Four months after an initial proposal, the Latino/a/x Faculty Staff Association (LFSA) had its first general membership meeting on Feb. 12. At the meeting, members shared the completed first draft of their mission statement and bylaws.
This association is one of the two new affinity groups on The University of Alabama’s campus to be created after a push from the new initiative within the Faculty Senate’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, the other one being the Jewish Faculty Staff Association.
Ignacio Rodeno, associate professor of Spanish, Latina/o, and Latin American Studies and co-chair of the Faculty Senate’s diversity and equity committee, said the goal behind the push for affinity groups was to provide a way for diverse faculty to express their ideas and opinions.
“The affinity group is looking to be an expression of diversity and to promote inclusion and equality on campus,” Ignacio said.
According to The University of Alabama’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, 2.32% of faculty are Hispanic or Latino.
Michael D. Innis-Jimenez, an associate professor of American studies and president of the LFSA, said their affinity group would focus on advocating and helping to promote the recruitment and retention of Latinx faculty, staff and students.
“I think the bottom line is creating a community, so people will stay once they get here,” Innis-Jimenez said.
For the LFSA, their meeting on Wednesday was the first step toward creating that community.
“The [meeting’s] focus was primarily hearing from the members, seeing what they wanted from this kind of organization and hearing what they wanted us to pass on to the administration,” Innis-Jimenez said.
Daniel Levine, an associate professor in political science and religious studies, the Aronov Chair of Judaic Studies and the president of the Jewish Faculty and Staff Association, said the Jewish Faculty and Staff association could help promote awareness and inclusivity.
Levine said for him, it made sense for the affinity group to be an advocate and voice for other communities that may not be understood entirely, especially in certain instances like religious holidays.
“If someone is not stepping out as a representative of religious difference, then no one will,” Levine said.
Rodeno said the affinity groups were formed to act as safe spaces – places where underrepresented groups on campus could come together and be allowed to express their concerns and to have a voice.
He said the diversity and equity committee is currently trying to help more faculty and staff create their own affinity groups, such as a disability affinity group, a North African and Middle Eastern affinity group, an international faculty and staff affinity group and a veteran affinity group.
“If there are people who want to create affinity groups, we are welcome to help them,” Rodeno said.
Rodeno said the Faculty Senate’s diversity and equity committee does not want to be the ones running these groups. However, they want to be more of a resource to facilitate and help them.
“People should know [these affinity groups] exist and know they’re welcome to them and that every one of these groups is whatever their constituents what them to be,” he said. “And they are being supported by the Faculty Senate and other staff associations and can be a venue for many things.”