Latin Studies director to leave

By Stephanie Bradley

The future of the Center for Latino/Latin American Studies was discussed Monday by about 35 NIU students and the acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Peter Nicholls.

Felix M. Padilla, the director of the center and a sociology professor, will be leaving NIU in June, and his position will have to be filled. Until the college finds a qualified person to take over the position, an interim director will be appointed.

Padilla said, “By not replacing me, it’s a sign of no commitment to investing the necessary funding for continuous development of the center.”

The LA&S college is conducting a study of the center, which students believe might lead to the closing of the center. Nicholls said the study would be a good idea since there is a possibility the center will be expanded next year.

Padilla said he hopes the administration will not shut down the center. “All indications from the administration are that it won’t close,” he said.

Most of the students expressing concern are those enrolled in the Latino Studies portion of the center. This portion, unlike the Latin American Studies program which deals with those countries, centers on Latinos in the United States, Latino Student Movement member Nancy Rivera said.

The students in these classes have a particular interest in this because “80 percent of Latino students at NIU are from Chicago,” she said.

The students’ greatest concern is the lack of a permanent director for the center after Padilla leaves. Rivera said, “There has been an interim director of Latin American Studies for a year and a half,” and there seems to have been no attempt made to get a permanent director. The students said they will not agree to having an interim director—they want a permanent director so the same thing does not happen to Latino Studies as to Latin American Studies, Rivera said.

Nicholls said everything possible is being done to find a director, but an interim director will have to be appointed until they can find someone with the right qualifications to hold the job permanently.

A committee is being set up which will approve candidates for the position, and there will be a student representative on that committee, he said.

Students questioned whether or not the student representative would be able to influence the choice for a director. Nicholls said, “The candidate has to be approved by the committee.”

Nicholls said the administration is “trying to react to the concerns of the center.” A study was conducted in 1984 and 1985, but because of budgeting, the “ideas (resulting from the study) were not implemented.”

Rivera said, “Every time there’s a budget cut, Latino Studies (and other minority organizations) get cut … we won’t stand for it anymore.”