Latin@ Leadership Forum proposes Casa Latina to serve as a safe space for Latino Hoyas

February 25, 2015

The Latin@ Leadership Forum shared a survey with members of the Georgetown community on Feb 18. to gain support for a Latino House, Casa Latina. The Forum claims that Casa Latina will serve as a safe space for self-identified Latino Hoyas and increase community ties, institutional support, and visibility amongst communities of color.

The Provost Committee commissioned Latino student leaders to form a committee for Latino Heritage Month, from Sept. to Oct. 2014. The student leaders remained a committee after the Heritage Month to form the Latin@ Leadership Forum. The Forum members include leaders from Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Atzlán, Latin American Student Association, and Georgetown University Riqueza Dominicana.

“We started off by talking to the President’s office during the Heritage month. Then we started talking to various students on campus and through people who do not identify as latino. We also reached out to alumni, especially alumni of color, who have been looking for something they want to give back to,” said head facilitator of the Forum Naomi Fierro (COL ‘15). The Forum members plan to talk with faculty and staff later in the week.

For the first time this year, two latino students live in the Black House, a residence for students of color established in 1972 after 10 students petitioned then-Georgetown University President Robert Henle, SJ. “[The Latino student leaders] poignantly felt a need for better, more accurate issuing of funds and resources,” Fierro said. “The Black House was supposed to be an all-encompassing multi-cultural house, yet look at the sheer name—it’s the Black House. That’s ignoring and making invisible a lot of other communities.”

Currently, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access oversees the Black House, but the Forum members are looking for an alternative department with a different capacity and desire to accommodate the Latino students. The Black House, however, is a close model for Casa Latina.

“Ideally, we talked about it being physically next to the Black House to facilitate partnerships, because we have had a really good informal relationship with the black community,” Fierro said.

Ediana Then (COL ‘15), LLF member and co-president of GURD, said the LLF has received both support and pushback from the university.

“The president [John Degioia] dismissed the question by basically saying that we already have the Black House,” said Then. “Of course we have solidarity with the black community, but we have different backgrounds and experiences, which should be respected.”

Then added that the Forum faced backlash from a member of the CMEA who alleged that the number of Latino students at Georgetown is dwindling, and thus, there was no need for a latino house on campus.

Charlene Brown-McKenzie, director of the CMEA, declined to comment.

As of Feb. 24, the LLF had received approximately 300 responses to the online survey. According to Then, the next step entails splitting up the LLF into committees, dedicated to alumni relations, students, and faculty and staff. The forum is in motion in the next three weeks to present a proposal to the president.

“I want everyone to know that this is not over. There’s a need here and the students here are going to continue to fight for it,” Then said. “This is not something that the administration can silence by giving us a Magis Row house. The administration should just get on board instead of prolonging the situation.”

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