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Lacking the Latino
by Heather Stratton

Not willing, apathy, well we're here for you, but weÌre not here for you, are the words that come out of Victoria Cepeida-Mojarro's mouth as she speaks to me about the struggle for getting Latino Studies on campus.

Indeed, the struggle to gain a Latino Studies program is more than just a matter of gaining a new department and a set of new classes examining the hispanic culture in America; rather, it is about a whole generation of Latinos at NYU and throughout America who are putting their heritage behind them.

ÏNo one says that they donÌt want a Latino Studies program, says Cepeida-Mojarro. Everyone wants more diversity, but students are not willing to fight for it. A fight, precisely the definition of the main Latino organizations on campus that has been going on since 1972. Group organization and proposals concerning the specific details of a how a Latino Studies program would be initiated on campus are not the reasons for the fruition in this movement. Symposiums, lectures and conferences have been held. A petition reeling the names of students, professors and administrators has been created. And the administration itself says that it wants to see this program come into development. But then why has it failed?

It comes down to building a critical mass: a group of students who are willing to consistently put their efforts forward to demand changes. Rankings that claim NYU has one of the nation's top politically active student bodies and a considerable Latino population on campus would make one believe that enthusiasm and participation would be the least of LUCHA's concerns. People show up at the information sessions we hold, says Cepeida-Mojarro, but the problem is that most students are not willing to major in Latino Studies. The consequence of this is that less students are willing to put their time and energy into making Latino Studies a reality.

Indeed, most students would argue that classes that fit into the category of Latino Studies could be placed into other departments, such as Metropolitian Studies, History or Sociology. Cepeida-Mojarro refutes this position.It encompasses a much wider spectrum of issues that does not fit under any one of these departments.

The importance of such a program to minorities and non-minorities alike is one that is not clearly defined or appreciated. Diversity is most often understood through statistics rather than understanding. A Latino Studies program would be one way that students could gain a deeper understanding of minority cultures in America.

This has an important implication for students in any field of study. Cepeida-Mojarro suggests that students press for the formation of a program rather than a department, that begins with the offering of a minor and eventually builds into the development of a major.
How to strike a major interest on campus though? That is the question of the year! says Cepeida-Mojarro. It seems LUCHA has tried nearly everything, from sending out flyers and emails to approaching people personally.

Many of the students at the forefront of this movement will soon be graduating, and after such a long period of exhausting efforts with few results, members are starting to become weary. But I'm not going to give up this fight, Cepeida-Mojarro says. I'll keep on trying.


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