Letter to the Editor: Hispanic representation on campus

David Manjarres

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Dear Editor,

I am writing today in hopes of reaching out not only to the Spinnaker staff but to the student body and administrators. In my short time in Jacksonville and around the UNF community, I’ve noticed a severe lack of representation for students of Latin American descent. My days at the University of North Florida are coming to a close and I would be remiss if I did not address this issue now. It might be a long time until someone else decides to step up.

First a few statistics, Hispanics make up the largest minority at UNF and we are the fastest growing. As of 2017, 11% percent of UNF students self-identify as Hispanic, while about nine percent identify as African American, and less than five percent Asian, this according to collegefactual.com. The student population has witnessed incredible growth in just a short time making it the fastest-growing minority group on campus. Seeing these numbers, one would assume the Hispanic community would at least have a representation on campus and in the community that reflected this. Right? Sadly this is not the case and the reason for my letter today.

Greek Life Inclusivity

Today there is a multicultural Greek council made up of three organizations (one fraternity and two sororities). The fraternity is South-Asian based, the smallest minority group on campus. If we want to equally represent all groups, we would have at least two Latino-based Greek lettered organizations (Fraternity and sorority). This would give more options to the already significant Latino student population and allow for more choice when it comes to student and campus life activities.. While Latino students have the option of joining the traditional IFC and PC organizations most first-generation college students of Hispanic heritage cannot afford the heavy dues or cannot consider those organizations home due to the sheer difference in culture. Latino Greek Lettered organizations will give these students the ability to find a group of like-minded individuals in their college years that they can call family and will help them learn more about their culture. In addition, these organizations have tremendous experience in guiding students to be academically, professionally, and socially successful beyond their college years through mentorship and networking. A Latino fraternity/sorority would also be able to act as a support system to students that are non-members in their time of need. Other universities throughout the country have multiple Latino Greek Lettered organizations. On average, state universities in Florida have at least six organizations, UNF has none. The worst part is that there has been recent interest from Latino organizations to expand to UNF, but they have been turned away even though there has been supporting from the administration. The last time a multicultural organization was added to UNF was in 2014. Since 2014 there has been the addition of one IFC organization and two PC organizations. Why is it that it is a lot more simple to add more traditional Greek organizations than adding more multicultural organizations? especially when there are a demand and need for them. It is my belief that A Latino fraternity or sorority would be highly successful at UNF for various reasons. One is the high population of Latino students as stated previously. Also, Latino-based the high interest from the campus on the Latino culture would make events hosted by the Latino Greek Lettered organization quite successful. Currently, the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) is the most successful cultural club at UNF, and they already have a strong partnership with the Greek organizations. With the Latino-based orgs, that partnership will only be strengthened. It is imperative to add More Latino based Organizations at UNF.

Spinnaker’s Coverage 

Spinnaker can improve on its coverage of events in the Latin American community. During my presidency of the Latin American Student Organization, Spinnaker promised a strong partnership with us. Sadly they have not delivered on such promises. Since 2016, LASO hosted somewhere around 20-30 events ranging from dance classes, guest speaker forums, town halls, and dinners and overall events around the community, Spinnaker has only written five articles in that time frame.

LASO also hosts the biggest non-Osprey Production event on campus, Nuestra Noche. More than 200 students have attended this event in the last two years, but Spinnaker has repeatedly failed to cover it.  Let’s not forget other student organizations at UNF that have a Latin American background. The Latin American Business Club hosted a discussion forum on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the UNF College Republicans. This was a great event where two groups of opposing points of views were able to come together and have a civilized discussion on this hot button issue. Spinnaker was notified of it, but no one was “available” to cover it.

Osprey Production’s Events

Third, it is hard to deny that Latin culture has shared some time in the spotlight and has in essence become more “Mainstream”. We’ve had many musical hits in the last year alone where the number 1 hit song in the WORLD was “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. Other top artist that are familiar in the community are J Balvin, Ozuna, Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull, etc. If there was a survey done on campus, I can guarantee you that at least 60% of the campus knows of or enjoys listening to the music by one of these artists. Why is it that we never get some diversity from Osprey Production in the concert line ups? I can guarantee you that if one was added to the lineup, the concerts would have at least 500+ students lined up to attend. Osprey Productions is probably the agency with the least diversity on our campus. Even with smaller projects, they don’t seem to take interest in diversity and culture. Osprey Production could easily partner up with LASO, BSU (Black Student Union) or ASIA (Asian Students in Alliance) and have amazing events, instead of the empty seats that show they are underperforming in terms of student events.

The solutions to the under representation is quite simple. Here is a list of ideas that can make the college experience at UNF a lot better:

  1. Add more Hispanic reporters to the staff in Spinnaker. If Spinnaker went to talk about their opportunities at LASO events, they could successfully recruit a bigger and more diverse team.
  2. Spinnaker needs to send their reporters to urgent/major events, especially when they were notified by student leaders on campus and write stories on them instead of writing simple stories that do not get a lot of interest such as the review on the latest album by 30 Seconds to Mars.
  3. Add at least two Latino based Greek Lettered organizations in the next 2 years: one fraternity and one sorority.
  4. Osprey Productions should get at least one artist (singer or comedian) of a diverse background per year. It would improve rating from students of the organization by seeing more diversity in the lineup.
  5. Osprey Production should have events based on the theme of the months such as more events that reflect Hispanic Heritage Month, or African American History Month.
  6. UNF should invite more guest speakers like President Felipe Calderon that came recently and better advertise these events.

I care about the issue of misrepresentation the apparent lack of representation on campus for Latinos and other cultures. with today’s political climate it’s undeniably been a trying time for fringe and minority groups to have a voice or even express ourselves. It would only benefit our campus seeing more representation and equal service to minorities on campus and the community. So, I ask that the departments and agencies stated in this letter will take all of this into consideration and hopefully act to make this a better experience for all students.

Best wishes,

David Manjarres

Former President of the Latin American Student Organization