“Any time we come to the University to ask for their help, we’ve always been met with obstacles,” Christopher Guevara, an organizer of the protest, said.
Guevara said yesterday’s protest was about pushing UNC to create a Latinx student center and getting representation for the community in that process.
“This protest is called ‘Estamos Aqui UNC.’ This is a result of some kind of background administration that has (been) going on for the past eight years for a Carolina Latinx center,” Guevara said.
“We’ve been vying for a location that can be shared between Latinx students, faculty and alumni. The reason we are doing this protest is to demand input in that center. We are demanding a meeting with this committee, so they can get input from Latinx leaders from across the community.”
The Carolina Latina/o Collaborative currently meets in the Seminar Wing of Craige North residence hall.
“Three seminar rooms and an office space aren’t enough to serve the 1,400 Latinx students that are here at UNC,” Guevara said.
He said the administration has taken some steps to address their concerns, but there hasn’t been enough representation of the Latinx community in discussions about these issues.
Guevara, a member of the Latinx Unity Council, said the council is concerned that the University is not listening to their concerns and is using the efforts of Latinx students for publicity.
“All of the Latinx programming that goes on here at the University — the University loves to publish it, and they love to claim diversity,” Guevara said. “But when it comes to voicing our concerns about the need for a space so that we can work as a community, we keep getting shut down.”
Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean attended the protest and addressed the crowd at the end. The protestors passed around copies of their letter to the University and read it aloud.
“I’m glad that (the demands) are written out here,” Folt said. “I wish I could say that I don’t agree with everything that was said, but I do. In fact, all of us that are here do agree that the Latinx community is so important to this University and to being the university of the people.”
Folt said she hears the students’ demand for space, but believes change will need to involve a lot more.
“Space is important, but change is in admissions, it’s in financial aid, it’s in mental health and it’s in advising,” she said. “That’s both the strength and a little bit of the problem.”
Dean apologized to the protesters for not listening to their concerns in the past.
“We love that you’re here, but we don’t just want you here, we want you to be here and flourish and thrive, and I’m sorry that you don’t feel that way,” he said. “I promise we’ll do a better job working with you to do that.”
Dean made a promise to give the community a down payment.
“We have gotten together recently and decided to add two staff members to support the CLC, so there will be some full-time support for people,” he said. “It’s just the beginning.”
Folt said she hopes to have a clear plan and measurable change in place by the end of the semester.
“We have been thinking about this, and it is deep in our desires for this University,” she said. “But I know that it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t show and it doesn’t feel real.”
Guevara said this protest wasn’t an attack on the administration but an attempt to reach an agreement.
“What we’re trying to do is foster a conversation between the Latinx community and the University administration,” Guevara said.
“We aren’t here to hold you hostage, we don’t want to boycott putting on the events we love. Not only does that hurt the University, but it hurts us.”