Aggie Hispanic group urges university to live up to its goals; seeks Hispanic commandant for Corps of Cadets
Wed May 12, 2010 1:20 pm

The Texas A&M Hispanic network sent the following letter, dated May 10, to Texas A&M University president Bowen Loftin and other university administrators. It expresses the group's concern that A&M is not making sufficient progress towards the goals set forth in the University's twenty-year planning document, Vision 2020, at the halfway point. In addition, the group addresses issues concerning the leadership of the Corps of Cadets. Here are some excerpts from the letter.

* [T]he Network remains committed to helping Texas A&M University achieve its stated diversity goals found in Imperative 6 of Vision 2020 which reads: “Texas A&M must reflect the demographic distribution of our state”, especially as it relates to the make-up of the faculty, staff, and student body at Texas A&M.

* The new Academic Master Plan 2010-15 acknowledges that we are “at the halfway point” of Vision 2020, and is a great opportunity to recognize and applaud progress made, but also time take an honest and hard look at areas where improvement is still needed.

* At the halfway point, Hispanic faculty at Texas A&M is at 4.5 percent, and Hispanic total enrollment for the student body is at 12.9 percent. While the Hispanic student enrollment has increased since 2000, this figure is still below the current demographic distribution of our state. Moreover, this is far below the demographic projections issued by the Texas State Data Center that indicate Hispanics will be the majority by 2020, and perhaps as early as 2015. We acknowledge that there are complex factors that go into these figures, but we can all agree that as the Hispanic population increases, the need for Hispanic representation at our university must increase as well.

The remainder of the letter focuses on new leadership for the Corps of Cadets, following the resignation of General John Van Alstyne.

* We share in the concern that growth [of the] Corps of Cadets has been stagnant, and we believe that the ability for future growth will be directly tied to the increase in enrollment of Hispanic students. However, the need for the visibility and placement of Hispanic faculty in leadership roles at Texas A&M is essential to accomplish this – both for Vision 2020 and for what we all want as Aggies: a consensus Top 10 public university in the next decade. To achieve this and be recognized for excellence by our peers, Texas A&M must take timely opportunities to find those individuals who understand and have experienced the Texas climate and can build coalitions to achieve the diversity that Imperative 6 demands.

* The Network has not and will not take an “us against them” mentality in terms of Hispanic diversity at Texas A&M – we are the Aggies, we bleed maroon, and we have the same motto that has guided the Corps from the beginning: “Per Unitatem Vis”. Yet, as we reach the halfway point, in order to preserve tradition, great institutions have to take honest assessment of what needs to change. The unity that has been asked of us as a Network during some very difficult times is not automatic – it requires the presence of understanding, equity, and respect from the university we serve and for whom we recruit.

* [Our] Network feels strongly that the selection committee for the next Commandant must include a perspective that understands and advocates for the increasing need for Hispanics in leadership roles at every level of the Corps – from the Commandant’s office down to a fish at formation. As the largest ROTC program outside the military academies and based on its geographical location, the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University must embrace and promote its ability to be the #1 producer of Hispanic Commissioned officers to lead our nation’s military – a military that continues to grow in its Hispanic population as well.

* Thus, per your request, on May 5, 2010, I took the opportunity to meet with the sole Hispanic member of the Commandant Selection Committee. This individual is a current student, a member of the Corps and on track to graduate and be commissioned next May. From the outset, I must state that, as with any cadet who has risen to the level of leadership he has attained, we have no doubt that he is an outstanding leader and a great asset to Texas A&M. We are confident that he will excel as a commissioned officer for the United States Air Force, and he embodies those values of the Corps of Cadets in being a Soldier, Statesman, and Knightly Gentleman. He will be an excellent member of the selection committee. His accomplishments in the Corps, as well as being selected to fill this role should be honored and commended – starting with congratulations to his parents who have also served our nation so honorably.

* With that said, in my conversation with him, it was disappointing to discover that he was completely unaware that he would be there to offer a “Hispanic” perspective on the committee. He stated that he felt that his insight would be based on his experience as a current cadet, and it did not occur to him that he was part of the committee based on him being categorized as a Hispanic.

* As a Network, we are grateful to his parents who honorably sacrificed and served our nation overseas, and believe that he will share a unique perspective based on his experiences growing up in an Air Force family and his views as a current cadet. However, in regard to offering a “Hispanic” perspective on the committee that you felt this student could embody, this will likely be difficult based on the fact that he never lived in Texas before attending Texas A&M and spent the majority (14 years) of his “Hispanic-American” experience overseas in the United Kingdom, including all four years of high school.

