Future of the Latina/o Studies Program: Cornell Students to Hold Town Hall Meeting

November 20, 2019

While 13.5% of Cornell’s undergraduate population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, there is currently no undergraduate major for Latina/o studies. A group of students are looking to change this, and will hold a town hall meeting on Saturday to gather input from the Cornell community.

“The timeliness of it couldn’t be more perfect,” said Assistant Prof. Steven Alvarado, sociology, who will teach SOC 1104: Race and Ethnicity in the United States: Social Constructs, Real World Consequences this spring. The class will be cross-listed with the Latina/o Studies Program for students pursuing the preexisting Latina/o Studies minor.

According to LSP’s Facebook post for the event, “the Latina/o Studies major would give students the opportunity to develop a transnational and comparative lens of Latinidad by learning about the diverse and complex Latinx communities in the United States.”

Housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, LSP currently offers an undergraduate minor as well as a graduate program. Both programs provide opportunities to study history, literature, the arts, modern political conversations and more within the field. The program reaches beyond the classroom, encompassing resources such as the Latinx Student Success Office, the Mi Comunidad Mentorship Program, and the Latino Living Center.

Of the 19 students who graduated with the undergraduate minor in 2019, the majority were  from the College of Arts and Sciences, although students from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, School of Hotel Administration, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning also completed the minor as well.

The program offers students outside of the College of Arts and Sciences to study aspects they otherwise would not cover in their course material, while also adding a cultural twist as well.

“I don’t really get much humanities, so the LSP minor kind of provides me with that. It also for me helps further develop that connection to my culture and my heritage, and it also exposes me to other cultures,” Dariana Argueta ’22 told the Sun.

The Hispanic Studies Program (which was quickly renamed the Hispanic American Studies Program) was originally established in July of 1987 in response to a proposal born out of growing dialogue amongst faculty and students. The name changed again in 1995 to the Latino Studies Program, and yet again to its current name in 2015.

Alvarado emphasized the demand among students for a more expansive curriculum in this field, mentioning that many students are interested in both current and historical immigration issues.

“I have a lot of undergraduate students … who would like to take the next step and write … an honors thesis on it, but can’t, and are limited in their intellectual development because LSP is only a minor at this point,” Alvarado said.

He believes that the increase in classes that would come with the creation of an LSP major would create opportunities for students from a wider variety of studies and backgrounds to learn about these issues.

“I have actually had experiences where students have been underwhelmed with the amount of resources that the University has for their intellectual development along these lines, and have ended up leaving and going to other universities,” Alvarado said.

Assistant Prof. Sergio I. Garcia-Rios, government and Latina/o studies, noted that bringing in an LSP major could also mean more faculty in the department.

Garcia-Rios also mentioned that the LSP major would appear on students’ transcripts, providing a more official way for students to display their studies in this field.

In addition to providing a chance for students to follow their intellectual curiosity, Argueta hopes that the program can also be used to shine light on issues that have historically been covered up or excluded from discussions.

“I would hope that little things … that often aren’t covered or [are] kind of brushed over become major focuses or themes within the major,” Argueta said, citing exposure to works from Central American writers in her LSP 2400: Introduction to Latino/a Literature course as one such example.

Garcio-Rios believes the meeting will provide an opportunity for students and alumni to discuss expectations for the future of LSP and to understand what it means to move from a minor to a major. Additionally, this dialogue introduces the question of what will happen to the minor if a major is created.

The Town Hall meeting will be held at 1 pm on Saturday in 165 McGraw Hall.

This article originally appeared in the Cornell Daily Sun.

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