“Servingness”: it’s a concept that Dr. Gina Garcia and her colleagues argue is “a multidimensional and conceptual way to understand what it means to move from simply enrolling Latinx students to actually serving them.
An important concept to grasp, especially for the California State University system, which boasts 21 campuses that meet the criteria of being considered a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). The federal government defines HSIs, in part, as nonprofit, degree-granting postsecondary institutions that enroll at least 25 percent undergraduate Latinx students with 50 percent of students being classified as low-income.
Last month, Dr. Garcia spoke to CFA members during her session, “Defining ‘Servingness’ at Hispanic Serving Institutions” at Equity Conference 2022, advocating for servingness as an actual practice to better higher education for Latinx students.
Garcia, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh, says as higher educational institutions become more racially and ethnically diverse, the need for understanding and utilizing servingness is needed.
To her, for a university to be Latinx-serving, it should, at minimum, enroll at least 25 percent Latinx students, produce a significant (if not equitable) number of legitimized outcomes for Latinx students, and offer organizational structures that are culturally relevant and enhancing.
“Let’s say you graduated every single student that exited, but every day they walked on campus, they experienced racism. That, to me, is not an HSI,” said Garcia during her presentation. “That would put you up in that Latinx-producing [category of her chart on student outcomes and organizational structures for serving Latinxs and students of color] if you graduated 100 percent of your students. You’re up there, congratulations.
“But if they reported on their way out, ‘I experienced racism every single day. I experienced microaggressions every single day. I experienced anti-Blackness every single day,’ you’re not in that serving category because you haven’t addressed your structures. You haven’t addressed the feeling that you get at an HSI if it was to become a space of liberation.”
The video is available here.