* We want to see Texas A&M University and the Corps of Cadets include a Texas-born Hispanic perspective that is greatly needed as Vision 2020 and demographic realities reach this “halfway point.” While we do not contend that this could only be accomplished by a Hispanic, members of our Network will be supporting the selection of a General Officer who meets the requirements of this posted opening, along with the other factors that make him a great fit for Texas A&M: he is an Aggie, a native Texan, and an individual who embodies those things that all Aggies, not just Hispanics, can be proud of. If selected, this candidate would make history and be the first Aggie Hispanic General Officer to lead this 134-year old institution, as well as “reflect the demographics of the state” that Texas A&M has stated it is committed to achieving.

* We share in the concern that growth Corps of Cadets has been stagnant, and we believe that the ability for future growth will be directly tied to the increase in enrollment of Hispanic students. However, the need for the visibility and placement of Hispanic faculty in leadership roles at Texas A&M is essential to accomplish this – both for Vision 2020 and for what we all want as Aggies: a consensus Top 10 public university in the next decade. To achieve this and be recognized for excellence by our peers, Texas A&M must take timely opportunities to find those individuals who understand and have experienced the Texas climate and can build coalitions to achieve the diversity that Imperative 6 demands.

As I have stated to you [Loftin] personally, our Network feels strongly that the selection committee for the next Commandant must include a perspective that understands and advocates for the increasing need for Hispanics in leadership roles at every level of the Corps – from the Commandant’s office down to a fish at formation. As the largest ROTC program outside the military academies and based on its geographical location, the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University must embrace and promote its ability to be the #1 producer of Hispanic Commissioned officers to lead our nation’s military – a military that continues to grow in its Hispanic population as well.

[I] took the opportunity to meet with the sole Hispanic member of the Commandant Selection Committee. This individual is a current student, a member of the Corps and on track to graduate and be commissioned next May. From the outset, I must state that, as with any cadet who has risen to the level of leadership he has attained, we have no doubt that he is an outstanding leader and a great asset to Texas A&M. We are confident that he will excel as a commissioned officer for the United States Air Force, and he embodies those values of the Corps of Cadets in being a Soldier, Statesman, and Knightly Gentleman. He will be an excellent member of the selection committee. His accomplishments in the Corps, as well as being selected to fill this role should be honored and commended – starting with congratulations to his parents who have also served our nation so honorably.

With that said, in my conversation with him, it was disappointing to discover that he was completely unaware that he would be there to offer a “Hispanic” perspective on the committee. He stated that he felt that his insight would be based on his experience as a current cadet, and it did not occur to him that he was part of the committee based on him being categorized as a Hispanic.

As a Network, we are grateful to his parents who honorably sacrificed and served our nation overseas, and believe that he will share a unique perspective based on his experiences growing up in an Air Force family and his views as a current cadet. However, in regard to offering a “Hispanic” perspective on the committee that you felt this student could embody, this will likely be difficult based on the fact that he never lived in Texas before attending Texas A&M and spent the majority (14 years) of his “Hispanic-American” experience overseas in the United Kingdom, including all four years of high school.

We want to see Texas A&M University and the Corps of Cadets include a Texas-born Hispanic perspective that is greatly needed as Vision 2020 and demographic realities reach this “halfway point.” While we do not contend that this could only be accomplished by a Hispanic, members of our Network will be supporting the selection of a General Officer who meets the requirements of this posted opening, along with the other factors that make him a great fit for Texas A&M: he is an Aggie, a native Texan, and an individual who embodies those things that all Aggies, not just Hispanics, can be proud of. If selected, this candidate would make history and be the first Aggie Hispanic General Officer to lead this 134-year old institution, as well as “reflect the demographics of the state” that Texas A&M has stated it is committed to achieving.

The letter is signed by Francisco Maldonado of San Antonio, Class of 1999, the president of the Aggie Hispanic Network.

* * * *

The fundamental problem faced by the Aggie Hispanic Network, and by A&M as an institution, is that, while the university administration understands the importance of reflecting the state's demographics, the broader A&M community of current and former students has been slow to embrace the commitment of Vision 2020. After the United States Supreme Court found that affirmative action was constitutional, then-university president Bob Gates did not institute affirmative action at A&M. The numbers are better for students (12.9%), but are still abysmal (4.5%) for faculty.

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