On Dec. 4, 2012, the faculty and staff of Bellevue College received a letter written by the members of the El Centro Latino Program and the Latin American Culture Club and published with the help of Faisal Jaswal, Assistant Dean of Students. In this letter, the student members highlighted their frustration and feelings of a lack of support by the BC community. The central message of the letter was that without the efforts of El Centro and the LACC, there would have been no recognition of Latino Heritage Month.
As it currently stands, Black History Month is the only school-endorsed event of its kind, with faculty and staff coming together to help with the planning process of a series of events to highlight the importance of the African American community present at BC. However no such month has yet been endorsed for the Latino community, a community which accounts for 16.7% of the United States population according to the United States Census Bureau.
Gabriela Gonzalez, Director of El Centro Latino, is looking for this to change, as the last several attempts at hosting Latino related events have yielded “disappointing results.”
“We invited faculty and staff, we used the emails that everybody does for BC, and nobody showed up for the events. Every single time we had the events it was just members of the club coming to the event. And we felt the lack of support on [the faculty’s] behalf because we invited people and we were hoping to see them there, and it was just like a slap in the face because nobody showed up. We worked so hard on putting this together, and we were so excited.”
Several of the faculty were quick to voice concerns for the situation, and offered reassurance to El Centro Latino and the LACC’s members by sharing examples of their commitment to contributions to the diversity on campus.
The question was raised whether faculty should feel a “responsibility” to attend, as well as bring their students to such events.
“‘Responsibility’ implies a burden. That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said History Department Faculty Sabrina Sanchez. “If you ask any BC faculty member, we would tell you that we don’t have the ‘responsibility’ to take our students to campus events, but we get the privilege to even have the opportunity to take our students to events that most schools around the country don’t have the resources or funding to offer.”
“[The letter] was meant as an invitation,” said Jaswal. “I [felt] like it needed to go to the college community, because there are some fantastic opportunities when folks stand up to do social justice work, when folks stand up to be counted, when folks stand up to speak on behalf of those that are marginalized.”
There is now a dialogue underway to endorse a Latino Heritage Month, as well as movement toward recognizing many of the other clubs and programs in the BC community in a similar fashion.
“My definition of a learning community is that, in a learning community, we are all learners, we are all facilitators, and we are all teachers. The letter is enunciating…Yes we’re doing a lot, yes we are diverse, yes we do need to do a lot more,” said Jaswal. “We can program and we can teach around those, we can build curricula around the questions that not only our college community is grappling with, but around questions that our nation is grappling with, we as a human race is grappling with. That’s what happens at educational institutions, these are the talk leaders, support them. They are the canary in the gold mine, they are voicing something that we should really be listening to, and that is what being inclusive is all about.” Contact Gabriela Gonzalez for more information.