As Latino Populations Grow…
So does their power. Will they compete or cooperate with African Americans for academic clout?
By Pamela R. Weiger
There is power in numbers, sometimes real, sometimes perceived. Last month’s U.S. Census Bureau release of statistics showing just how fast Hispanic and Asian populations are growing in this country may fuel the perception that, in higher education and elsewhere, African Americans are now competing with these minorities for jobs.
In Arizona, for example, the Hispanic population has grown a whopping 30 percent in the last 10 years. This desert state’s Hispanic/Latino residents — more than one million strong — now constitute more than 22 percent of the population. African Americans, meanwhile, make up only 3.6 percent of Arizona’s residents. And some are murmuring their concerns that the population trend is causing Blacks to be displaced by Hispanics at some of the state’s colleges and universities.
Take Deborah Brouhard, for instance. She lost her job in June after 15 years as a counselor at Arizona State University’s multicultural student center. Her accusations of unfair treatment were blatant.
“ASU is getting to be one big mess for African Americans,” Brouhard says. “When you see all these African Americans leaving, there’s such a void, especially when they are being replaced by Whites or Hispanics.”
In fact, Brouhard says another African American is replacing her. But that didn’t stop her from filing a complaint with the university’s
affirmative action office. And she is considering filing a lawsuit against her former employer for unlawful dismissal and age/gender
She says that at Arizona State, Blacks are being mistreated and forced out, in some cases to be replaced by Hispanics.
But while Brouhard stands firm in her accusations, others
contacted by Black Issues maintain there is no Black-Hispanic rift at the university. If Hispanics are outpacing Blacks in the faculty ranks here, it’s simply a matter of their representation in the community, most say.
Still, as Latino populations continue to swell across the country — the Census Bureau estimates there will be 98 million Hispanics in this country by 2050 — and as their communities gain strength, they just might replace Blacks as the minority community to be reckoned with.
What that means at institutions of higher education remains to be seen. What’s also up for grabs is whether both groups will work together to raise minority representation overall, or if they will separately work toward goals that exclude each other.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire?
While Brouhard and others — many who privately acknowledged the former counselor’s concerns but declined comment for this article — contend that Black faculty and administrators are leaving Arizona State, the statistics paint another picture.
Black faculty actually increased in numbers in the last five years, from 26 to 36, making up about 3 percent of the total faculty. African American undergraduate enrollment at the university also has grown almost 49 percent in the past 10 years, now comprising 2.9 percent of the total student population.
Dr. Walter Harris, who began his position as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina Central University this month after a 20-year tenure at ASU, says he had a “wonderful tenure” at the Arizona school. After climbing the ranks from assistant professor to vice provost, Harris says he left the university simply to take a provost position.
“I felt the faculty received lots of support from the administration,” he says.
The perception that Blacks are competing with Hispanics, Harris believes, is partly a reflection of sheer numbers.
“Obviously in the Southwest there are more Hispanics than African Americans,” he says. “When you’ve got more people, you have more influence in some situations. But the groups are not pitted against one
Another Black administrator who left ASU a couple of years ago thinks that the university’s problem may lie not on the campus, but in the community.
“Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” says the official, who prefers not to be identified because he now holds a high-profile position at another university. When asked whether there is a Black/Hispanic issue, he says that “a number of people have left without pinpointing the real reason.”
The former ASU employee says the “Hispanic issue” might be one angle, but the subtext is a lack of community among African Americans in the Phoenix area. Schools that have a community that presses its concerns about hiring people of color, he says, are increasingly responsive to those concerns.
“That type of community seems to be noticeably lacking in Phoenix,” he says. “There is a need for the community to be actively engaged, but that doesn’t seem to be out there.”
Indeed, Brouhard says she got no support from Arizona State’s Black caucus director, and numerous phone messages left for the director by this publication were not answered.
A Bad Premise
Hispanic students at ASU comprise close to 10 percent of the total student body, and undergraduate Hispanic enrollment has increased by 88 percent during the past 10 years. The number of Hispanic full-time tenure and tenure-track faculty has grown from 80 to 91 since 1995, now constituting 7 percent of the total faculty.
ASU has one Black dean, a number that has been steady since 1995. Five years ago, the institution had three Hispanic deans; it now has one. There are 25 deans at the college and 50 assistant or associate deans, one of whom is Black and one Hispanic.
Dr. Mildred Garcia, vice provost for academic personnel at ASU West, says that as a Puerto Rican, she relates to both her African American and Hispanic blood and says she has a problem with the way the situation is being characterized as a competition between the two.
“All institutions have problems with under-representation of African Americans and Latinos,” Garcia says. “We have not gotten to the point where either is represented — we still have a way to go for an administrative team that represents our community.”
While acknowledging that Latinos seem to be a more solidified group, Garcia says the issue may be specific to ASU’s main campus. At West campus, she maintains, all minorities need to be better represented.
“Do people think we’re not represented? Yes,” she says. “Do we have a long way to go? Yes.
“But the struggle is not among us, and the minute we start to do that, we lose the battle.”
For their part, school officials deny any attempt to replace African American employees with Hispanics.
“Isolated incidents might give people that impression,” says Barbara Mawhiney, director of the university’s office of affirmative action and equal opportunity. “But I don’t see that kind of competition or trade-off here.”
That seems to be the bigger-picture
consensus as well.
“African Americans are not in competition with Hispanics or [American Indians] any more than with Whites,” says Dr. Henry Ponder, CEO and president of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, a national umbrella and public policy advocacy organization for 118 historically and predominantly Black colleges and universities.
There are times, Ponder says, when African Americans and Hispanics will be vying for the same position in localized competition, but that is not the same issue.
“We are not in a situation where Black professionals in higher education should say our enemy is Hispanics,” Ponder says. “If there is an enemy, it is still the White
“We are not the enemy,” agrees Dr. Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, a national organization representing Hispanic-serving institutions. “We most definitely need more representation in positions in academia, but not at the expense of anyone else.”
Flores notes that Hispanics represent less than 4 percent of all executive and faculty positions in colleges and universities, while currently making up about 15 percent of the population.
“My sense is that African Americans, Hispanics, [American Indians], women and other under-represented groups have always been competing for the leftovers in academic positions,” he says. “Instead of competing, these groups should be trying to unify and expand opportunities for all under-represented groups.”
The question of whether one group is displacing another implies that there is a designated number of positions for minorities, and that, says Flores, is a bad premise to begin with.
“It’s not the way we want to think about equality issues,” he says
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