Latinx enrollment at Michigan State University has grown over the past decade, according to Michigan State University’s (MSU) annual diversity report, Hispanic/Latinx students made up 5.7% of total enrollment in the 2018-19 school year. This was an increase compared to the 3.5% of total enrollment documented in the diversity report from the 2010-11 school year. Though they have seen their representation increase, students are still struggling to feel it at Michigan State University.
Johanna Argyros, a law student, is the Vice President of the Latino Law Society at MSU. The Latino Law Society is open to all students, not just Latinx students. Argyros describes the group as a resource for law students, especially first-year law students.
“The reason for the group is to diversify the field of law,” Argyros said.
As a law student, Argyros has seen the lack of representation in the law school firsthand.
“I think there’s a lot of work to be done at MSU at large but especially within the law school,” Argyros said.
For Argyros, she would not only like to see more diversity in the student body within the law school but also within the faculty.
“I also think that they need to diversify faculty because I think it goes further than just students,” Argyros said.
“It’s like a cycle of new students constantly and the only people that are permanent there is faculty members, so not having a consistent foundation there I think is a big gap that needs to be filled.”
In the 2010-11 school year, Hispanic/Latinx faculty made up just 3.2% of the academic workforce at MSU, according to the annual diversity report. Most recently, according to the 2018-19 diversity report, Hispanic/Latinx professors made up 4.7% of the academic workforce. As of fall 2019, there were a total of 268 Hispanic/Latinx professors and 2,524 Hispanic/Latinx students at MSU.
Argyros has not often felt represented by the faculty and staff she has encountered within the law school. Through her years in the law school she can recount having very few Latinx professors.
Argyros also believes this puts added pressure on the few professors Hispanic/Latinx professors whom many of the students look to for representation.
“I don’t think that’s their (Hispanic/Latinx professors) burden either … to have every student look up to them, so there definitely needs to be more,” Argyros said.
Chantal Lopez, a psychology and social relations and policy student, also feels a lack of representation within the classroom.
On the lack of representation, “That is something that is a little unfortunate to see because it would be nice to see more representation, especially in the classroom,” Lopez said.
“It would be nice to see more representation because like I said it’s nice when you go into a classroom and you see a face that looks like you and you feel a little more comfortable.”
Not having faculty representation is only one difference students of color encounter at a predominantly white institution like MSU. “It’s a totally different experience,” Argyros said.
“You have to deal with constantly being in a learning curve because … these people have connections that you don’t have … so you’re in this whole new world where people already doubt you and you’re struggling to kind of catch up.”
From her experience, Lopez knows that many students of color were not afforded the same resources as their white peers in high school. This makes the transition to a predominantly white institution (PWI) even more difficult for students of color.
“It makes you feel like you’re out of place when you get to college and that’s a really hard thing for students of color at a predominantly white institute," Lopez said.
"You have to kind of find your place despite the fact that the majority of the population on campus doesn’t look like you."
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Alondra Alvarez, a communications student and Vice President of the student organization Culturas de las Razas Unidas (CRU) knows that students of color at a PWI have to deal with more than just being a student.
“I feel like so much falls on us at these PWIs,” Alvarez said.
“We should come to campus and just be able to be a normal student; be there to study, not be there to educate all of our peers about things that they should have gotten educated on a while back.”
Having to educate their white peers often takes a toll on students of color. Alvarez knows from personal experience just how taxing that can be for many students at a PWI.
“That’s quite draining. That’s not just something that people casually love doing,” Alvarez said.
Lopez, Argyros and Alvarez all agree that there is certainly a lack of representation, but they also think that MSU has been making some progress for Latinx representation.
“I do think that MSU is taking steps. I don’t think they’re just sitting there doing nothing … but there is always work to be done,” Argyros said.
For Lopez, it took her a while to find her place at MSU. A big reason for this was her inability to locate and take advantage of the resources that were available to her. Lopez believes MSU has many resources in place to help Latinx students, but they are often hard to locate.
“There’s a good amount of resources,” Lopez said.
“I think that the only problem is that it’s not promoted that often. A lot of people don’t know about them and so that’s what makes it hard for the students.”
Argyros credits MSU for being open to listening to any complaints or suggestions Latinx students bring up, but this credit does not extend to any actions being put into place.
“From what I have seen I think they (MSU) do a good job at responding when we do bring up issues," Argyros said.
“They’ll have town hall meetings and they will entertain complaints that people have … but when it comes to actually putting things into practice that’s another story.”
One idea that Alvarez would like to see come to fruition is designating a multicultural building on MSU’s campus. CRU, which is the largest Latinx organization on MSU’s campus, has been pushing for this multicultural building recently.
“We really just want a building where all of these communities can be represented … at MSU,” Alvarez said.
“Then even people who don’t identify as a person of color can just come in and feel comfortable getting educated on these topics and getting educated on these different communities.”
There are many actions that Lopez would like to see MSU take in an effort to help students of color succeed and feel welcome on campus.
“I just feel like sometimes MSU just needs to do a better job of protecting their students of color and protecting their students from marginalized communities, especially in a time like this,” Lopez said.
“Take more responsibility for targeted attacks against not just the Latinx community but minority communities at MSU in general. I feel like there’s always a very big lack of responsibility and lack of response when it comes to any incidents that happen and as a marginalized community it’s just a little heartbreaking to see … that maybe we’re not valued as much on the campus.”
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