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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Becoming a Hispanic-serving institution is a worthy goal

    Twenty-five percent of Arizona’s residents are Hispanic, and that number will only increase in the coming decades. However, only 13.7 percent of UA students are Hispanic – and similar discrepancies exist at Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University.

    As a land-grant institution, the UA has an obligation to ensure that it is serving its state. To serve the state means to serve its citizens – so it is absolutely fitting that the UA work to become a Hispanic-serving institution.

    Former President Peter Likins and President Robert Shelton have the right idea in working to ensure that the UA serves the Hispanic population of our state. However, any proclamations of specific percentile goals of student populations being composed of a specific race will smack of quotas and racism to opponents. As president, Likins set a goal that within 10 years, 25 percent of the UA student body would be Hispanic.

    Shelton has the right idea in removing the focus from Likins’ very specific 10-year deadline but maintaining a yearly increase in the number of Hispanic students served.

    When metrics become more important than qualitative progress, goals like these become dangerous. To set 10 years from now as the deadline by which 25 percent of UA students must be Hispanic was a potentially hubristic goal – for it’s not just the UA that will determine the racial makeup of its students. The state of Arizona needs to be providing the best possible educational opportunities for people of all backgrounds as the UA works to attract and serve them.

    The UA can try all it wants to attract Hispanic students, but if qualified students aren’t applying in the right numbers, filling seats with students just because of their ethnic heritage is not the right choice.

    Abandoning this goal of becoming a Hispanic-serving institution, however, would be equally shortsighted. When the UA is serving the state in which it is situated, its demographics should reflect that of the rest of the state.

    Unfortunately, the most noticeable changes that the UA has made in the past to better serve Hispanic populations have, in large part, been cosmetic. Renaming the Economics building the CǸsar E. Chǭvez building and increasing the amount of Latino art on campus, though well-intentioned, weren’t the kind of changes that will make the UA a better Hispanic-serving institution systemically.

    Shelton’s commitment to make the entire university community more reflective of Arizona’s demographics, through working to attract more Hispanic professors and advisers, is a great start. Ensuring that faculty and campus leadership demonstrate the UA’s commitment to reflecting and appreciating the diversity of its state can only encourage greater participation on campus by groups – like Hispanic students – who have been marginalized in the past.

    Continued community outreach and partnership programs will also be instrumental in increasing the numbers of Hispanic students at the UA in the future.

    When the UA is the best institution it can possibly be, it will serve Arizona and its residents as a Hispanic-serving institution and benefit greatly from a diverse student body.

    Focus on quality, programming and student services will get us there, not just neat-sounding metrics.

    Opinions Board

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Ari Lerner, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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