Lack of Latino Culture Acknowledgement at Harvard University


According to the Harvard Crimson, the daily college newspaper at the university, while the peer institutions of Harvard “offer either specific programs for scholarships of Latinos or cultural centers for their students,” Harvard “has no equivalent.”

The class of 2016 for Harvard was 11.2 percent Latino students, but these students will find only student organizations where they can embrace and celebrate their culture at one of the nation’s oldest universities. But “efforts to bring such ressources, including attempts to create a center where students can have access to researchers and resources related to the Latino experience, stretch back approximately 40 years.”

Harvard has a unique standing on “how it chooses to support ethnic and cultural student groups.” Outside of the Harvard University Native American Program, which supports the Native American student population with an office and space to support the students’ education, “no cultural student groups on campus have University-allocated centers.”

Harvard students celebrate the unveiling of the portrait of the first Native American to graduate Harvard, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck. Source: Harvard Gazette

But students that are part of “the nation’s largest ethnic minority” feel “neglected” as one student put it. Latinos are “part of Harvard’s past” and “are a vibrant and undeniable part of its present” so why should they not get the same recognition their fellow Latinos receive at peer universities?

While some believe that “Harvard is heading in the right direction” with their recent “expansion of the Committee on Ethnic Studies,” which “through curricular offerings and collaboration with student groups, offers support for those interested in the study of Latinos both in and and outside the classroom,” others think this is not enough.

David Carrasco, a Neil L. Rudenstine Professor for the Study of Latin America, leads a session for the Latino Leadership Initiative, which trains college students in community organizing and networking. Source: Harvard Gazette

As a student who attends a university that does offer cultural centers for ethnic and cultural student groups as well as scholarship programs for Latinos, I can understand why these Latino students at Harvard are so frustrated.

Latinos are a major part of the future of this country. They are the fastest-growing demographic and their population is expected to reach 30 percent of the population by 2050.

We no longer live in the days of the “melting pot” and need to accept the idea we live in a “salad bowl” of a country. Immigrants no longer just acculturate to the United States, especially the ever-growing Latino population. We have to get our heads out of the sand.

The good news is that there are many places in this country that have realized this and adapted to it. For example, universities across the country now offer cultural centers and academic study programs dedicated to various cultures. I can personally account for this because I participate in the Latino Media Studies program (LMS) at the University of Texas at Austin.

We need to embrace diverse, but fellow Americans.
Source: University of Michigan Department of Psychology

Centers and programs, like the LMS program, that celebrate culture are important to the education of future generations. As an Anglo-American, I study in the LMS program because I want to better understand and be educated on this growing population.

But why is any of that important? The answer is quite simple: we are a diverse mix of people in the United States and it will take a better understanding of the various cultures that make up our communities to be able to best serve them. It will also lead to less ignorance and prejudices. To me, that sounds like a win-win for everyone.

Hopefully, Harvard will better realize this and grow their university acknowledgement of and involvement with various cultures and ethnic communities. It is really is inevitable because with many other universities showing their cultural engagement and the ethnic populations not slowing down in numbers, Harvard will have to participate in order to stay competitive in the world higher education.

Source: The Harvard Crimson

Learn more about the Latino Leadership Initiative at Harvard University:

Source for video: YouTube

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