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UNC's Latinx community still waiting for a center

The Latinx Unity Council is made up of a coalition of Hispanic groups on campus, including Carolina Hispanic Association and the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative. The entire council is designated to a space in Craige North Residence Hall.

“We actually don’t have priority over the space,” Gaby Aleman, the political action chairperson for CHispA, said. “We have to ask permission from the residents of Craige North and the people who run Craige North. Back then, (the space) was a cop-out, almost, to satisfy our needs, but within the last few years, the community has grown way more.”

Aleman said the Latinx community now makes up 7.8 percent of the student population — over 1,000 students.

“We’ve just completely outgrown the current space,” Aleman said. “Basically, the CLC is looking for a space that can house all of the organizations that the Latinx community runs.”

She said for Hispanic Heritage Month, the Latinx community has to outsource to different buildings to host events because the current space is insufficient to accommodate the events.

Paul Cuadros, founder of CLC and professor in the School of Media and Journalism, said the community has gone through the process to establish a full center for the Latinx community.

Initially, a committee was tasked with writing a proposal for getting a space on campus for the Latinx community. The approval of that proposal led to the creation of the CLC three years ago. Recently, another proposal has been submitted for a Latinx center on campus.

“We presented the proposal to a committee last April and they recommended that they get it approved by senior administration,” Cuadros said.

The CLC is still waiting for final approval by senior administration to continue on with the project, Cuadros said.

“We really push to build this idea that going to college is possible for people within this community and the University publicizes the fact that we are so diverse,” Aleman said. “On the flip side, once we are on campus, (the University) sort of shuns us and doesn’t give us a localized place for us to come together.”

After the Latinx community’s protest on Oct. 12, members of the community have concerns about the next steps in pursuing their journey for space, support and representation at UNC.

“It was a pleasant surprise to see (Provost Jim) Dean apologize and promise to get senior staff members involved in the effort,” junior and protest organizer Chris Guevara said.

Guevara said Dean promised to give the community two staff members to support the CLC, but Guevara said he fears this might not be enough with the community’s growth.

“My biggest fear is that (UNC administration) made promises to use a down payment to quiet us down,” Guevara said.

He said he hopes to see support and leadership within the UNC community and increased transparency from UNC administration.

Guevara said many of the students participating in the protest assumed an ad hoc committee was going to be formed to discuss the issue of creating a space on campus for the Latinx community.

Dean said he thinks there was a misunderstanding.

“There wasn’t any specific meeting to discuss that specific topic,” Dean said.

Dean said UNC administration has put this issue on their agenda to discuss in the future and the issues raised at the protest were not well known to the administration.

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“To tell you the truth, I wasn’t really aware prior to the demonstration that the students were unhappy with the current space they have now,” Dean said. “That was something important that I learned from the demonstration.”

Dean said he reached out to Guevara through email during fall break as a follow-up to the demonstration to set up a meeting.

“I’d like to set up a meeting so that those of us in the administration that are responsible for this can have a better understanding, a complete understanding, of the concerns of the students,” Dean said.

Dean said UNC can’t have a large dedicated space for every group.

“We have lots of spaces on campus, like in the Student Union and we try to use those spaces as efficiently as we can,” he said.

Guevara said the Latinx Unity Council would like to have a conversation with Chancellor Carol Folt.

“We want to help her understand where the community is struggling and compromise on a solution,” he said.