The Daily Aztec

SDSU faculty and students demand more from its Hispanic-Serving Institution

Calvin Emblerton

Calvin Emblerton

by Maria del Carmen Huerta, Senior Staff Writer

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The U.S. Department of Education last year released provisional data that reported Latino students at universities have increased by more than 20 percent since 2010.

This imminent demographic growth may call for an increase in educational efforts in colleges and universities to better prepare, serve and retain Latino college students in America.

As the number of Latino students in higher education continue to increase, so will the challenges  that accompany Latino students’ diverse needs on campus.

A Hispanic-serving Institution status, granted by the Department of Education, designates colleges or universities to be part of a federal grant program that helps aid first-generation, majority low-income Latino students. Universities and colleges granted this status are eligible for scholarships and grants that can be used toward assisting the entire student body, including its Latino student population.

In order for a university to be considered an HSI it must have at least a 25-percent Latino student body. Currently, SDSU has a 29.7-percent Latino student population, according to the California State University Mentor website.

However, some Latino educators and scholars, as well as SDSU faculty and students, believe the university is not addressing their needs and concerns as an HSI institution.

The Chicano/a Latino/a Concilio on Higher Education of San Diego is made up of alumni, faculty, staff and students from various higher education institutions, including SDSU.

In September 2014, the Concilio presented a vision entitled “SDSU as a world-class, national flagship, Hispanic-Serving Institution” to SDSU President Elliot Hirshman and Provost and Senior Vice President Chukuka Enwemeka.

Patrick Velasquez, co-chair of the Chicano/Latino Concilio on Higher Education, said in a press release that SDSU has to take more action to serve the Latino community.

The organization believes the university is not fully operating under its HSI status to provide sufficient resources to Latino students with a wide range of identities. The Concilio says it wants to be a key stakeholder in the implementation of its institutional vision plan in partnership with the university in order to actualize SDSU’s status as a leader among HSI institutions in the country.

The Concilio proposed five pillars for the university to consider: Representation and Success, Admission, Retention and Graduation, Curricular Programmatic Offerings, Student Success and Community Engagement.

Under these five pillars specific guidelines are addressed for the university to consider and further promote Latino student success on campus.

The organization hopes to address the grievances in the vision plan by 2024.

Under the Student Success pillar the Concilio demands an on-campus undocumented student resource program to provide campus-wide availability of opportunities and resources for undocumented students at SDSU.

Out of the 23 CSUs, only four have Dreamer Resource Centers on campus: Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Northridge and Cal State Los Angeles. These centers cater to undocumented student needs.

sdsu as a hispanic-serving institution

Some undocumented Latino students at SDSU say the university as an HSI should do more to broaden its resources for undocumented students on campus.

“A dream center would make sense here,” said Roberto Hernández, assistant professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. “Although we don’t have the exact numbers, we are near the border and we do know there are a number of AB 540 (undocumented) students here.”

Some undocumented students believe the services provided on campus don’t explicitly address the needs and issues that undocumented students face on campus.

The university would need concrete data of undocumented students at SDSU in order to support an undocumented center on campus.

The university could assist students with immigration papers and deferred action renewals, as well as other issues that affect the undocumented student community at SDSU if a center were to be established.

An undocumented student who wishes to remain anonymous said she thinks a resource center would enhance the SDSU experience for undocumented students.

“They must let students know there is help because there are more AB540 students that don’t know about the programs the university has or the support available,” she said. “There should be more resources.”

She said she goes to different departments on campus seeking help, but faculty and staff can’t always help her because they’re not always well-versed with her status and the law.

Why no resource center?

Chief Diversity Officer Aaron Bruce said there are a few reasons the university hasn’t created a committee or a center that solely focuses on Latino student issues.

“One is the legal parameters,” Bruce said. “University administrators are not professionally qualified to provide legal advice, so it is important that we don’t inappropriately advise you as an undocumented student. We don’t always know who is undocumented and we don’t know what the numbers are and we don’t know how that number fluctuates. That is another challenge if we wanted to create a center for undocumented students.”

He said these reasons may be why the university is not at its official capacity to help undocumented students, but points out that because of its geographic location, the university is able to do some other unique things to support its diverse student population.

SDSU offers many other opportunities that undocumented students can take advantage of, such as scholarships.

Some students, faculty and staff don’t feel it’s enough, though.

“That is the assumption that some universities make that we can just build a space for those students and they’ll be fine,” Bruce said. “From looking at our demographic and competitive nature of our student body in the past years we realize that one size doesn’t fit all.”

Bruce said he is familiar with undocumented students coming into his office because he is able to help and support them in ways that many other areas on campus cannot, depending on the student’s situation.

“It is important to think about as universities evolve as one space that provides the warm, welcoming supporting experience for a student,” he said. “It is everyone’s responsibility to support our students.”

Even with SDSU’s efforts to cater to Latino students, many faculty, staff and Latino leaders and scholars are demanding more from the HSI university.

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