A group of UC Merced students participated in a demonstration Tuesday to ask for an expansion of the Chicano Studies program.
The students, most of them enrolled in the school’s Chicano Studies minor, said they would like to see the school offer more Chicano-based courses and add professors qualified to teach those classes.
The university presents itself as a diverse campus, with more than 45 percent of enrolled students identifying as Latino. But according to the students, that is not reflected in the classes or professors available to them.
“We are tired of it (UC Merced) being promoted as a Hispanic-serving institution, when the school is not funding academics toward us,” said Carolina Romero, a third-year student participating in Tuesday’s demonstration.
The students said that when they approached administration with this concern, they were given lack of funding as a reason for the shortage of resources available in the Chicano Studies program.
During the demonstration, students expressed concerns that they believe the university receives money based on its high number of Latino students.
But Mark Aldenderfer, dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Art, said funding is not the problem.
The dean explained that UC Merced’s Hispanic-Serving Institution designation does not automatically guarantee the university funding. “We don’t get money per se, but we can receive special treatment when it comes to applying for grants,” he said.
On Tuesday, Aldenderfer said that although many students may be interested in growing the Chicano Studies program, there are currently only 11 students enrolled in the minor. Programs are designed and developed by faculty based on the demand and need they see on campus, he said.
The dean said that there are nine faculty members from various disciplines who have expressed interest in developing an Ethnic Studies program, which would incorporate studies of more than one ethnic group. Aldenderfer said, but this is still only in idea mode.
Developing a new program is a fairly rigorous process and can take some time, he said.
Students said there is currently only one professor whom they identify as a Chicano Studies professor: Dr. Manuel Martin-Rodriguez. However, Martin-Rodriguez was initially brought on to teach literature, Aldenderfer said.
Students believe that having professors they can identify with is important for them to succeed.
First-year student Mitzy-Sarahi Perez said that she chose to attend UC Merced based on the fact that the school has a large Latino student population, but she soon found out the staff is not representative of this.
“I thought I’d feel right at home, but it’s been just the opposite,” she said.
According to Aldenderfer, the university is trying to develop a more diverse faculty by hiring more professors of color.
In the 2013-14 school year, 42 percent of faculty were women and 42 percent of faculty were of color, Aldenderfer said.
“We want professors that come from a background we can relate to,” Perez said. “Most of us (students) are Latino, but our classes and professors don’t reflect that; it just doesn’t make sense.”