UO Latinx Strategies Group: Past, Present and Future

”The Latinx Strategy Group (LSG) is an emerging alliance of faculty, staff, students, and community members collaborating to improve educational access and equity among Latin@ students at UO and in the local area.”

What would you like people to know about the Latinx Strategies Group?

We would like people to know that the work of empowering our communities on campus, as the Latinx Strategies Group (LSG), is an extension of over 500 years of cultural survival. In 1521, Spanish forces captured the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The impacts of colonization were hemispheric and forever changed what we now call the “Americas.” What has been on many of our members’ minds, during the COVID-19 pandemic, is that in 1521 Indigenous peoples faced diseases in a pandemic throughout their lands. This has been at the forefront of our thoughts because 500 years later we are navigating life in a new pandemic. We are balancing remote work and supporting our students who have been heavily impacted by COVID.

We would like people to know that LSG seeks to make mentoring and advocacy work for and with Latinx/Chicanx students visible to the wider university community, to coordinate with networks of support already in place, and to advocate for the expansion of resources in accordance with increasing Latinx/Chicanx student enrollments.

We would like people to know we are a welcoming group. Our members are racially and ethnically diverse and come from all employee groups on campus. In our meetings, and through our work, we seek to create a welcoming environment for faculty and staff. We come together and create community across campus. Since our inception, we have created a network of support across campus that has allowed us to break down silos. Through LSG, faculty and staff have learned about the work of advising on campus, recruitment and retention of students, and staff have learned about the issues facing faculty. Our coming together has provided us an opportunity to learn about things happening on campus we would otherwise not know about. We spend time talking and dealing with issues that have come up in our work. Being able to share with work colleagues allows us to be in solidarity.

How have you supported and been supported by your communities over the past year and a half?

Throughout the pandemic we have continued to hold monthly meetings. These meetings have allowed us to have a continued sense of normalcy and family. We have also had fun virtual gatherings including having an LSG trivia team. We have also had a few opportunities for socially distanced outdoor gatherings. Being together through this year has helped us continue the sense of home and belongingness that LSG brings us.

Throughout the year we support each other by simply being together, allowing members to speak their mind and celebrate their successes and struggles. We always talk about what is going on with our students, and our campus work.

What are the new and existing challenges you see on campus?

We are very excited about the new Latinx studies minor. We are trying to find ways to uplift this new minor and provide more support for establishing it as a major. Our Latinx/Chicanx student numbers continue to grow but we do not have visibility on campus as a growing and active community. We do not have a cultural center for our students. We have an academic center, a new Latinx minor, and a growing Spanish Heritage Language program, but we are decentralized which makes it a challenge for new faculty, staff and more importantly students to find resources and community.

We have had new faculty and staff hired over the past two years, including over the pandemic. It is a challenge for us to welcome new faculty and staff because there is no structure for us to find out who they are, and how best to connect with them. It is a challenge because we are all volunteers in our group, and there is administrative work that needs to be done to move our work forward, and we do not have the capacity to do it all.

A significant challenge is preparing for the return of our Latinx/Chicanx students. The pandemic has particularly hit hard our communities of color, our non-trad, our low-income students and our first-generation college students. Our students have already let us know about the challenges and barriers they face in a Predominately White Institutions (PWIs). Many of our students continued to work through the pandemic, took on additional roles in their homes, and/or had to deal with contracting COVID-19.

What significant projects are you working on? What are your plans for the year ahead? 

We plan to keep collaborating on the Latinx ARC. We are reviewing setting our long and short-term goals for the upcoming year. Coming back to campus is allowing us to revisit our structure and determine what our leadership needs are. LSG is a perfect opportunity for folks to practice and grow into their leadership skills. It is an opportunity to do so within a culturally supportive environment.

What has changed and what would you like to see change this coming year?

There was also the start of a racial reckoning with the murder of George Floyd. We are all coming back to a changed landscape and we are not sure that campus is fully prepared to handle students coming back to college after cultural, ecological, and biological changes in our world. We believe there will be cultural shock as we all adjust back to campus. We want to make sure we are talking and anticipating (as a campus) about the effects of the last 18 months on the mental and social cultural health of our community.

We have talked as a group about the eventuality of the UO becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS). We want to make sure every time we bring in the “most diverse” incoming freshmen class that we are also prepared to retain our diverse students, and not only retain them, but make sure they are flourishing and having a rewarding and validating experience at the UO. The same can be said about the need to continue to retain Latinx/Chicanx faculty and staff.

What are your expectations for collaborating with other strategies groups?

We would like more joint meetings. LSG have had joint meeting in the past with our colleagues and we have always enjoyed those connections. We would like the opportunity to offer our support and share our labor toward mutual goals. We want to be more intentional about our work with each other. We also want to have time to think and work about the intersectionality within our group. We want to support and connect with our Afro-Latinx and Indigenous members.

What support do you want/need from the university?

We would like to have more sustainable support from the university for the work of LSG. This would look like in-kind support for supervisors to support and encourage classified, and OA staff to attend LSG meetings. We see LSG as a crucial HR partner in retention of faculty and staff. We would like departments to value the labor and engagement that non-tenured track and tenured track instructors and professors do for LSG and have their labor counted toward their promotion and retention.

There is a lot of cultural taxation of BIPOC at PWIs (Primarily White Institutions). These institutions were not built for us and it shows in the cultural taxation of our labor. We do the work to improve the lives of our communities and our students. We would like a university wide committee to help plan and implement heritage months. This isn’t siloed diversity work; this is all our work. We would like to keep exploring support for our Latinx/Chicanx students and faculty and staff, and for the institution to begin exploring and being proactive in the UO becoming an HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution).