An Academic Partnership

By Horwedel, Dina M. | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, September 22, 2005 | Go to article overview

An Academic Partnership


Horwedel, Dina M., Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Housed as one department, Black and Hispanic studies at Baruch College do more than just co-exist.

NEW YORK

Black and Hispanic studies are separate fields at most universities. But at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York system, the Black and Hispanic studies minors are housed under the same roof. The somewhat unique partnership seems to be working, as the minors are among the most popular on the business-oriented campus.

Dr. Héctor Cordero-Guzmán, chair and associate professor of the Black and Hispanic studies department, says the mission of the program is to chronicle and participate in the creation of an increasingly diverse America.

The 2000 U.S. Census was the first to allow respondents to list multiple races, permitting a more accurate picture of the population. The census found that Hispanics accounted for 12.5 percent of the population, up from 8.8 percent in 1990, making them the nation's largest minority group. Forty-eight percent of Hispanics identified themselves as White. More than 42 percent of Hispanics selfidentified as "some other race" and about 2 percent as "Black." More recent studies by the Pew Hispanic Center, among others, have placed the current percentage of Hispanics at closer to 14 percent.

Dr. Arthur Lewin, who teaches African history, Black Americans and mass media at Baruch, says census figures are a red herring.

"I think the idea of anyone being a No. 1 minority is an oxymoron," he says. "This is a multicultural society. Everyone can identify who they want to be and we should respect that."

Lewin adds that on the world, national and educational stages, people should never see themselves competing on the basis of race or ethnicity, or perceive one group as getting ahead at the expense of another. "I think it's important that in America we are beginning to reflect the world. This country was built on forced labor and immigration, but now it is more reflective of the world, because it is the world's capital."

Baruch College is also a reflection of that diversity.

Cordero-Guzmán says the program creates awareness, understanding and support for the Latino and Hispanic and Black communities and the issues they encounter in American culture. The faculty is "keenly aware of policy, social and political issues facing these groups. To students, it comes as no surprise to hear about these issues because they live the experience. They know there is a connection between the communities, but they may not have a theory that explains why the groups are in the position that they are," he says.

Lewin affirms this, adding, "It makes a lot of sense to have [both] programs in the same department because of overlapping issues with cultural and racial identity."

Students study either Black studies, Hispanic studies or a combination of both. All students take courses on race and ethnicity and all programs culminate with a course in African and Latino diasporas in America.

As part of the program, students look at civil rights movements and the history of discrimination and segregation to create a balanced picture of the past. Students also examine how ethnicity, race and nationality play a role in identity. For example, CorderoGuzmán explores the cultural differences between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Although the two nations share an island, the Dominican Republic identifies itself as Hispanic in ethnicity and culture, while Haiti considers itself Black and French.

CREATING A SOCIAL CONTEXT FOR BUSINESS

As important as the program is at Baruch College, it is not offered as a major.

"We don't offer Black and Hispanic studies as a major because we don't see this as our universal mission at the business school," Cordero-Guzmán explains. He says that Black and Hispanic studies do play a central role by providing a social context for business.

New York still struggles with race and culture issues, but the department and CUNY help make the issues more substantive, Cordero-Guzmán says. …

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