Citing budgetary shortcomings, Stony Brook University will suspend its doctoral Hispanic Studies program and dismantle undergraduate Hispanic Languages and Literature classes for other departments to handle. The long-ass hyperlink above is for a petition to save the program, and I’d ask that you sign it: Defunding the humanities generally and ethnic studies especially is short-sighted and destructive.
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz drew broader attention to the decision when he posted about it on Sunday. SBU is no stranger to cutting humanities programs, but this attack on a specific cultural identity makes it particularly shitty. “The voices of Latino, Latin American and Hispanic intellectuals at Stony Brook University will be silenced,” the petition reads, “[and] in a current political climate when these communities have also become targeted at the local and national level.” There’s no good time to defund ethnic studies, but doing it right as a wave of violent nativism takes over the damn world may be the worst.
And the notion that ethnic studies don’t accomplish enough to deserve funding? Yeah, that’s bullshit. There exists loads of quantitative evidence suggesting that they’re wildly beneficial to students of all races; that last study showed that such classes can increase rising high schoolers’ GPAs by 1.4 points. On a scale of 4. And with overt racism at every level of government, thoughtful explorations of marginalized cultures can mean literal survival.
So please, sign the petition, because we abandon ethnic studies at our own risk.
(Painting of "Composition," Courtesy of Vero.)