With the support of a second Title VI National Resource Center grant, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute (LACSI) continues to expand its research, education, and outreach initiatives related to Latin America and the Caribbean. Other programs and LACSI faculty affiliates advance research, education, and advocacy on and on behalf of U.S. Latinx communities. LACSI’s more than 200 faculty affiliates represent all of UGA’s colleges and professional schools, with several jointly-appointed faculty who teach the Institute's core curriculum.
Through the nation's first Portuguese Flagship Program and a Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies grant, LACSI supports thriving Portuguese language and growing Quechua language programs, funding on-campus study and study abroad opportunities for students of less commonly taught Latin American languages.
Consider participating in one of the Initiatives, or supporting the vital work being done through them. Please explore our website, subscribe to our newsletter, and contact us to share your ideas of how we might work together. We look forward to hearing from you!
Open Letter from LACSI to the UGA Administration on the Plans for the Fall 2020 Reopening
We are writing this letter to express our concern about the current plans to reopen the University of Georgia in the Fall. We recently received the document “Plans for a Phased Return to Full Operations,” and we appreciate the efforts of the various committees charged with creating these guidelines. We are, however, dismayed at the lack of more strict regulations and specific guidelines and at the contradictions between the principles stated in the document and their implementation.
First and foremost, we believe that face coverings and masks must be mandatory for faculty, staff, and students. The CDC and a number of experts recommend this measure as one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of the virus. Furthermore, CDC experts have determined that students and instructors who meet in in-person classes are at higher risk of contagion. We also believe that the Plan does not provide adequate guidance to faculty on how to handle the likely classroom situation of a student arriving to class without a mask or refusing to wear one. An overwhelming majority of the top 20 public universities have made mask use in classrooms mandatory.
Second, we would like to engage in an honest and straightforward conversation about all the criteria the University is using to guide its plans. As University stakeholders, we as faculty would like to be included in all facets of the University’s decision-making process, including if criteria other than the safety and health of faculty, staff, and students are guiding the phased reopening. The “Plans…” state that “Decisions should be transparent, data-driven and made in consultation and collaboration with staff and faculty through well-settled governance processes.” While we understand the difficulties involved in these decisions, "consultation and collaboration with staff and faculty" at the department level has been less than robust. In this respect, the plan for reopening the University in the Fall has thus far bypassed the "well-settled governance processes" to which the document refers.
In sum, we request clear requirements concerning campus safety that include mandatory masks and social distancing. We insist that decisions about the resumption of operations be guided by science and health-care professional data, including a rational and feasible plan for COVID testing, contact-tracing, and isolation protocols among the campus community. Lastly, we respectfully request more transparency, and involvement of faculty, in the decision-making process during these critical upcoming weeks.
International Education During the Shelter-in-Place Period
Like others in our community, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute (LACSI) faculty and staff are abiding by the directions to shelter in place. For us, that has meant working from home and adapting our classes to online platforms. The health and well-being of our students and our community is paramount, and guides all our work in these times.
Although away from our beloved offices on the UGA campus, LACSI is open and eager to engage. The global pandemic has had profound local consequences. Members of the LACSI community have seen our teaching, research and service work impacted, particularly concerning future travel plans and campus events that involved international guests and large audiences.
We do have good news. Grant funds that had been geared toward travel to Latin America, such as the Tinker Graduate Field Research Grants and our Title VI National Research Center funds, including Faculty Ambassador Travel Awards, may be converted to support research online in accordance with the need to shelter in place. The Tinker Foundation is also allowing award recipients to consider deferring Latin America travel to fall 2020 or Summer 2021. We will be providing additional details in upcoming weeks, so please stay tuned for announcements.
The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily shut down our borders and those of many countries around the globe, including in Latin America. But it has also highlighted the importance of international education and expertise, global cooperation, and empathy to the health and well-being of our shared world. Now more than ever, our work is urgent and relevant, as we seek to understand this rapidly changing world and train new generations of students to engage with it. Your work is vitally important. Keep doing it! We are working hard to support you in these times.