Chicano-Latino Faculty Association aims to make UC Berkeley more representative of state

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Assemblymember Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, talks about the relation between Latinos and California at the Shorb House on Channing Way.

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A group of 20 UC Berkeley faculty members announced Thursday the creation of the Chicano-Latino Faculty Association, which aims to make the campus more representative of California demographics.

The faculty association is researching the scope of Chicano-Latino visibility on campus, such as what fields of research lack adequate representation and how staff members are positioned on campus, in order to make informed recommendations to the administration on how to improve diversity at both the faculty and student level.

The co-founding leaders of the faculty association include Patricia Baquedano-Lopez, chair of the campus’s Center for Latino Policy Research, and David Montejano, the research center’s former chair.

According to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, California has the largest Hispanic population in the country, with more than 14 million Hispanic residents.

The UC Berkeley website states that Chicanos/Latinos make up 13 percent of the undergraduate class and 7 percent of the graduate body. Of the 1,524 tenure-track faculty members, 82 identify as Mexican American, Hispanic or Latino, according to a Thursday press release from the faculty association. Additionally, 1,156 out of 8,959 individuals on staff are Mexican American or Latino.

With support from groups such as the UC Berkeley Faculty Association and the Black Staff and Faculty Organization and from Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele, Baquedano-Lopez said, building bridges across different groups will make the campus overall a more inclusive space.

“We believe having a collective voice is a powerful message,” Baquedano-Lopez said. “We know we have a certain perspective and interest that is particular to Latino staff, faculty and students on campus, so this step is significant in recognizing and addressing that presence.”

Victor Adame, president of Latino fraternity Gamma Zeta Alpha, said he was happy to know that the faculty group was established because it is a step toward understanding Latino cultural differences, such as prioritizing family, that can become barriers to higher education.

“It’s hard because minorities want to step up and change, but it’s hard when we’re seen as not as intelligent,” Adame said. “Because we’re Latino, we feel like we have to prove we’re smart, (because people tend to think) we got into Cal just because we’re a minority.”

Omar Davila Jr., a graduate student research associate at the Center for Latino Policy Research, said underrepresentation is a reflection of larger social issues such as undocumented status, lack of opportunities to enter particular jobs and low-quality high schools that impinge on efforts to further academic careers.

Davila said the “unapologetic sense of competition” on campus can breed “hostile environments,” which can often be hard to cope with and navigate through without a support system. According to Davila, the faculty association’s work to create a supportive space can improve the number of Chicanos/Latinos on campus and also help them graduate.

To commemorate the establishment of the association, UC Berkeley alumnus and Assemblymember Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, held a conversation Thursday to talk about the relationship between Latinos and California.

Alejo said he would raise the issues presented by the faculty group to UC President Janet Napolitano when she is due to meet with the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

“That’s why we come to places like UC Berkeley — to put (our education) to good use,” Alejo said at the event. “But always remember to give back to our communities and hopefully run for office one day, where you can make huge ideas a reality for California.”

Contact Jamie Nguyen at [email protected].