|EDINBURG, November 30 - After the events that have happened in the past few weeks, we would like to address the issue of the resistance to the future UT-Rio Grande Valley mascot or nickname, the Vaqueros.
Putting aside our personal opinions, we would like to focus on a bigger issue, a reflection on the shame many people show due to the lack of knowledge of the culture and history of their region of the Rio Grande Valley. But we must not blame people who were not given a culturally affirming education at any grade level.
On Monday, November 10, 2014, students and alumni of the University of Texas Pan American gathered to protest against the change in mascot, and more such events are planned. During the protest many of the students commented on how the term Vaqueros was too “Mexican” and not part of the region. People even called it “ghetto.”
We, the future Vaqueros, issue the call for inclusion of a curriculum of Diversity Studies on the future campuses of UT-RGV. We are in need of studying and analyzing the history of the Rio Grande Valley. We propose to reclaim our students from the atrocities of inadvertent oppression that was impressed upon us due to the lack of a culturally affirming education from K-12 and at the college level.
With this in mind, the Mexican American Studies Club along with many organizations at University of Texas Pan American, such as the Bilingual Education Student Organization (BESO), Cosecha Voices, and many more united to endorse the Inclusion Requirement in 2013. This proposal called for courses that analyzed and intellectualized the diversity of the United States experience and allowed minority students to reflect on their own experiences. It called for all students to take an ethnic or gender studies course before graduation from the university.
On March 27, 2013 the Mexican American Studies Club (MASC), and with the unanimous support of the Student Government Association, presented the Inclusion Requirement to the Faculty Senate in hopes they would endorse it. The responses of some members of the Faculty Senate were not as expected. The students received a strong opposition arguing that such implementation was too radical. Comments included: “If you don't know your own history, it is your parents who have failed you” and “Slavery happened; I am sorry, get over it.”
What Faculty Senate missed in the proposal was that these courses were to unify and help students understand not only themselves but their society. Not only did the Faculty Senate oppose the proposal, but the Core Curriculum Committee as well denied the proposal. This was despite its unanimous endorsement from the Colleges of Arts and Humanities, the College of Education, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Student Government Association.
Thus, we again raise the urgent need for the implementation of the Inclusion Requirement and of a major Mexican American Studies initiative for the majority 91 percent of the Mexican American/Latino student body that has been attending UTPA and will attend the new university. In order to fulfill this, we also ask for the Mexican American Studies Program to become a department that is fully funded. We strongly believe that these efforts will create a bicultural campus that is stated in the UT-RGV Guiding Principles. These changes would “honor the legacies of UT Brownsville and UT Pan American,” not only in a mascot, but in the bigger picture: our education.
Diana Valencia is a student at UT-Pan American and a member of the Mexican American Studies Club at UTPA. Valencia and other members of MAS penned this guest column.