MCLR - 1994 Roundtable Executive Summary


The participating scholars were in general agreement that the various research components of the field of Latino Studies - the Arts and Literature, Social Sciences, Mathematics and Science, and Education - are at an incipient stage of development. This is in part because the field has been peripheral to the traditional disciplines and institutional support for Latino scholars throughout the Midwest has been weak. Scholars are confident that there is an abundance of research materials and of theoretical and thematic contributions that their studies can make to their respective disciplines. Nevertheless, they identified a number of challenges which have to be met in order for the field to a maturity and respectability. A programmatic research agenda needs to be conceptually defined. Sources have to be identified, catalogued and publicized. Institutional support has to be organized, particularly at the departmental level, to provide an environment and investment of resources that validate the importance of Latino research. The vicious circle which assigns second-class status to Latino research, and then uses this denigration in the tenure-evaluation process to subvert the professional development of Latino scholars must be broken because the process discourages Latinos from making the very contributions to scholarship that would raise the field to respectability.


The participants were unanimous in their agreement that campus environments in the Midwest need to be improved to provide greater respect for Latino faculty and support for their professional development. There was a widespread feeling that Latinos are subjected to a complex set of often conflicting demands and prejudices that undermine their careers and make them vulnerable to a revolving door syndrome of impermanent Latino faculty in non-tenured positions. There is a particularly strong imbalance in service demands with some scholars at one extreme being confined to and, at the other extreme, being excluded from diversity committees. The tenure-review process has the additional danger that departments have no contact with scholars who can assist in assessing quality of Latino research. Universities attempting to meet general affirmative action goals frequently hire Hispanic scholars trained abroad who have no ties to - or interest in - the domestic Latino communities. Despite - or because of - the political demand for their token presence on campus, Latino scholars interested in research on Latinos become faculty whose research, teaching and service are greeted reluctant toleration and tepid support.


Most of the recommendations made by the working groups highlighted the desire and neeed to overcome a state of isolation in the regional and at individual campuses to gain greater access to intellectual exchange and research materials. Proposals were made to continue existing forms of networking and develop new ones: e-mail services, regional meetings, directories of scholars and graduate students, inventories of sources, summer seminar programs, and even a traveling exhibit to showcase Latino art, music and literature. At the most basic level, there is a need to assess the number and condition of Latino faculty in the Midwest to gain a broad perspective, set goals and devise agendas for faculty recruitment, retention and development. The participants perceive the need to promote a definition of campus diversity that is substantively broader and more inclusive that the current one which stresses Black/White relations. The construction of educational pipelines to the universities to increase the number of students entering the academic professions, particularly in the sciences, was another major suggestion. The scholars felt the need to have agencies of advocacy and inter-university coordination which were external to their individual campus environrments. Their recommendations confirm the continuing rationale for the existence of the Midwest Consortium Latino Research. They also indicate that the major programs, strategies and tasks for the promotion of Latino scholarship and professional development still reside in the future - not in the past or present - of most Midwestern universities.

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Last Updated: March 11, 1996