UC Berkeley community celebrates Latinx Heritage Month, acknowledges shortcomings

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Latinx Heritage Month, which lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is being celebrated in the Berkeley community through music, food and open discussions.

Since 1988, the United States has honored the contributions, history and culture of the Latinx community through Latinx Heritage Month.

The Alianza Staff Association, a campus Chicanx/Latinx staff association, will sponsor a number of different activities, including a music and dance celebration Oct. 11 at La Peña Cultural Center, according to Fredda Olivares, co-chair of the association. Other events include a salsa food contest at Alianza’s next monthly meeting Oct. 16 to “exhibit the flavors of our diverse community,” Olivares said.

On Sept. 30, the César Chávez and Dolores Huerta Commemorative committee — made up of city officials, Berkeley Unified School District members and community members — will hold the fourth annual Celebrando Comunidad en La Placita, with food, live music, children’s activities and an artisan fair at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.

Currently, Chicanx/Latinx students make up about 15 percent of UC Berkeley’s undergraduate population and 8 percent of graduate populations, according to a campuswide press release from Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion Oscar Dubón, sent Sept. 18 to mark the beginning of Latinx Heritage Month.

Dubón focused on UC Berkeley’s strategic plan to become a Hispanic Serving Institution, or HSI, in the next 10 years, in the press release. Becoming an HSI would mean that at least 25 percent of the student population is Latinx.

“It will definitely send a message to students who gain admission to this campus that this campus wants their success,” said co-chair of Alianza Staff Association Juan Berumen. “Currently, Latinx students have one of the lowest yield rates at Berkeley, meaning that Latinx students are earning admission to the campus but don’t come due to the climate on campus that is not the friendliest and not dedicating our resources in the best way.”

Berumen added that Alianza is co-sponsoring a discussion Oct. 4 and is inviting the vice chancellor of student affairs from UC Santa Cruz, which has already achieved HSI status. They plan to discuss the “lessons learned at UC Santa Cruz in becoming an HSI,” Berumen said.

Berumen added that Chancellor Carol Christ has done an “excellent job” in bridging the disconnect between administration and staff and has tried to change perceptions and gain trust.

“It is important to build trust between Latinx staff and administration,” Berumen said. “It is going to take time. There has been several administration that have neglected communities of color and allies, but we feel confident with the direction of the new administration.”

Contact Yousef Al Refaei at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @RefaeiYousef.