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  • Writer's picturegina garcia

The HSI Movement Will Not Be Televised

This week I joined the University of California’s Office of the President’s HSI Advisory Committee which supports the advancement of the UC HSI Initiative. I was welcomed with open arms by a group of mentors, peers, and colegas who I have worked with to advance HSI knowledge for the last 10 years. I expressed my excitement for joining the “UC HSI Movement” to which there were enthusiastic reactions. I have been talking about an “HSI Movement” for quite some time but haven’t written it down or theorized it extensively. That meeting, however, motivated me to discuss this idea more formally through the space where I get to write openly, which is this blog space.

7 hands in fists coming together

Let me start with the theoretical stuff, because y’all know I love a good theory. We must give credit to the sociologist who have written extensively about social movements and organizational change, dating back to 1978 when Mayer Zald and Michael Berger published “Social Movements in Organizations: Coup d’Etat, Insurgency, and Mass Movements.” Their core argument was that social movements within organizations can lead to organizational change. Although they mostly drew on examples from corporations as organizations, there are examples of how social movements have changed colleges and universities. The 1960s Civil Rights Movement and subsequent student movements within colleges and universities, for example, led to the establishment of Ethnic Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and Cultural Centers, expanded the employment of people of color and women and femmes, and provided opportunities for students to experience transformative curriculum.

Zald and Berger claim that there are three types of social movements: coup d’etat (a seizure of power from within, typically by a small group of individuals who have a goal of succession), bureaucratic insurgency (typically a small group that seeks to make change from within, but does not have extensive support or numbers), and mass movements (a larger group that mobilizes and gains support with the goal of changing behaviors, goals, and policies). Mass movements have been extensively studied across disciplines including sociology, economics, and education, with strong evidence of outcomes and changes that have resulted. Some mass movements have been so effective that they became institutionalized (e.g., union organizing leading to collective bargaining systems).

Using this framework, I argue that the HSI Movement is a mass movement inclusive of many people committed to changing behaviors, goals, policies, and practices within the colleges and universities that meet the 25% enrollment to be HSIs. Patrick Valdez taught us that the HSI Movement dates back to 1976 as Latino advocates in Washington DC began advocating for increased funding to support colleges and universities enrolling the largest percentage of Latine/x students. Considering this history, the HSI Movement is nearing its 50th anniversary. Yet there are many other milestones in the HSI Movement worth noting, including the establishment of HACU in 1986, the release of a series of HSI reports by Excelencia in Education in the early 2000s, including “Inventing HSIs: The Basics” and “Modeling HSIs: Campus Practices That Work for Latino Students,” the founding of the Alliance of HSI Educators in 2007, and the establishment of ESCALA Educational Services in 2013. The empirical HSI scholarship, which really started to emerge in 2015, has also advanced the HSI Movement by providing us with a conceptual understanding of what it means to be an HSI beyond the federal designation and a multidimensional framing of servingness inclusive of metrics to assess our efforts towards becoming Latine/x-serving. With each of these milestones we have seen growth in the number of educators, advocates, and supporters, moving it from a small group of dedicated individuals to a mass movement.

Zald and Berger also say that mass movements can influence the priorities, resources, survival, and growth of the organization, and that they often reflect larger political trends. We see this with the HSI Movement. As it gains momentum, we are seeing substantial change in policies and practices across HSIs, even though much of the innovation and advances in servingness are not televised (hence, the title). At the same time, folx in the HSI Movement are sharing best practices, publishing journal articles and practice briefs, posting on their HSI specific social media accounts, and of course visiting me on ¿Qué Pasa, HSIs? to talk about it.

I argue repeatedly that campus strategic plans must indicate a commitment and actions towards HSI and Latine/x people. We are seeing more HSIs prioritize HSI in their strategic plans, which is changing the priorities and the resources dedicated to these efforts. We are also seeing the emergence of statewide HSI consortia with states like Arizona and Colorado accessing diverse resources to mobilize all HSIs in the state. We are also witnessing the emergence of a student led movement, with the HSI Equipo model becoming popular at community colleges such as Pasadena City College, and student led research advancing servingness in practice at universities such as Sac State. These efforts are changing organizations.

eleven members of the student equipo team posing infront of the UCR sign
Student Equipo Team

An additional consideration that Zald and Berger offer is that conflict that arises within organizations often happens outside of normative channels, and that this conflict is the source of struggle and change. Mass movements within organizations are often in opposition to the status quo, which causes conflict. HSI organizers are challenging the way we have historically served and educated Latine/x students and calling for a different approach. Those in the organization who are committed to the status quo might be in opposition to becoming an HSI, embracing servingness, and centering Latine/x students in our efforts. But conflict and opposition are a part of organizing for change and social movement; it is not necessarily negative and can lead to positive change.

I want to end this blog with a few words of advice for those in the HSI Movement:

  1. Embrace the conflict. Embrace the struggle. Embrace the change. Know that you are doing the right thing, even on the days when it seems hard.

  2. Build coalitions within the Latine/x community, which includes diverse individuals. We must be strategic in working with a for Latine/x with intersectional identities including our queer and Trans Latine/x siblings, our Latine/x siblings with disabilities, our undocumented Latine/x siblings, and our Black and Indigenous Latine/x siblings.

  3. Build coalitions beyond the Latine/x community. Solidarity has never been more vital. Work with Black and Indigenous colleagues who are fighting against racist and colonial educational structures, white co-conspirators who understand how they are vital to disrupting racialized inequities, and AAPI colleagues who are similarly struggling to address the intersectional needs of AAPI students. We cannot do this work alone. There is enough pie for everyone. And if there isn’t, bake a new pie.

Most importantly, stay strong en la lucha! And remember, we ARE the HSI Movement!

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