Faculty cluster hire is not enough

On Feb. 16, after pressure from students and community members, College of Liberal Arts Dean John Coleman announced a cluster hire of four faculty members, some of which will be in the RIGS Consortium (which studies race, indigeneity, gender and sexuality). One new hire will be devoted to the Chicano studies department.

This is an important step. However, it is critical to acknowledge that the department will still only have two full-time, tenure-track faculty. Adding one faculty member only returns the department to the same place it was recently.

Minnesota’s demographics have changed since the department’s founding in 1972. A 2013 study by the Metropolitan Council estimated that Latino communities made up about 10 percent of the population of Minneapolis, and that number is growing. Meanwhile, the Chicano and Latino demographics at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus remain at 2.8 percent.

The deliberate undermining of faculty, and its community outreach coordinator, impedes critical facets of the department’s mission to create rigorous scholarship as well as forming a welcoming atmosphere for Latino/a students. This hurts the educational experience and effectively forms a barrier in accessing the University.

Peer institutions are miles ahead of the University. The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Latino Studies Department has 12 full-time faculty members and 25 adjunct professors. Also, the University of Michigan Program in Latino Studies has 10 full-time faculty members and 20 adjunct professors. The University is clearly lagging, despite its unique location in a diverse urban area with large Latino populations.

Community members have expressed the need for five more faculty to sustain the department and the reinstatement of 100 percent funding for the community outreach position, which is currently at 50 percent. The University community as a whole needs to stand up and show support.

If the University is to exist as a land-grant public institution that is accessible to all, it means more than just affordable tuition; it means allocating substantial resources for the community it claims to serve.