Hispanic under-representation is not only severe, but declining at the University of Texas at Austin. As an Hispanic female professor at UT, I am "statistically insignificant," as one university researcher expressed a few years back when asked why Latinas were not included in a gender equity report.
That statement reveals something powerful about equity (or lack thereof)—or at least it should—even if in practice, it has not.
Some of us Latina/Hispanic female and male professors are also getting older and it's healthy and advisable to have a bench of faculty behind us to assume research, teaching, and leadership positions for when we retire, move, or pass on. This phenomenon of Hispanic inequity in higher education, in part a casualty of the white-black binary, is so understudied on our campuses throughout the country that it goes unnoticed, perpetuating the inequities.
Even in so-called "Hispanic Serving Institutions," I am learning, there is a crisis in Latina/o faculty equity in ways similar to those outlined in the Independent Equity Committee Report (also see an earlier opinion piece by the editors of the Austin American Statesman, in this regard).
Do read this October 30, 2019 column Inside Higher Education authored by Colleen Flaherty titled "Equity for Hispanic Professors: UT Austin faculty group wants the institution to fix what it says is a system that marginalizes Hispanics."
This grievance is not at all about identity politics. It's about fairness and doing what's right. Most importantly, the exploitation and under-representation of Hispanics in higher education has serious implications for the undergraduate and graduate student experience, alongside research, policy, and theory development pertinent to the Latino community writ large. Scientific research will simply will not get done if the very group that frequently does this work is systematically excluded, under-paid, and marginalized.
Like it or not, my friends, so goes the Hispanic community in Texas, so goes the state. So go Texas and California, overwhelmingly Hispanic states, so goes the country.
And based on all the awesomeness around us that abounds, there's plenty of reason to "like it!" We add enormous value to our institutions. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning once said, "Let me count the ways..."
I can say in all confidence and truthfulness that our struggles are for the betterment of the whole. Depending on how affirmatively the university responds, UT will be better for this, as well. Much better.
Now, it's time to act. An opinion piece published this week authored by Dr. Daniel Acosta in the Austin American-Statesman offers good suggestions on how to move forward. This would, of course, only be a start.
Sí se puede! Yes we can!