models.
The obstacles to advancement and inequities in pay lead to a high turnover rate and to frustration among those who stay, Martinez said. From 2013-2018, the report found, 60 percent of Latino assistant professors on tenure track left the school.
In a statement, UT officials said the university is working to address issues of faculty equity. Provost Maurie McInnis has “committed the university to understanding the source of the disparities. The provost has also asked the deans to review and report their processes and outcomes in leadership selection, to improve transparency into these processes, and [make sure] equity is considered in the selection of leadership.”
That is encouraging. School officials should also follow recommendations outlined in the report, including hiring more Latino professors, especially those who are Tejano and who are originally from disadvantaged groups, raising the salaries of Latino faculty already on staff to achieve equity with white faculty, and creating a rotation that allows all faculty to serve in leadership positions in university and departmental governance.
The university’s promise to embrace “diversity in many forms” should include fair pay and opportunity for the Latino professors and other faculty responsible for educating our leaders of tomorrow.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

I Was ‘Too Much’ for Boarding School. But I Had the Garcia Sisters.

This story helps explain why Ethnic Studies is such a potentially life-saving intervention. If we could only systematize this, schools, boarding schools, colleges, and universities would be more welcoming places.  Thanks to Dr. Tony Baez for sharing.

-Angela Valenzuela

I Was ‘Too Much’ for Boarding School. But I Had the Garcia Sisters.

Reading books by Latina writers taught me 

our stories were worthy of being told.

Credit...Meryl Meisler

Ms. Mártir is a novelist.
I grew up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in the 1980s, in what felt like a forgotten neighborhood. Abandoned buildings loomed over piles of garbage and rubble. Playgrounds were overrun by drug dealers. But for me, Bushwick was a place imbued with my culture. There were piragua carts with multicolored umbrellas selling shaved ice on every corner. The bodeguero Miguel gave my mother credit when our food stamps ran out. The Puerto Rican flag hung from almost every window.
My mother migrated from Honduras to New York in 1971. When I was 2 years old my mother met and fell in love with another woman, Millie, which was then widely considered taboo. Two years later we all moved into a two-bedroom railroad-style apartment. The paint cracked and peeled off the walls, but we always had food on the table, even if it was white rice, fried eggs and canned corned beef. I spent most of my time then in our backyard, climbing the plum tree and telling myself stories.
My life took a turn at 13 when my social studies teacher saw promise in me and suggested I take part in A Better Chance, a program that places low-income minority students in top schools around the country. I applied and was offered a four-year scholarship to attend a boarding-school-type program at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts.
Millie’s brother drove me to school in a beat-up blue Pentecostal church van. I remember gazing out the window in awe as gorgeous mansions with perfect manicured lawns came into view. I moved into a four-story house with other students complete with a study and fireplace. It felt like I was living in an episode of The Facts of Life.
But I soon realized that I was different. My guidance counselor would often pull me aside and tell me I was “too loud” and “too much.” My classmates would chant “Tawk, Rosie, tawk!” as I’d walk down the hallways, my eyes glued to the ground. Rosie Perez as Tina in the 1989 film “Do The Right Thing” was the only exposure to a Latina many of my classmates had ever had.
Growing up, I’d read the “Sweet Valley High" series, Encyclopedia Brown mysteries and all the Judy Blume books. The characters in them didn’t look like me, but I was too young to understand the difference or know it could matter. One day in my junior year, I was reading on the mezzanine overlooking the cafeteria, when my English professor, Mr. Goddard, approached me. “You should read this,” he said and handed me “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.” My eyes stopped at the writer’s name, Julia Alvarez. “That’s a Spanish name,” I thought.
I saw myself reflected in the story of the Garcia sisters, who had fled to the United States from the Dominican Republic with their parents. They went to boarding school and, like me, had trouble fitting in. It began to dawn on me that there must be other writers like Ms. Alvarez out there. I asked teachers for recommendations and dug through the library shelves on campus.
Later I would discover the work of Gloria AnzaldúaCherríe MoragaSandra Cisneros. What was missing for me was the narrative of the Latina who left the ’hood to pursue an education only to find that she no longer fit in anywhere. I was too loud at boarding school and a sellout in the place I had once called home.
For years I’d chronicle my joys and heartbreaks in journals and scribble down poems on napkins at bars. On weekends I’d go to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. I was in awe of the poets who read their work aloud. I longed to be that brave. I was the only one of my siblings to graduate from college. That distinction came with the expectation that I’d get a job that offered a steady paycheck and a 401(k).

When I learned I was pregnant in 2003, something inside me shifted. I wanted my daughter to learn by watching her mamá that she could live out her dreams. I dusted off my journals and wrote throughout my pregnancy. My first novel, “A Woman’s Cry,” was published in 2007, three years after she was born. After my novel was published I sought out other writers of color. At last I found a place where I felt I belonged.

My mother still lives in the same apartment in Bushwick. The neighborhood is no longer reminiscent of a war zone. Children and families gather in the parks we had never dared to step into. The piragueros are all but gone. The Puerto Rican flag isn’t as prominent as it used to be. The neighborhood I knew has mostly faded out of view.

Reading books by Latina writers helped me recapture a pride in my culture that goes beyond my old neighborhood. They taught me that these gritty corners of the world can be beautiful. That our stories are worthy of being told.

I buy my daughter, who is now 15 years old, books by writers like Elizabeth AcevedoJacqueline Woodson and Gabby Rivera. I teach writing in neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. I know from experience that when children see positive images of themselves reflected in front of the classroom, in books and on the big screen, it can make all the difference. This is how change happens, and it’s how we create a country in which all of us feel we belongOne story at a time.

Vanessa Mártir (@Vanessa_LaLoba), a writer and educator, is the founder of the Writing Our Lives Workshop.
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