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‘UCAS ignores Latin Americans in application forms’: Meet LatinXcluded

LatinXcluded are campaigning for better representation

Despite the Latin American community being one of the biggest minorities in the UK, UCAS currently does not have "Latin American" as an ethnic option in its application form.

Prospective students are instead forced to identify as "other" or "mixed". The King's Tab spoke to a campaign group, called LatinXcluded, to find out more about what's being done to encourage inclusivity in UCAS.

Since August 2018, LatinXcluded, formed by sixth-formers Zharinck Lopez, Cecilia Alfonso-Eaton, and Krishmary Ramdhun, have been campaigning to include "Latin American" within UCAS' ethnic categories.

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So far, the campaign has managed to involve King's Widening Participation Manager Jimmy Pickering, who is currently working with UCAS to make this happen. They have also made progress with the NUS, who agreed to support their campaign by changing the way they monitor ethnic minorities.

It was a "big win" for LatinXcluded, said Zharinck, who also met with Elevation Networks co-founder, Barbara Kasumu. The founders told The King's Tab they felt "hopeful" that they were able to make progress by discussing the issue with those powerful enough to make a difference.

"When you don't see yourself represented you think of two things: You don't belong, or there are barriers," said Kasumu, who wholeheartedly agreed that the lack of Latin American representation was a pressing issue.

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One of the founders, Cecilia, is half-British and half-Cuban. However, as she doesn't "feel British enough", she has been forced many times to identify as "mixed" on official application forms, such as those provided by the NHS.

This clash of identity, she says, has left her confused with where she fits in society. Cecilia has even been told she does not "dress" or "act" like a Latin American.

"Feeling like you're not represented is something you shouldn't experience", added Zharinck, who has Colombian roots. In fact, it affects university statistics in which Latin Americans are alarmingly unrepresented.

Like Cecilia, Zharinck proudly identifies as British. Having moved to the UK six years ago, she still however continues to tackle stereotypes that she is somehow related to Pablo Escobar, or that all Colombians are drug dealers.

"It's not fair," says Cecila, that they were raised in the UK, have identified as British, adapted to the culture, yet still face discrimination.

Krishmary has a Mauritian father and Venezuelan mother. She often finds that when she explains her nationalities, people often categorise her Mauritian side as "good", while demoting her Venezuelan side.

"People treat you differently," she says, which is why she hopes that better representation of the Latin American community will bring more integration, and fewer prejudices.

Although they had previously discussed creating a group for Latin Americans, it did not gain a lot of traction. The LatinXcluded campaign, he says, has now shown how essential it is to address the lack of representation.

By introducing the "Latin/Latinx" option in application forms, "it'll be reached out to more Students' Unions," says Cecilia. The lack of representation does not only equate to exclusion, but being "othered" in an already divisive political atmosphere.

Zharinck believes that, through amending the UCAS application forms, the education industry can set an example for other industries in changing representation.

Through this first step in making UCAS ethnic categories more inclusive, the campaign is hopeful that this will make a lasting impact on Latin American representation among universities in the UK, and the nation as a whole.