- Becoming Hispanic Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges and Universities by Gina Ann García
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2019. Pp.176. $29.95.
To understand the complexities surrounding Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) is to recognize their organizational position in a field of higher education that privileges White racial group interests, argues García. In Becoming Hispanic Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges and Universities, García sheds critical and overdue insight on how colleges and universities meaningfully engage a growing Latinx student population. Focused on universities whose Latinx student enrollees comprise at least 25 percent of the student body, thus designated as HSIs, García asks, what does it mean to serve Latinx students? The author adopts an organizational lens to assess how three colleges embrace their Hispanic-serving status. In theorizing post-secondary institutions as racialized organizations that are structured to prioritize and advance the interests of a dominant racial group, however, García also challenges age-old narratives that draw on White normative standards to evaluate postsecondary institutions.
García leverages an analysis of how individuals are racialized, as when educators adopt deficit-based frameworks to evaluate the performance of students of color, to demonstrate that organizations undergo similar processes. Tracing the historical privileging of predominantly White institutions and reviewing the most relied-upon studies in the field (i.e., Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University; Laurence Veysey, The Emergence of the American University; Burton Clark The Distinctive College, among others), García demonstrates that conceptions of knowledge have been grounded on the practices, interests and achievement orientations of a White majority. Not only are White normative standards of knowledge imported to research, leadership and policymaking [End Page 240] domains in higher education, but these seemingly race-neutral metrics of success also help grant legitimacy. Thus, institutions serving minoritized groups, like HSIs, who may not adhere to standards of evaluation grounded in whiteness (i.e., six-year graduation timeframes, retention rates and standardized test scores) are viewed as inferior to institutions that do.
A defining theme in Becoming Hispanic Serving Institutions is the contention that prioritizing Latinx student culture as well as academic outcomes is cornerstone to an HSI identity. To highlight the heterogeneity in HSI organizational identities, García draws on a critical race counter-storytelling methodological approach and presents a typology. The author profiles three HSIs that although distinctive on key organizational characteristics, were all part of an earlier Midwest HSI study. García's methodological approach is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. Not only does the storytelling format help pique engagement but it also anchors what is too often presented as depersonalized, abstract empirical evidence in a lived reality bearing real consequences. Although the narrative that structures the counter stories is fictional, the substantive core of the stories is factual and based on a combination of interviews, secondary data, observations as well as other document analysis.
Each of the three case studies represent a distinct organizational identity within the typology that García offers. Azul City University (ACU), for instance, is considered a broad-access institution and accepts approximately 60 percent of its applicants. Roughly the same percentage of the student body also receive Pell Grants. The counter story for ACU centers on a town hall meeting that Carmen, a master's student in education, helps lead before an audience comprised of faculty, staff, and students. Carmen outlines three key strengths: ACU has been able to sustain signature support programs for the Latinx community like offering courses in the evening and opening a Latino Cultural Center. ACU also has signature Latinx academic programs like the Latino Studies interdisciplinary program, and the university has also instituted measures to embrace their HSI designation. As part of this process, ACU has a government relations director responsible for helping the university secure HSI grant funding, and university administration also supports Latinx-serving campus efforts. Carmen closes the townhall presentation with three challenges: pronounced racial tensions among Black and Latinx groups on campus, negative faculty experiences warranting the need for greater Latinx faculty and administrators, as well as financial constraints...