Medina, O. (2015) Using LatCrit to Examine Latino/a Students' Stories about space in higher education
According to the census, Latina/os are the fastest growing ethnic group within the US. Accordingly, by 2050 they will be the largest ethnic group in the states (Census, 2010). They are also overrepresented among the poor, the undereducated, and the imprisoned (Bangs, Ralph, & Davis, 2015). Studies have proven that higher education is correlated to increased lifetime earnings, job satisfaction and political involvement (Baum, Ma, & Payea, 2013), as well as increased opportunities for overall social mobility (Nora, 2002). However, Latino/a  students are underrepresented in institutions of higher education, and less likely to graduate than their white counterparts (Fry, 2002). Research has indicated that many Latino/a and other students of color struggle to acquire four year, postsecondary degrees. In order to address these social and educational disparities, it is critical to analyze the types of hurdles that Latino/a students might face in higher education contexts. In this presentation, I review the literature and propose the methodology for a developing examination of Latino/a undergraduate students’ perceptions of ‘space’ at predominately white institutions (PWI). I define space as a physical location that creates a sense of belonging.
I utilize the tenets of Critical race theory (CRT) and LatCrit to analyze Latinas/os perceptions of space at PWIs. CRT allows for a critical analysis on social structures and practices to reveal the perpetuated inequalities. I consider it critical to include Latina/o critical race theory (LatCrit) because of the framework’s focus on immigration status, sexuality, culture, language, phenotype, accent, and surname (Montoya, 1994). These frameworks allow for a critical examination of PWIs from a historical and race-centered lens. The tenets of CRT and LatCrit directly guide my inquiry. First, CRT and LatCrit contend that racism is endemic and permanent. Second, both frameworks challenge white privilege along with the rhetoric of meritocracy and color-blindness. A third tenet is the notion of whiteness as property. Accordingly, whiteness as property is the idea that whites consciously/unconsciously benefit from being white. Collaboratively, these tenets will illuminate how Latino/a undergraduate students perceive space, race, ethnicity and white privilege in a higher education context.
A fourth tenet of CRT and LatCrit is the theoretical significance of experimental knowledge, which insists that the voices of people of color are legitimate. Allowing Latina/o students to express their perspectives of PWIs and space will allow for a clear understanding of how Latino/a students feel on campus and recognize what might be missing within an institution. Finally, a fifth tenet of CRT and LatCrit is the commitment to social justice. Through this study, I want to reveal if there are students who feel a lack of space within the university. If the students demonstrate that the university does not provide the appropriate space for them I push for this space to be created through action. Creating these permanent spaces for Latino/a students is directly related to social justice for if these spaces are not created there is a dichotomy between those who have space and those who do not.
 Through the use of Latino/a I am referring to anyone from or having roots from Latin America or the Caribbean.