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Students Seek Answers as UNC Suspends Mexican American Studies

GREELEY, Colo. — More than 50 people who attended a forum on Friday are demanding answers after a degree majoring in Mexican American studies was suspended.

Latinos in the group said it was an insult to their culture.

Donna Bottenberg, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, was scheduled to host the forum, along with Department of Hispanic Studies Chairwoman Joy Landeira and Dean of University College Tom Smith. Only Landeira, Smith and a moderator discussed the issues raised by students, faculty and others who attended.

Bottenberg said the decision involved other people as well and was based on facts about the program.

“In the future, I’ll communicate in writing,” she said.

The hastily arranged forum came after pushback from Latino students and professors following the university’s decision to suspend the major last month because of low enrollment.

Just two students are majoring in Mexican American studies this year, and only 11 students enrolled in the 2010-11 academic year.

Landeira said she and professors Priscilla Falcon and Genevieve Canales were blindsided during a meeting by Bottenberg’s decision to suspend the major.

“They’re nurturing relationships, and that’s great. But what about nurturing relationships with the largest minority group in the United States?” Canales asked on Friday.

Smith tried to reassure the crowd that the suspension was not a sign of eventual elimination.

If the suspension remains in place, Landeira and her colleagues will have until Sept. 15 to create a focused plan to address the major’s challenges, including limited job outcomes. Three of the five publicized potential jobs are human relations positions. The two others are event planner and translator.

Landeira said school work could continue without suspending the major. She also said the suspension, which came right before students were able to declare majors, could set the program back further.

“I think it’s clear that there’s, internally, personally, people on campus who feel insulted and disrespected,” Smith said. “We must fix that with dialogue.”

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