As Latino Populations Grow

Article excerpt

So does their power. Will they compete or cooperate with African Americans for academic clout?

There is power in numbers, sometimes real, sometimes perceived. Last month's U.S. Census Bureau release of statistics showing just how fast Hispanic and Asian populations are growing in this country may fuel the perception that, in higher education and elsewhere, African Americans are now competing with these minorities for jobs.

In Arizona, for example, the Hispanic population has grown a whopping 30 percent in the last 10 years. This desert state's Hispanic/Latino residents -- more than one million strong -- now constitute more than 22 percent of the population. African Americans, meanwhile, make up only 3.6 percent of Arizona's residents. And some are murmuring their concerns that the population trend is causing Blacks to be displaced by Hispanics at some of the state's colleges and universities.

Take Deborah Brouhard, for instance. She lost her job in June after 15 years as a counselor at Arizona State University's multicultural student center. Her accusations of unfair treatment were blatant.

"ASU is getting to be one big mess for African Americans," Brouhard says. "When you see all these African Americans leaving, there's such a void, especially when they are being replaced by Whites or Hispanics."

In fact, Brouhard says another African American is replacing her. But that didn't stop her from filing a complaint with the university's affirmative action office. And she is considering filing a lawsuit against her former employer for unlawful dismissal and age/gender discrimination.

She says that at Arizona State, Blacks are being mistreated and forced out, in some cases to be replaced by Hispanics.

But while Brouhard stands firm in her accusations, others contacted by Black Issues maintain there is no Black-Hispanic rift at the university. If Hispanics are outpacing Blacks in the faculty ranks here, it's simply a matter of their representation in the community, most say.

Still, as Latino populations continue to swell across the country -- the Census Bureau estimates there will be 98 million Hispanics in this country by 2050 -- and as their communities gain strength, they just might replace Blacks as the minority community to be reckoned with.

What that means at institutions of higher education remains to be seen. What's also up for grabs is whether both groups will work together to raise minority representation overall, or if they will separately work toward goals that exclude each other.

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE, THERE'S FIRE?

While Brouhard and others -- many who privately acknowledged the former counselor's concerns but declined comment for this article -- contend that Black faculty and administrators are leaving Arizona State, the statistics paint another picture.

Black faculty actually increased in numbers in the last five years, from 26 to 36, making up about 3 percent of the total faculty. African American undergraduate enrollment at the university also has grown almost 49 percent in the past 10 years, now comprising 2.9 percent of the total student population.

Dr. Walter Harris, who began his position as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina Central University this month after a 20-year tenure at ASU, says he had a "wonderful tenure" at the Arizona school. After climbing the ranks from assistant professor to vice provost, Harris says he left the university simply to take a provost position.

"I felt the faculty received lots of support from the administration," he says.

The perception that Blacks are competing with Hispanics, Harris believes, is partly a reflection of sheer numbers.

"Obviously in the Southwest there are more Hispanics than African Americans," he says. "When you've got more people, you have more influence in some situations. …