Spanish-looking People in the Back

I began a PhD program in philosophy a few years ago. When I was in the process of applying to graduate school, I was lucky enough to have several offers. A faculty from the program I am now attending called me one day to pitch me a case for the program and tried to highlight some of the benefits that I would get from attending the program.

This man’s “pitch” included two main selling points, neither of which had anything to do either with the quality of the program, the research or funding opportunities available to grad students or my “fit” into the department’s intellectual culture. No reference to teaching opportunities or mentoring programs. No mention of courses, placement record or degree requirements.

First, he very proudly told me that there is indeed one Mexican restaurant (I am Latino) “just down the street from our school where you can eat.” You know, just in case I was worried about starving to death in the absence of burritos and chilles rellenos. He went off, politely of course, about how good the food was and about how he knew it is really “authentic” because he could always see “Spanish-looking people in the back.”

Second, this full professor told me that the region is not as bad and racist as I might imagine. The reason? Because “we even have Telemundo on the TV.” I learned that this man once knew a family from “South America I think, maybe central America” that loved to watch telenovelas, which is how he knew about Telemundo.

I ultimately took the offer for reasons having little to do with burritos or telenovelas. But, still, this first impression put me a little on edge about the program.