The Latino Center is co-hosted with the LGBT Center in the house located at 226 College Ave. The selection process for newly hired Latino Center Director Julián Cancino has been controversial. (Mia Lambert / The Tufts Daily)

Search for new Latino Center director sparks controversy

Tufts hired Julián Cancino in August 2017 as the new director of the Latino Center at Tufts University. The decision drew controversy, with outgoing Latino Center Director Rubén Stern criticizing the hiring process in a letter to the Daily.

The hiring concluded a nationwide search to replace Stern, according to Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon. Stern retired from the center in July after 24 years at Tufts.

According to an email sent by McMahon and Linda Daniels, the senior director of diversity, pluralism and inclusion, the search committee consisted of co-chair Robert Mack, the associate dean for student success and advising; senior Anna Rodriguez, a peer leader for the Latino Center; junior Hernán Gallegos; Women’s Center Director K Martinez; LGBT Center Director Hope Freeman and Recruiter for Human Resources Marika Francis.

In his letter, Stern was critical that the leaders of the Africana Center, International Center and Asian American Center were not included in the search committee, stating all center leaders are usually included in the search process. 

Additionally, Stern called the process “not transparent” and “a sham.” In his letter he asked the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs to restart the search process. Stern declined to comment beyond his initial letter to the editor.

McMahon noted all Group of Six center leaders were involved in the hiring process, though not all sat on the search committee.

“All G6 members present on campus during the finalist interview days had opportunity to meet the finalists and provide feedback as part of the campus visit days; two G6 directors were on the 7 person search committee itself,” she told the Daily in an email.

McMahon explained that the retirement of Stern in July prompted the search committee to conduct the hiring process over the summer to fill the role promptly. While there are fewer people on campus in the summer, McMahon said there was always an effort to include students, faculty and staff in the search process.

“Generally, we have two or three students on the search committee. We try to have a lot of student representation by having dedicated sessions with the students,” she said. “Student involvement is vital to us … we can’t have every student talk to the candidates, but I think we did a pretty good job.”

Women’s Center Director K. Martinez criticized the manner in which Stern expressed his dismay with the search process.

“Ruben is definitely entitled to his opinion. However, the way he expressed his opinion … [in his letter] is really immature. I feel like if he had complaints or concerns, he could have addressed us directly.” they said. “He could perhaps asked [us] to be involved in the search process … [instead of] putting [the letter] out there without talking to us about it.”

In his letter, Stern also faulted the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs for appointing a director who does not have a master’s degree, one of the basic qualifications listed on the application website. Stern  argued if the job description was posted as only requiring a bachelor’s degree, more people could apply and committee members could choose from a wider audience pool. 

Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences James Glaser and Dean of the School of Engineering Jianmin Qu wrote a response letter, defending Cancino’s qualifications.

The position parameters initially required a master’s degree for consideration. The search committee ultimately decided a master’s was preferred but not required,” they said. “This is consistent with Tufts University hiring policies which allow for experience to be considered in lieu of advanced degrees unless the degree is required by licensure or accreditation standards. The committee then considered several candidates who held bachelor’s degrees and significant experience relevant to this unique role.”

Acknowledging Stern’s criticism, Martinez said that requiring a master’s degree is exclusive, and hopes it will no longer be listed as a requirement going forward. 

“I also think as so far as an institution … we need to ask ourselves is a master’s degree required for director level positions,” they said. “Who will be excluded if we keep a masters’ degree required as a qualification? Queer, trans, and specifically, trans people of color … have so many barriers to higher education.”

When asked about the controversy in the hiring process, Latino Center Director Julián Cancino declined to comment, reasoning that he was not a part of the search committee.

“I would like to highlight that during my hiring process, I got to meet current students, staff, and faculty. As a continuation of the university’s commitment to equality, I would like to get to know our students … Their needs and desires are a priority.” Cancino said.

Martinez said they hope students will give Cancino a chance, despite the speculation that Stern’s letter may have caused.

“I hope that [the students] on campus keep an open mind and give Julián a chance [to see] why he is qualified in this position,” they said. “People may cast some speculation about him, and it doesn’t really send a good message to him … about how welcoming the Tufts campus can be.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article had inconsistent spellings of Julián Cancino’s name. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.

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