May 7th, 2011 | by AILIN DARLING News | Posted In: Schools

PSU Latino Students Ask: Where's the Casa Latina Center?

     
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cimg1213PSU students Genesis Aquilar, Melissa Serabia, Juliana Minn, Brigette Funez and incoming student Edgar Sanchez outside the vice provost's office shortly after their meeting. - Ailin Darling

Five Portland State University students held a protest this week in President Wim Wiewel's office to demand more support for the university's Latino students and hold Wiewel accountable for his own promises.

Last October, Wiewel introduced a new initiative called "Exito" (which means success in Spanish) to boost college graduate rates among Latino students at PSU and recruit more Latino professors to campus. But the student protesters who gathered in the president's office Wednesday say Wiewel is not making progress on his own program fast enough. Among other things, the protesters say the new Casa Latina cultural center Wiewel promised as part of the new push last fall should have been opened by now. 

Latino students comprise 16 percent of all students in Portland Public Schools and 20.5 percent of all K-12 students statewide. But their numbers drop off at the post-secondary level. In fact, Latino students make up just 5 percent of PSU's student population. And protesters this week said Latino students need a place of their own on campus to find support. "There's heavy recruitment of Hispanic students, but most of us can't afford to live on campus," says Melissa Sarabia, a senior and finance major. "We're a commuter population, and we need a voice."

Sarabia says that while the president was surprised by the protest, he immediately scheduled a meeting for the group with Jackie Balzer, PSU's vice provost of student affairs. Calls this week to Balzer and PSU's communications office about the university's progress on the Casa Latina center were not returned.

 
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