Duke without Mi Gente

A response to this letter can be found here.

Another response to this letter can be found here.

A third response is available here.

A fourth response can be found here.

Dear Duke University,

This coming Spring semester, Mi Gente, Duke’s undergraduate umbrella Latinx student organization, will cease its collaboration with the Admissions office with respect to Latino Student Recruitment Weekend (LSRW). Our organization, which serves the entire Duke community, a Latinx community comprising of 7 percent of the student population and a first year population comprising of 10 percent, will no longer organize and facilitate LSRW, which attracts between 60 and 80 prospective students every year.

Instead of organizing this established event, we will channel our energies into demanding that our voices be heard and that our community be represented. This will involve collaborating on political events with other organizations, organizing demonstrations and meeting with the administration.

In 2005, Mi Gente sent a letter to President Brodhead requesting a cultural center and a plan for the hiring of Latinx faculty and administrators. These requests remain unmet. Now, in 2016, 11 years later, Mi Gente implores administration to satisfy these requests. Our requests are simple yet imperative: we demand a cultural center, which will assume full responsibility of Latino Student Recruitment Weekend programming, more Latinx faculty members in various departments and a public apology for the racism exhibited within the Department of Education and towards Dr. Jason Mendez. We are continuously disappointed with Duke and its dismissal of the needs of students of color, particularly those of the Latinx community. We will no longer sit around and wait for Duke to respond to our needs. We demand that Duke comply with its mission statement to “promote a deep appreciation for the range of human difference and potential.”

It is time for Duke University to follow in the steps of its peer institutions to establish a safe environment conducive to learning. Stanford University (El Centro), Yale (La Casa Cultural), University of Pennsylvania (La Casa Latina), Cornell (Latino Living Center/ Latina/o Student Success Office), MIT (Latino Cultural Center) and many other elite institutions have all established Latinx cultural centers.

Duke Latinx students attended Duke on the premise that they would be able to intellectually flourish. Instead, we have found that we must perform the duties of the administrators, educators and admissions officers. We must assert our humanity in classrooms where our professors or peer students project micro and macro aggressions, we must demand that we receive a space outside of the Bryan Center Basement and we must plan a four-day long recruitment event using undergraduate funds. It is time that Duke recognize that its students of color should not bear the burden on being academics, educators, poster children for brochures, panelists regarding diversity, Latinx student recruiters, party planners and students.

Once again we tell Duke adminstrators that Mi Gente, Latinx Students and non-Latinx allies demand that Duke:

1. Create a permanent, public space historicizing our integration, history and ongoing achievements on this campus in the form of a Latinx cultural center. This center must have a full staff including a center director, program coordinators and student staff. Duke must also hire faculty to coordinate Latino Student Recruitment Weekend (the center can assume this role) as well as fund annual Latinx awards, celebrating our student leaders for their tireless efforts.

2. Provide a larger office space for Mi Gente and Latinx students, not a janitor’s closet in between two bathrooms. The space that we request must not be in the lowest level of the Bryan Center, with limited traffic flow and visibility. This space must be visible and adequately accommodate our 14-person council.

3. Establish full funding for Latino Student Recruitment Weekend so that Mi Gente can focus its general funds towards organizing events for current Latinx undergraduates.

4. Establish a plan for the hiring of Latinx staff, faculty and administrators. This means increasing the Latinx faculty members in every academic and student affairs department and establishing a plan for retaining these new faculty members (i.e. creating paths to tenure). Particularly important is the hiring of Latinx therapists/psychiatrists at CAPS and hiring Latinxs in administrative roles.

5. Create a Latino Studies department to include a major, minor and its own tenure-track professors.

6. Provide need-blind admission for undocumented students. Admission will be publicly advertised and recruitment efforts will ensure that undocumented students know that they are welcomed on our campus.

7. Increase pay for all laborers, who are predominantly black and brown, to a living wage (currently $15 an hour).

8. Host a biannual hearing for Latinx undergraduates to present testimonies, experiences and insights of Latinx issues on campus to top administrators.

9. Develop a plan to deepen linkages with the local Latinx population, in all of its diversity, as part of its ongoing partnerships with Durham and North Carolina.

10. Administer a public apology for the routine negligence of Latinx issues on this campus.

Mi Gente was founded in 1992 to address the needs of Duke’s Latinx population. Over the years, our organization and the student Latinx population has grown. Despite our growth on campus and in the nation at large, we have yet to be recognized as full members of the community instead of just models for an admissions brochure. The actions that Mi Gente are taking assert that Duke University is not a safe space for Latinx’s and we no longer feel comfortable encouraging prospective students to attend a university where their numbers will be lauded but their humanity ignored. Therefore, we will be refocusing our efforts toward establishing a safe space on this campus for current Latinx students, and we will leave the recruitment to those on the Duke payroll.

We expect a formal letter of response from the administration by Friday, January 29, 2016 at 05:00 PM.


Mi Gente 2015-16

Members of the organization can be found on its Facebook page.


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