Truth be told, I didn’t want to write an opinion piece for The Record on my thoughts about Goshen College’s recent Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) designation as I was afraid of repercussions. As a left-leaning Latina, I am weary of my surroundings living in a red state and always conscious of my future at stake. 

It didn’t feel right for me to express my thoughts after I had praised GC during the convo — it felt disingenuous. During an Latino Student Union (LSU) meeting, we were asked if anyone would be willing to speak in chapel and the opportunity landed for me, so I took it. I did not know what I was getting myself into at the moment. 

I had little time to prepare and my anxiety ultimately got the best of me. As soon as I stepped on the stage, I forgot everything. As a Latina, I represent my community everywhere I go, so I wanted to honor our lands and our ancestors who have been historically subjugated. I wanted to let GC know that we are more than just a statistic, we are people. 

As the convo progressed, it got worse. I felt as if I had to say positive things about the institution at that moment. It felt like GC was doing Latino students a favor by allowing us to be students on their campus. I was embarrassed to be on that stage, but it was too late and I couldn’t back out at that point. 

The point of the convocation was to celebrate being an HSI, which was translated to praising the institution and barely recognizing our Latino students. I was the only student on that panel. If the institution wanted to recognize the Hispanic student body, then the attention should have been on praising the diverse contributions we bring to the institution. It’s not just the institution serving us, we are also serving the institution. GC should honor the students’ successes and efforts in deciding to enroll here.

While I don’t think GC had the right approach to celebrating the recent HSI designation, I think they had the right intentions and would like to give them the benefit of the doubt. GC wants to celebrate having a large Hispanic population on campus, but they didn’t bring us here. We arrived and made space for ourselves. 

My dad came to the United States when he was 17 years old and began picking fruit on the West coast. He lived with his brothers in a tiny trailer living off of Maruchan ramen. 

He and my mom arrived in Indiana in 1999 and made a home for themselves. My dad always talks about what it was like being some of the only Hispanics in town. 

Today, Goshen High School, where I graduated, has a student body made up of over 50% from diverse backgrounds. The city of Goshen’s residents also reflects this diversity as can be seen throughout the community with a variety of Hispanic businesses and Latino centered events. When my dad immigrated to Goshen, there were barely any Latinos. But now, I can go to Walmart and see someone that looks like me. Our community has grown in numbers and that is a reason to celebrate!

As a business minor, I understand why numbers matter: they are a form of measure. But we aren’t just numbers, we’re people. GC, rather than celebrating a number, celebrates the growth that we bring to your institution as Latino people.

HSI is an arbitrary label if GC is not listening to the needs of its Hispanic students. I applaud GC for trying to make space to recognize us — that is a great start. 

But what is next? It is one thing for the college to celebrate its diversity, but where is the inclusion? 

Latino students want to see more representation with faculty, engagement with the Latino community off-campus, more assistance with tuition, more leadership roles and much more. I am grateful to be studying and furthering my education at a distinguished college. But just as in any organization, there is always room for improvement and GC has its work cut out for itself.

As one of the LSU leaders, I hope to continue advocating for increased inclusion and representation for Latino students and I hope the administration continues increasing their efforts to listen to our needs as well.

Change doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t come easy. Through organized effort, accountability and mutual respect, we as Latino students can help GC be the institution it aims to be.