G. Cristina Mora, an associate professor in the UC Berkeley department of sociology and co-director of the Institute of Governmental Studies, said she feels invisible and underrepresented at UC Berkeley as a member of the Latine community.
“It’s just maddening. Sometimes if I think about it too much I get very despondent,” Mora said. “It’s maddening to be at a flagship public institution that really hasn’t taken its commitment to the Latino community of California as seriously as it should.”
Latine individuals make up around 7% of the total faculty on campus, according to Mora. The Latine and Chicanx communities make up around 40% of California’s population, Mora noted. As campus moves toward becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, Mora and other Latine faculty are calling for better representation.
Campus has been increasing the representation of the Latine community and more than doubled the number of Latine faculty hired since eight years ago, according to Victoria Plaut, vice provost for faculty. Plaut said campus recently hired seven new faculty members in the Latinxs and Democracy cluster.
“We only have three full-time faculty in the Chicano/Latino studies program,” Mora said. “The numbers themselves are astounding and that is a reflection of where the school has placed its priorities and commitments.”
Mora alleged that diversity efforts on campus have historically excluded the Latine community. She said the continued discrepancy between messages of commitments to diversity and the lack of representation is angering.
With low diversity, the burden of advocacy falls on the shoulders of the few Latine faculty, according to Laura Pérez, professor in the campus department of ethnic studies. Pérez said this can be isolating for Latine faculty, as they may be the only Latine member in their department, which leaves them without the chance for connection.
“One of the problems that also comes along with being a scholar of color, including a Latinx scholar, is that there are so few of us,” Pérez said. “People who mean well on campus are always inviting us to serve on committees so that we can help increase a sensitivity to diversity, but people of color have observed that this has ended up functioning as sort of a tax that we end up doing, (and it’s) a great deal of work.”
This work does not necessarily lead to a promotion, according to Pérez. Mora added many Latine faculty are constantly working to move campus toward reaching their publicly advertised diversity missions.
This activism and work, however, has created a sense of purpose and support in an isolating environment, Mora said. Although Mora said the presence of these communities and working with fellow Latine faculty help her sense of belonging, she noted not seeing her community represented makes her feel like she doesn’t belong.
“When you have representation of different groups on faculty, students in particular are able to connect on broader collective markers of identity,” said Pablo Gonzalez, a continuing lecturer in Chicanx/Latinx studies. “Having more Latinx faculty on campus means that the growing number of Latinx students in California or those that attend Cal have some form of representation.”
Latine students feel invisible on campus when they do not see their community represented by the faculty, Mora said. Mora noted students have confided in her about feeling underrepresented before taking classes with Latine faculty. Latine students often feel as if they are afterthoughts without representation, Mora added.
Gonzalez said Latine students often come to him and his fellow Latine faculty for mentorship.
“It is very difficult to navigate an institution when you don’t see people like you in relative power,” Mora said. “California has the most Latinos, the highest percent of Latinos compared to every other state, and here in the … flagship institution we are the most underrepresented.”