By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
The most vocal students at Wednesday’s Hispanic Heritage Month Listening Session voiced discontent with the culture at Baylor regarding Hispanic students.
Organized by Multicultural Affairs, the Listening Session invited students to discuss the experiences and issues affecting the Hispanic community at Baylor and figure out ways to make the university more inclusive. Problems with finding community and respect at Baylor dominated the afternoon’s discussion.
Mission junior Jennifer De La Fuente said she feels uncomfortable as a Hispanic student at Baylor and points to a class discussion as an example of cultural insensitivity.
“My white professor asked if there were any pros to colonialism. I personally thought this was rhetorical, like she was trying to test who was dumb enough to answer,” De La Fuente said. “This student raises her hand, and she just starts going off about how those countries that were colonized are better off because they were colonized. But that’s not true at all.”
De La Fuente said her courses exacerbate her discomfort, as she thinks the issues discussed in her Latin American Studies classes aren’t being taught from an authentic perspective.
“I don’t feel comfortable at all, even in a classroom setting… what we do study a lot is minorities and we look at them as case studies… then we have white students who are not from those countries, have never experienced that culture, don’t know what that country is actually like— they’re just reading statistics. They’re reading from a white publisher who studied that country,” De La Fuente said.
Pearland junior Dennise Garza said she thinks pressure to fit in at Baylor can keep Hispanic students from embracing their culture.
“Coming from Houston where being Hispanic is the majority, you have people everywhere talking in Spanish. It’s very much part of the culture,” Garza said. “Here, there’s more of an isolation where you have to seek out the culture— you have to seek out people who are similar to you… your culture has to [come second] to fitting in.”
De La Fuente wants to see the Baylor community gain a better understanding of Hispanic culture and experiences, and said personal connection is an important way to bridge cultural gaps.
“Being more empathetic and being more open to hearing people’s stories— I think a lot of the times we’re so stuck in reading our textbooks and learning statistics and case studies but we’ve never really sat one-on-one with people who are different from us,” De La Fuente said. “I think stories are what [cause] people to have changes of heart.”
Garza’s views closely mirrored De La Fuente’s. She said she appreciates people who make an effort to learn about her culture.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I feel like one thing that stops people is they don’t want to come off as offensive; they don’t want to get something wrong,” Garza said. “We would much rather correct you than for you to live on with these [misconceptions]. We’re not going to be offended if you didn’t know about [something], but we will value you more for the fact that you were not afraid to ask.”
The Listening Session was an event included as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, which lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. For a full schedule of events, visit the Baylor website.