Student legislation proposes ethnic studies class, Native American and Indigenous Cultural and Resource Center

Sara Schleede

Students can explore African, Latin American and Native American studies and more through UT-Austin curricula, but the opportunity to study many ethnic groups at once can seem limited. 

Senate Resolution 1807, introduced at the Senate meeting Thursday night, advocates for the creation of an ethnic studies class to allow underclassmen the chance to explore the study of different ethnic groups in the United States.

Senate policy director Amrutha Sreedharane said the class would not be able to offer a comprehensive history of all ethnic groups but hopefully, would ignite a student’s interest to learn more after being introduced to the topics.  

“This class would be co-taught from faculty from different ethnic studies departments,” computer science senior Sreedharane said. “It wouldn’t just be a content-based class but skill-building to teach students on how to think about these issues as a whole.”

In addition, Senate approved S.R. 1805 in support of allowing course seats to be reserved for students pursuing specific certificates and minors. This would add to UT’s current course registration system which allows departments to restrict course seats by major, honors programs and course prerequisites.

“We reached out to eight or nine different colleges,” said Greg Pauloski, natural sciences policy director and computer science junior. “All of them responded positively to the legislation, saying if they were to use it, they would find it useful, but there would only be limited cases in which they would find it necessary.”

Senate also approved Joint Resolution 1802 in support of the creation of a Native American and Indigenous Cultural and Resource Center. 

The legislation requests the allocation of a space in central campus — such as the Flawn Academic Center, the Student Activity Center or Patton Hall — for Native American and Indigenous students, faculty and community members to convene. The Native American and Indigenous Collective is currently one of the six agencies housed in the Multicultural Engagement Center in the Student Activity Center. 

“This center will be located in central campus to combat the historical marginalization and displacement that Native American and Indigenous communities continue to endure,” the legislation reads. 

Social work junior Eli Cortez said he has heard many suggestions to create another Multicultural Engagement Center or expand upon the current facility. Cortez, an officer for Queer and Trans People of Color Agency, said he does not believe building a space specifically for Native American and Indigenous students will put other groups at a disadvantage and that his organization supports the legislation.

“To just lump all marginalized groups together to say they all have to move at the same time, fall back at the time, or share the same resources is a form of discrimination in and of itself,” Cortez said.