Latino Students Discuss Unity at Town Hall

More than two months after Latino students voiced a series of demands to Harvard’s central administration, Latino student groups hosted a town hall with a focus on bridging gaps between what students say are partially fragmented student groups.

The town hall on Thursday evening focused on building a coalition for student groups of color, with many students acknowledging that student organizations need to bridge gaps both within and between their constituencies. Many students said they recognized a “divide” between Latino student groups, specifically pointing to a variety of cultural groups.

Eduardo A. Gonzalez ’18, a Mather House Undergraduate Council representative, also suggested that student groups representing different races and ethnicities should convene to discuss issues relevant to their respective group.

“Leaders of cultural groups could come together and set up a monthly meeting,” he said.

Ruben Reyes ’19 said increased visibility by College administrators would also go lengths to make students of color feel more comfortable. Several administrators attended Thursday’s town hall, including Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, interim Dean of Student Life Thomas A. Dingman ’67, and Dr. S. Allen Counter, head of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations.

Thursday’s discussion comes more than two months after a group of Latino students submitted a set of demands to University President Drew G. Faust, many of which—such as a multicultural center and cultural sensitivity trainings for Harvard faculty and staff—students referenced at the town hall. One change, a requested replacement to House masters’ controversial titles, is currently underway.

Students also discussed expanding Latino Studies at Harvard. Currently, undergraduates may obtain a secondary in Latino Studies under the Standing Committee on Ethnicity, Migration, Rights. Gonzalez said he hopes the field will expand into a full concentration.

Town hall attendees also advocated for increased hirings for faculty of color across all departments—an action which a recent diversity report highlighted.

The report, compiled by the College’s working group on diversity and inclusion, calls for a sweeping range of both short-term and long-term reforms, including standardizing diversity practices in Houses and cultural sensitivity training for all Harvard faculty and staff that regularly interact with students.

The meeting ended on an optimistic note: attendees collected a list of action items such as increased mental health resources and diversity trainings for Harvard faculty.

“I definitely see a very vibrant future for the Harvard Latinx community,” Reyes said.

—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at jalin.cunningham@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.

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