Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

‘Where do we go now?’: Latina/x, Indigenous University program re-forms as student organization

Courtesy of Lauren Gomez

The Latina/x and Indigenous Leadership Institute lost University funding and faculty advisor help due to Senate Bill 17 banning all diversity, equity and inclusion offices in public Texas universities on Jan. 1. 

The Division of Campus and Community Engagement (formerly known as the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement) housed LILI, providing them with funds, a graduate assistant and advisor help. Once the University implemented SB 17, LILI shifted from a University program to a student organization to comply with the bill. 

LILI co-president Lauren Gomez said the University notified the group the week before classes began that they could not continue operation this semester. She said the officers had a meeting the following week and decided to re-form as a student organization. 

“Letting the organization end completely feels like it’s letting (the government) win because they’re getting to do away with these programs, which shouldn’t be the case,” Gomez said. 

Gomez said she does not know how the organization will manage without the advisor’s help, as they helped plan and fund several events, including its book club. She said LILI may have to begin charging their members to join, but everything remains unclear at the moment. 

“When (the organization) has primarily functioned because of the support we had, taking that support away changes things,” Gomez said. 

LILI provided a community for Latinx and Indigenous students on campus through multiple social events and opportunities to learn about other Latin cultures through pláticas, or conversations, with different Latina or Indigenous leaders, Gomez said. 

Health and society sophomore Giselle Natividad said she joined LILI’s book club and attended other social events to try to ease the culture shock of moving from a predominantly Latinx community to the University. She said having the University-sponsored events felt reassuring. 

“Now that it is student-led, I’m definitely still gonna be involved, but it does not feel the way it was,” Natividad said. “It made me angry because it just changes dynamics and it’s a huge letdown.” 

Gomez said she joined LILI because she saw her sister experience racism while in a school without a Hispanic community. Gomez wanted to make sure students at UT did not feel that way, so she joined LILI to provide them with a Latinx community. 

Psychology freshman Ximena Carrillo said before arriving at UT, she feared she would feel lost without the Latinx community she was used to having in her hometown in the Rio Grande Valley. She joined LILI during her first semester on campus and immediately felt a sense of relief. 

“(LILI) was so welcoming, authentic and genuine,” Carrillo said. “You could see that their only goal was to gather around as many Latina women to feel empowered and like they have a safe space. For that to be taken away, especially when (I’m) still a first-year, it’s like, ‘where do we go now?’”

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