UNR's Latino Research Center 'hanging by thread without funding, staff or support'

UNR's Latino Research Center is 'hanging by a thread,' according to a longtime staffer who resigned this week.

The Latino Research Center at the University of Nevada, Reno is "hanging by a thread without funding, staff or support," a longtime staffer who recently resigned told News 4-Fox 11.

Iris West, assistant to the director, has worked at the LRC for a decade, but sent her letter of resignation Wednesday, Aug. 30.

In the four-page letter, posted to the LRC's Facebook page, West wrote that University administrators have "historically ignored and often diminished," the Latino Research Center, which she wrote was "a testament to the little to no respect Latinos on campus receive."

The Hispanic/Latino population at UNR has grown in recent years, and nearly 19 percent of the 2016 student body was Hispanic/Latino, according to the University.

The Latino Research Center was started 12 years ago with federal grant money, but has relied on University and state funding after the grant money expired about a decade ago.

According to its website, the Latino Research Center's mission "is to foster research, student achievement, faculty collaboration, advocacy, and outreach in a manner that best meets the educational needs and goals of the State of Nevada and best honors the intellectual and cultural capital of the Latino presence in our state."

The Latino Research Center puts on the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration.

In recent years, University funding has been "cut and cut and cut," West said, resulting in a reduction of staff, and therefore, the programs that the LRC can offer.

This is (now) a shell of an organization.

"It's a shell of a unit on campus without any possibilities of running any programs right now," West said.

The future of the Latino Research Center is unclear. An interim director was chosen in the spring when the director, Dr. Emma Sepulveda, went on sick leave.

"I'm afraid that the doors of the Latino Research Center will have to be closed after Tuesday," West said.

One UNR junior who has been involved with the Latino Research Center agreed with West.

"We're definitely undervalued and there's just little representation and little respect for the Latino Research Center even though it has done so much," said Alejandra Hernandez Chavez.

On West's way out, she called on University President Marc Johnson to stress diversity and inclusion, even when it isn't a reaction to current events (a reference to the University's response when a student was pictured at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.)

She also reminded Latino students that they do belong at UNR.

"They have a place here, they just need to claim it and demand it. Because right now, they find themselves excluded and ignored," West said.

News 4-Fox 11 tried multiple times to get a comment from the University or from President Johnson.

Late Thursday afternoon, a University spokeswoman said they were aware of the letter, but added nothing further.

We will stay on this story and update it if the University responds further.

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