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UNT on the cusp of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution

UNT on the cusp of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution

UNT on the cusp of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution
October 04
11:59 2019

UNT is on the cusp of becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution as the hispanic student population has risen to approximately 24.9 percent, Multicultural Center Director Damian Torres said.

A Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) is defined as a university with hispanic enrollment making up 25 percent of total enrollment. UNT needs roughly 33 more people in order to qualify, according to Susan Ramirez, the president of UNT’s Latinx/Hispanic Student Union (LHSU).

“This only proves how much the Union has been needed, just because sadly within our community we are barely finding out about different organizations and different resources,” Ramirez said. “It’s long overdue at this point.”

As of 2017-2018, there are 523 institutions met the definition of an HSI in the United States, with Texas being the state with the highest number of HSIs at 92. HSIs in the North Texas area include Texas Women’s University, UNT Dallas and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Once UNT becomes an HSI, the university is eligible to apply for funding through Title V under the Higher Education Act of 1965, which was created in order to expand educational opportunities for hispanic students. The grants, which have ranged up to $700,000, may be used for investing in expenditures such as lab equipment, students support services and faculty development.

The only budget that is currently considered at the multicultural center is for the Black Student Union.

“Now that the LHSU is coming along, it is an additional budget that isn’t completely taken into consideration,” Ramirez said. “I’m hoping this will help a little bit with programming, maybe even having bigger events that hopefully make that exposure a little more evident.”

Vice president and integrative studies junior Melodie Hernandez echoed a similar sentiment.

“I feel like a lot of the hispanic organizations could be funded better than they are now, like the Multicultural Center,” Hernandez said. “That’s a big part of the campus and a lot of people don’t know what that is.”

Hernandez said she feels like UNT needs more events on campus that cater to the hispanic community.

“We do have some events, but I feel like a lot of them are kind of white-washed, in my opinion,” Hernandez said. “A lot of the time it’s not as genuine as a lot of the Hispanic community would want it to be.”

Because of this issue, Ramirez said she thinks there needs to be more exposure on certain topics and resources.

“Our goal is to make those events more student-led,” Ramirez said. “When students do find out about certain talks and panels and stuff, it’s usually around a time that’s very inconvenient or there wasn’t enough publicity, and a lot of students are not aware [of them].”

To Ramirez, the fact that UNT is close to becoming an HSI will make transitions smoother for many students.

“It just proves how much nearer UNT is getting to serving a community, especially a community that a lot of us feel like a minority,” Ramirez said. “It’s important to have that safe space and the sense of a home away from home.”

A university qualifying an HSI does not guarantee funding will be provided, but the title is still important in terms of accurately reflecting the region’s demographics on campus, Torres said.

“Ideally that gives other students opportunities who are a part of that community and who aren’t a part of that community an opportunity to learn from one another and to ideally get a better understanding of what it looks like to exist in that space,” Torres said.

Despite the growing hispanic student population, Torres said UNT’s diverse student demographics are not as accurately reflected in the faculty and staff.

“I’m in a space where we work very consistently with faculty groups on campus to better attract and retain faculty of color,” Torres said. “As we continue to grow and expand those efforts I believe we will continue to see some of those shifts at a full time employee level as well.”

UNT President Neal Smatresk discussed improving cultural competence on campus in order to better support first generation and minority students during the 2019 State of the University address, which Torres attended.

“The only thing to do now is to just continue to tell our story and to continue to highlight and showcase as authentically and accurately the experiences that our faculty have and our staff and administrators have that our students have,” Torres said.

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Michelle Nguyen

Michelle Nguyen

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