Increase funding for Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies

Alyssa Ramos, Associate Editor

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the June 14 flipbook. 

The University provides a variety of diverse courses to connect students with their or others’ cultures and identities. These courses, such as those offered by the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, fill up quickly, leaving most students to register for any remaining classes they can get. 

However, the number of courses available does not meet students’ demands — particularly in the MALS department. To give more opportunities to students looking to take classes from the MALS department, UT should increase funding to hire more faculty and expand course availability. 

According to Ann Stevens, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, the Mexican American and Latina/o studies department received $2.6 million in the 2020-21 academic year, and it deserves more to fulfill demand.

“For spring 2022 undergrad courses, of the 1,867 seats available, 1,555 were taken on the 12th class day (approximately 83%),” Stevens said in an email. “Of course, many variables play into (perceived) demand, so some classes fill quickly while others never do.” 

While the $2.6 million was a good start, it is not enough. Hispanic students make up 24.2% of the student body, and these students deserve to see their ancestry and culture reflected in the University’s academic priorities. Moreover, Texas directly borders Mexico and is deeply connected to and influenced by Hispanic culture. Increased funding would help show UT’s commitment to supporting the diverse cultures of its students.

While many students aren’t able to get a seat in the class they originally wanted, some are lucky enough to get placed on the waitlist. However, the wait time can last up until the last minute. Harley Gutierrez, Plan II and psychology senior, was placed on the waitlist before they were able to enroll in a MALS course. 

“I decided to take the (MALS) course because I was looking for something that I felt like I wasn’t getting in my other studies,” Gutierrez said. “I wanted to feel more connected to the things that I care about. It brought me a lot of community — to be able to talk about icons that I grew up knowing and to learn about essentially gender and how it ties into being a Latinx person — because there’s a lot of people who were aware of social issues, and just a lot of times in higher education, we leave out Latino perspectives. I felt like it was really important to take a class that I felt connected to.”

For the upcoming fall 2022 semester, almost all upper and lower division MALS courses have a cultural diversity flag in place. The cultural diversity flag is a mandatory requirement for all UT students, meaning that students will search for classes with these flags in order to satisfy the requirement. An increase in funding will assist students in their search for fulfilling their flag requirements and also assist the department itself in expanding its interest in the culture for students. 

Students at the University are given the opportunity to learn more about themselves through their education, studies and interests. However, the lack of course and seat availability during registration disappoints students that want to connect with the Latinx culture and identity. 

Additional funding for the Mexican American and Latina/o studies department would allow for an increase in the number of faculty as well as solve the issue of a lack of seats and course availability, while also allowing students to become more confident in their culture and interests. Students deserve to be able to connect with their cultures through their education without competing for a seat or being on a waitlist.

Ramos is a journalism sophomore from Laredo, Texas.