Four new professors to join RIGS departments

A new cluster hire is part of an initiative to diversify and boost faculty member representation.

by Keaton Schmitt

Nearly a year after protesters occupied the University of Minnesota president’s office to demand more support for school departments, four new tenure-track ethnic and gender studies professors are slated to be hired by April.
The cluster hire is designed to reenergize efforts to bring in faculty of color and increase representation at the University, said Catherine Squires, the director of the Race, Indigeneity, Gender & Sexuality Studies Initiative (RIGS), which is overseeing the hires.
The initiative wasn’t initially funded by the University. After members of Whose Diversity?, an informal student group, occupied Morrill Hall in February with a list of demands, the idea was given funding and formally created by the school, Squires said. 
One of the four hires is guaranteed to go to the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, adding to its one full-time professor.
Any department in RIGS, like American Indian Studies and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, will be open to the other three hires.
Jimmy Patino, the only professor currently in Chicano and Latino Studies, said he is happy the department is going to be expanded but said it will need more support to be effective.
Chicano and Latino Studies teaches about 200 to 300 students a semester. 
Often the department has to use graduate students or adjunct professors to properly teach all its classes, Patino said.
“[Relying on graduate students and adjuncts] is not ideal, and it’s not normal. … It’s hard to build consistency to attract more students to take our classes,” Patino said.
The current chair of the Chicano and Latino Studies department, Eden Torres, is also part of the Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies department. 
Several years ago, administrators gave Chicano and Latino Studies funding to hire three new professors but had to take it back due to the beginning of the recession, Patino said.
The College of Liberal Arts announced the cluster hire in February and officially began the search for new faculty in September, said Kelly O’Brien, a CLA spokeswoman.
On Nov. 30, the first of three candidates for a tenure-track position in the Chicano and Latino Studies Department gave a talk about her research at Walter Library.
Squires said at many other universities, ethnic and gender studies departments are housed in one department, which tends to overlook differences between faculty needs.
The RIGS initiative was first founded informally by faculty within the RIGS fields to further interdisciplinary cooperation while still maintaining independence, Squires said.
“[RIGS] will make possible more robust study, from various viewpoints, of various social identities and their intersections,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson.
Whose Diversity? member David Melendez said the Chicano and Latino Studies department should be allowed to hire another professor separate from the RIGS hire because it’s so short-staffed. 
“I feel [the Chicano and Latino Studies hire] should be in addition to the cluster hire that’s already been agreed to by RIGS,” Melendez said.