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Friday, March 4, 2011


When she was a student, Elizabeth Farfan turned her back on Trinity - literally. Now she is teaching here. The energetic, funky, and personable part-time faculty member with a term appointment in Sociology and Anthropology is from Houston graduated from Trinity in 2005. She went on to receive her PhD. from Berkeley and has since returned to Texas. She just recently submitted her dissertation for review. She spent over a year with native tribes in Brazil doing her research.

As a student here, Elizabeth was a bit of an activist. She was involved in several student organizations, but it was really her senior year when she got on everyone's radar. In fact, it was at her commencement. During the spring semester the University announced that Congressman Lamar Smith would be the graduation speaker. Elizabeth and several others were disgruntled about the record of the Congressman and the process for selecting a speaker. That process was not very transparent, they said, nor did it involve students.

The students weren't pleased. So, they planned to protest during the commencement address by the congressman. That protest was to stand up and turn their backs to the speaker. To some it was a bratty show of boorish behavior. To most, though, it was a silent and strong statement of activism. Elizabeth calls it her last display of activism. It was a doozy.

When it came down to it, only one student stood up, turning to face a horrified audience, with her back to the powerful man giving the commencement speech. Her issues with him were personal, she says, noting "his political platforms were against Mexican immigrants. He especially worked very hard to make sure that the children of undocumented immigrants could not get access to public schools at any level. As the daughter of a once undocumented immigrant father, I would not have obtained my BA at Trintiy if Lamar Smith had been successful." Elizabeth recalls her family standing as well, in the back of the auditorium, in tears because they were both proud and fearful for her, taking this last stand, by herself, looking the other way, and on display. Any mixed feelings I had about the protest went away immediately, as I too watched Elizabeth from the back of the auditorium. She stood tall, chin held high, stoic, and with resolve. Then she sat.

Elizabeth is teaching three courses this semester - an upper-division course on Brazil, a course on documentaries, and a course on research. Her mentor when she was a student here was Dr. David Spener. She isn't upset that people didn't join her in the protest. She did what she believed in, with great courage and honor. Now she teaches our students. I suspect they love her, but I think they have no idea who stands before them in the classroom. Alone, proud, and with dignity.

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