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Black Latinx Faculty Staff Association Confronts Lack of Diversity

Queens College is a school that has long touted the diversity of its students, but what about its faculty, staff, and administration? Although diversity amongst the student body has never been exemplary, it has been especially lacking the farther up you move along the totem pole of hierarchy. In 2019, it was reported that 6.3% of the full-time faculty was Black and 7.3% was Latinx. It was also reported that 5.9% of the part-time faculty was Black while 9.7% was Latinx. Three departments with a shockingly minimal number of Black faculty include the Biology, Physics and Library department. These statistics showcase only an iota of the blatant racial disparities QC faces, something the Black Latinx Faculty Staff Association (BLFSA) has been actively fighting. 

The BLFSA is a group that supports the needs of Black and Latinx faculty, staff, and students on campus where there is underrepresentation. Following the national outcry against police brutality in June, the BLFSA released a lengthy public statement listing a set of demands for QC to effectively address Anti-Blackness systemic oppression within the institution. The statement makes it clear that racism on campus has played out through “recruitment, retention, academic and financial resources, scholarship and mentoring support for Black and Latinx faculty and beyond.”

To expand on the necessity of the statement, Nathaniel Smith, a leading member of BLFSA, claims that “we must learn and unlearn the racist practices inherent throughout CUNY and Queens College. Although these practices may not be overt, due to the nature of white supremacy, these practices are very much covert.” 

Some of the BLFSA’s demands include filling 50% of the Dean and Administrative positions with diverse Black/Latinx leaders by Fall 2021, developing a fund for a Black/Latinx staff and

administration mentorship program by 2021, providing a hazard-free safe space for Black/Latinx students, faculty and staff to facilitate healing from racial trauma, and giving constant academic and financial support to Black/Latinx faculty beyond the Diversity Hiring Initiative. The association would also like to see QC commission experienced academic scholars and staff who focus solely on the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives the college undertakes, transition the Africana Studies Program into a Department with full financial support from administration, ensure consistent resources for the incoming Director of Africana Studies with faculty, mentoring, and professional development services, and maintain culturally appropriate mental health services by hiring diverse staff that is representative of the students seeking help. 

Smith has made it clear that when it comes to inclusion, the BLFSA wants to be at the table and in spaces where the needs of their communities are heard. “We don’t want those in power to direct the work or redirect it in a way that fits their agenda.”

Many of the demands made by BLFSA advocate for an increase in Black and Latinx hires, something students are in dire need of. QC Alum Rufaro Padmore, former president of the Black Student Union and Vice President of the Caribbean Students Association, wishes she saw herself in the faculty during her time in college. “I’ve had a total of six Black professors during my four and a half years. In those classes, I felt comfortable, but I have been in plenty of classes where I was the only Black person in the classroom and it’s the worst feeling ever. You feel so tiny and like you want to disappear, specifically when you’re in a sociology lecture hall and the topic of race comes up. People always look around for a Black person.”

In response to the growing concern for lack of diversity, President Frank H. Wu had the following to say on the matter: “I have pledged to take action on diversity, especially to ensure equity and inclusion of those communities and individuals that have been historically excluded throughout society and who remain underrepresented in many areas. That is why I came to Queens College. I want to move as quickly as practicable, within the appropriate processes”. 

Smith is hopeful that President Wu will be receptive to demands for change and is certain that BLFSA will make its mark on QC. “We have a mission that is long-standing, and we hope that other folks will be interested in the work. This is a pivotal moment where we are in a double pandemic: the coronavirus and racial hostility. We are not going away unless these issues are addressed head-on”. 

The BLFSA is a group that supports the needs of Black and Latinx faculty, staff, and students on campus where there is underrepresentation. Following the national outcry against police brutality in June, the BLFSA released a lengthy public statement listing a set of demands for QC to effectively address Anti-Blackness systemic oppression within the institution. The statement makes it clear that racism on campus has played out through “recruitment, retention, academic and financial resources, scholarship and mentoring support for Black and Latinx faculty and beyond.”

To expand on the necessity of the statement, Nathaniel Smith, a leading member of BLFSA, claims that “we must learn and unlearn the racist practices inherent throughout CUNY and Queens College. Although these practices may not be overt, due to the nature of white supremacy, these practices are very much covert.” 

Some of the BLFSA’s demands include filling 50% of the Dean and Administrative positions with diverse Black/Latinx leaders by Fall 2021, developing a fund for a Black/Latinx staff and

administration mentorship program by 2021, providing a hazard-free safe space for Black/Latinx students, faculty and staff to facilitate healing from racial trauma, and giving constant academic and financial support to Black/Latinx faculty beyond the Diversity Hiring Initiative. The association would also like to see QC commission experienced academic scholars and staff who focus solely on the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives the college undertakes, transition the Africana Studies Program into a Department with full financial support from administration, ensure consistent resources for the incoming Director of Africana Studies with faculty, mentoring, and professional development services, and maintain culturally appropriate mental health services by hiring diverse staff that is representative of the students seeking help. 

Smith has made it clear that when it comes to inclusion, the BLFSA wants to be at the table and in spaces where the needs of their communities are heard. “We don’t want those in power to direct the work or redirect it in a way that fits their agenda.”

Many of the demands made by BLFSA advocate for an increase in Black and Latinx hires, something students are in dire need of. QC Alum Rufaro Padmore, former president of the Black Student Union and Vice President of the Caribbean Students Association, wishes she saw herself in the faculty during her time in college. “I’ve had a total of six Black professors during my four and a half years. In those classes, I felt comfortable, but I have been in plenty of classes where I was the only Black person in the classroom and it’s the worst feeling ever. You feel so tiny and like you want to disappear, specifically when you’re in a sociology lecture hall and the topic of race comes up. People always look around for a Black person.”

In response to the growing concern for lack of diversity, President Frank H. Wu had the following to say on the matter: “I have pledged to take action on diversity, especially to ensure equity and inclusion of those communities and individuals that have been historically excluded throughout society and who remain underrepresented in many areas. That is why I came to Queens College. I want to move as quickly as practicable, within the appropriate processes”. 

Smith is hopeful that President Wu will be receptive to demands for change and is certain that BLFSA will make its mark on QC. “We have a mission that is long-standing, and we hope that other folks will be interested in the work. This is a pivotal moment where we are in a double pandemic: the coronavirus and racial hostility. We are not going away unless these issues are addressed head-on”. 

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