WEST major in jeopardy after losing core program

11 September 2018

Tamera Twitty

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    In the Spring of 2018, Director of the Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, Dr. Dena Samuels, resigned from her position. Samuels was an assistant professor in Women’s and Ethnic Studies.

    Since her resignation, the Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Dr. Peter Braza, has decided to reallocate Samuel’s tenure track position to another department. Losing her line has now lead to the loss of Latino Studies from the Women and Ethnic Studies (WEST) department.

    Considering that the largest ethnic minority at UCCS currently are Latinos according to Andrea Herrera, Director of WEST and Associate Vice Chancellor for Inclusion and Academic Affairs, this loss is a considerable hit to the entire WEST department. At this time, the department is in need of faculty to carry the Latino studies courses and certificate program. Losing this program might be damaging to the university’s commitment and core mission to encourage diversity, equity and social action.

    The action to reallocate the tenure has already been taken, and acts as a blow to the WEST department and potentially as a precursor to the disappearance of the WEST major.   

    “I am calling this an imminent threat to WEST,” said Herrera. “Currently the program is struggling to regain its position.”

    The WEST program prides itself in an intersectional approach to race, class, gender, sexuality and other varying degrees of privilege and oppression. The department actively promotes on campus equity and diversity through events and social action projects.

    “It is incredibly empowering and validating for students with diverse backgrounds to be exposed to literature and information that reflects that,” says Herrera.

    WEST at UCCS serves the entire campus. Even students who are not majors are able to reach out to program leaders for support. The program encourages the campus community to be civic minded and advocates for social action in the surrounding Colorado Springs community as well.

    “Imagine what it would be like if we did not have this program on campus,” says Herrera. “What would it say about UCCS if it didn’t have that commitment to diversity.”

    Herrera describes the loss of Latino studies as taking one leg from a table — eventually it will fall apart. “However, the department has been working with Chancellor Reddy and Provost Christenson. We are trying very hard to resolve this issue and are cautiously hopeful about what is to come.”

    With everything that the program offers, WEST is fighting to retrieve a strong Latino Studies program.