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CHispA panelists talk diversity

Carolina Hispanic Association (CHipsA) panelists Manny Amaya, left, Cecilia Polanco, and Emilio Vicente speak to members of the UNC-Chapel Hill chapter of the NAACP in the Upendo Lounge at SASB North.
Carolina Hispanic Association (CHipsA) panelists Manny Amaya, left, Cecilia Polanco, and Emilio Vicente speak to members of the UNC-Chapel Hill chapter of the NAACP in the Upendo Lounge at SASB North.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the position Kristen Gardner holds within CHispA. She is the first-year chairwoman and is a part of the First-Year and Transfer Committee. The story has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

The panel was jointly hosted by the Carolina Hispanic Association to discuss various issues minority students face on UNC’s campus.

“I think that Carolina, in comparison to other universities, is very diverse, and every year we have more students to add to the diversity,” said CHispA president Cecilia Polanco, who was on the panel.

“But I think there’s still a long way to go. There is always room for improvement.”

Panel member and UNC senior Manny Amaya said he agreed with Polanco.

“It’s not that diversity is nonexistent here — it’s just sometimes hard to find,” Amaya said.

Emilio Vicente, a senior and the final member of the three-person panel, said he thinks the UNC faculty still lacks diversity.

“There isn’t much diversity within our faculty, especially outside of the Spanish department,” he said.

He added that, as a first-generation college student, he has different needs from most of the other students on campus.

“I always connect with a professor much more easily if they have a similar background as me,” Vicente said.

The panel was one of many informational events, including film screenings and lectures, organized by CHispA for Hispanic Heritage Month between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15.

Another topic raised during the panel was the relationship between minority students and the rest of campus.

“I personally feel that the minorities on campus are pretty tight-knit. We haven’t been able to reach out to the majority students as we might have hoped,” said junior Genesis Cruz, vice president of CHispA.

Audience member and recent UNC graduate Jaclyn Gilstrap said she attended the panel because she wants to be an advocate for Hispanic students on UNC’s campus.

“I graduated from UNC in 2008, and I see this as a problem that UNC faces every year — the lack of voice that minority students have on campus,” she said.

“I think it’s important, for me, as part of a majority group, to reach out to them so it’s not always their responsibility to reach out to us.”

Freshman Kristen Gardner is the first-year chairwoman for CHispA. 

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She said people are always surprised to hear that she is working with the organization since she is not Latina, but she emphasized how important it is for both non-Latinos and Latinos alike to partner together at UNC.

Polanco said CHispA encourages any interested students to join, regardless of their ethnicity.

“You can be an ally to someone who isn’t the same as you, but whom you feel empathy for,” Polanco said.

“As an organization, we’re Latino-based, but not Latino-exclusive. I’d like to extend an invitation for anyone to join us.”

university@dailytarheel.com