Bestselling Latina Author Erika L Sanchez Puts University on Blast for Booting Her

Bestselling author Erika L. Sánchez took to Instagram to publicly blast Chicago’s DePaul University on Tuesday after she was advised that she would be one of six non-tenure faculty cut from the school in the midst of a $56.6 million deficit—despite its public plan to increase diversity.

“DePaul does not care about its students and faculty of color,” the bestselling author of I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and recent memoir Crying in the Bathroom charged in her post. The author is currently working with movie star America Ferrera on a movie adaptation of her novel.

“What a terrible loss for your students!!” wrote the actress in a comment on Instagram defending the author. “Thanks for speaking truth about the difference between the change institutions say they want and their contradictory actions! It’s exhausting, demoralizing, and enraging. It’s a lot to hold.”

Sánchez, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Cicero, Illinois, had been hired in 2019 as a Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz chair in the Latin American and Latino Studies Department—a position “established at DePaul in 2001 in recognition of the important contributions Latinas/os make to Chicago and the United States,” according to the school’s website.

Sánchez questioned on Tuesday why her position was on the chopping block when only 6 percent of faculty currently identify as Hispanic, in a roughly 20 percent Hispanic student body in a city where 28 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino.

“THE MATH IS BAD” she wrote in her post.

Sánchez claimed that she was let go from the university despite having largely excellent student evaluations—something the university did not deny when reached for comment.

Sánchez was even asked to speak at Latinx graduation this year, she said, and was repeatedly requested to recruit Latino students.

In 2021, The DePaulia reported that DePaul’s faculty council had announced a push to raise the school’s percentage of Hispanic students to over 25 percent—closer to the city’s actual demographics—and reap federal funding by becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

“I didn’t have a Latina professor like until grad school,” Sánchez told The Daily Beast. “And like, I know what it’s like to be a Chicago kid and to be poor and to be Mexican. And, you know, I have all of this experience, and I know the ropes and so like, I feel like that can’t just be replaced.”

“This has been a challenging week for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences,” wrote the college’s dean, Guillermo Vásquez de Velasco, in a statement, stressing that the decision was a “difficult” one, while offering few details on why Sánchez was cut.

“Change was necessary to make sure the program has the right components to ensure the continued success of this academic program that is deeply rooted in the university’s mission,” he wrote. Velasco also said the department is “committed” to hiring a “new, full-time, tenure-track professor” in the fall.

As first reported in the student newspaper The DePaulia, the $56.6 million deficit comes on the heels of falling enrollment and other financial pressures such as a loss of federal COVID funding.

Emails obtained by Crain’s Chicago Business also further uncovered roughly $33.1 million in planned cuts from the Academic Affairs budget which includes teacher salaries .

“This feels like a $33.1 million gun that’s being held to the faculty’s heads,” one English professor told Crains.

Sánchez told The Daily Beast that she was not a professor for the money, but because she “loved it and cared about my students”—noting her successful writing career that has expanded into TV and film. In an interview with NPR last year, the author said that teaching was how she mentored others.

Sánchez, in her interview with The Daily Beast, recalled how she was able to expose young people to books, film, and poetry they could finally identify with.

“I showed them Real Women Have Curves, and they were just like blown away,” the professor remembered. “They’ve never seen it before. And the Latina students just looked alive—that’s like the word that always comes to mind…something had changed for them.”

She remembered another student who approached her this year.

“One girl came up to me and was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so excited to work with you!’ and you know, that makes me fucking sad because I’m like, there aren’t a lot of us who are even allowed to get into academia. And when we are we’re, you know, mistreated, and we’re discarded.”

Another student, Emma Soto, told The Daily Beast that her time in Sánchez’s class during the pandemic was a bright spot academically but also because it was a unique opportunity at a university where Latino students and professors are few and far between.

“It felt like a safe space and the fact that no one else is able to take it again, or I know that other Latino students won’t be able to take it, it’s heartbreaking,” Soto told the Daily Beast.

The 21-year-old Film and TV Production major noted that while DePaul’s status as a commuting school made it tougher for collective action, students have been fighting back through protest and petitions this week—with one petition on pointing out that faculty are being cut when the basketball coach earns $1.3 million a year.

“I think I have a cousin who says he wants to apply to DePaul and it’s nice to know that like, he wants to go to school that I’m going to,” said Soto. “But I’m kind of ready to dissuade him and tell him not to…I felt like we were such a progressive school until now.”

Ultimately, Sánchez said she wants to see students get the support they deserve.

“I just want them to like, be seen and heard and validated, and that’s what I always tried to do in my class,” said Sánchez. “And it like really upsets me that I don’t get to do that anymore. You know, like that was taken away from me and from them because you know, a lot of them love to be there.”

“I do want to teach again, eventually, but this has left a very sour taste in my mouth,” she added.

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