While the controversial removal of Silent Sam was the main focus of UNC Chancellor Folt’s final meeting with the Board of Trustees Thursday, there was another major development in the push for a more inclusive campus: the long awaited-approval of a Carolina Latinx Student Center.
Latinx students have been asking for a center for years, and in October 2016 they organized a demonstration called “Estamos Aquí UNC.” Last January, members of the UNC Undergraduate Senate unanimously passed a resolution outlining requirements for a new Latinx student center that could physically accommodate and provide resources for the campus’s growing Latinx student population.
“It’s been fascinating to see how much students really wanted this,” says Josmell Pérez, the assistant director for multicultural programs and the Carolina Latinx Collaborative. “It is something that they can point to and say, ‘I can see myself and my communities represented.’”
The new center will open this coming August in Abernathy Hall, a central part of campus that is easily accessible to students. It will take the place of and expand the existing Carolina Latinx Collaborative, which formed in 2009 as a committee to explore the needs of UNC’s Latinx community.
The Collaborative quickly outgrew the small space it was initially given and struggled to provide adequate support for UNC’s growing Latinx community.
“Year after year, the Collaborative continued to make magic out of scarce university resources, and it demanded the need for more, more space, more staff, more funding,” says Theresa Flores, who is now pursuing a master’s degree at the UNC School of Social Work.
Theresa was a freshman in 2009 when the Carolina Latinx Collaborative formed, and she has been an active member throughout its history.
“As an undergraduate student, the Collaborative served as the central hub for Latinx students and gave me a space where I felt affirmed, supported, and could find a community that was particularly necessary as a first-generation Salvadoran Mexican student,” she says.
The center will enable Collaborative members to expand their initiatives by engaging with partners from other areas of the university. They hope to invite not only members of the Latinx community but students of all backgrounds to learn about Latinx culture, exchange ideas, and create a sense of community.
The announcement drew praise from the antiracism groups on campus who have opposed Silent Sam’s presence on campus.
“As student and community activists, we have long witnessed and participated in Latinx students’ fight for a space to call their own,” Take Action Chapel Hill said in a statement. “The fight for the Latinx Center was born from the same pain, resilience, and hope that birthed the struggle for the Sonja Haynes Stone Center, for Hurston Hall, and against Silent Sam. The leaders of these movements are the students who refused to be marginalized, tokenized, silenced, and forgotten.”
I fear steps towards self segregation and area’s where certain races aren’t welcomed will have the opposite effect of what was intended. We need to be bringing people together, not separating them based on race.
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