CARBONDALE -- Two SIU campus organizations have expressed frustration over what they perceive as a lack of Hispanic and Latino representation at the school.

In a letter dated April 21 and addressed to SIU Chancellor Rita Cheng, Isaac Mendoza, president of the Latino Cultural Association, and Andy Mendoza, president of the Hispanic Student Council, expressed disappointment with the number of Hispanic and Latino members on the school's administration, staff and faculty.

The letter also lamented the lack of resources available on campus and said declining retention rates are a consequence.

The Hispanic student population has increased from 810 Hispanic students in 2009-10 to 1,069 Hispanic students in 2012-13, according to SIU's Institutional Research and Studies. Hispanic students make up 5.67 percent of the total student population.

"Clearly, there is a need for an increase of resources for Hispanic/Latino students," Isaac and Andy Mendoza said in their letter. "This is crucial because if the enrollment of Hispanic/Latinos has increased, how can SIU explain why retention rates have not? This problem is correlated to the lack of administrative support at this institution."

In 2013, SIU had 37 (3.48 percent) Hispanic faculty members, 15 (1.98 percent) Hispanic administrative and professional personnel, and 73 (2.15 percent) Hispanic full-and part-time employees, according to the SIU Office of Institutional Diversity.

The school has added three Hispanic administrative/professional personnel, three Hispanic faculty members and six Hispanic full- or part-time employees since 2009.

In a letter dated April 23, Cheng responded to the organizations' concerns.

"We seek to increase the percentage of the student population from all under-represented racial and ethnic groups . . . We are collectively working toward the hiring and retention of qualified and energetic staff, faculty and administrators who reflect the population of the state and national statistics for qualified individuals," Cheng said.

Isaac and Andy Mendoza sent their letter in the wake of the school's decision not to renew the contract of Hispanic Culture Center Coordinator Luisa Ballester-Concepcion.

"This decision raises concern among the community due to already scarce resources," Isaac and Andy Mendoza said in their letter to Cheng. "Her presence at this university has strengthened our community. We ask that you re-evaluate the resources that she brings to her current position."

Cheng said she could not comment on a staff member's contract, but affirmed the school's support for the center.

"I can assure you that the center will have future leadership dedicated to providing resources and supporting students in alignment with the overall vision laid out for the Center for Inclusive Excellence," Cheng said in her letter.

Dean of Students Katie Sermersheim oversees the Center for Inclusive Excellence, which includes the Hispanic Resource Center. She said her office welcomes student input.

"As always, there's venues and ways to deal with student concerns, and that's visiting with the dean of student's office and communicating concerns with the director of inclusive excellence," Sermersheim said. 

Sermersheim said she had not been approached by these organizations with these concerns before the letter was sent to Cheng.

Chris Hottensen is the entertainment and features reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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