It took almost 150 years, but America’s oldest daily college newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, has elected its first Latina president, Raquel Coronell Uribe.
“The 149th Guard is an incredibly impressive group of leaders who are more than ready and qualified to tackle the challenges The Crimson will face in the coming year,” current Crimson President Amanda Y. Su said in a statement published Friday in the student newspaper. Coronell Uribe will begin her term as president in January.
Like other news organizations, the paper has grappled with how to become more reflective of the community it covers, particularly in the ranks of leadership. Harvard University’s incoming freshman class is 12.5 percent Hispanic or Latino, a group that represents about 8.9 percent of the paper’s staff, according to a recent diversity survey.
Coronell Uribe said that as president of the Crimson, she hopes to continue a tradition of holding the powerful to account while prioritizing diversity and inclusion. No Latino has held the top editorial post in the paper’s 148-year history.
“I want to make sure people feel and know there is a place for them at this organization,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Founded in 1873 as the Magenta, the newspaper became the Crimson in 1875 and remains “the only breakfast-table daily newspaper in Cambridge, Mass.,” according to its website. Former student reporters and editors at the paper have gone on to illustrious careers in and outside journalism.
“The Crimson has a rich tradition of journalistic integrity and counts among its ranks of editorship some of America’s greatest journalists. Over 25 Crimson alumni have won the Pulitzer Prize,” its website says.
The daughter of two well-known Colombian journalists, Coronell Uribe fled with her parents to the United States at age 6. The family had received death threats in response to her father’s investigative reporting. Colombia was in the throes of Latin America’s longest-running conflict, and journalists were frequently targeted. With the help of the Committee to Protect Journalists, she said they quickly packed their belongings into suitcases and flew to California.
“The Committee to Protect Journalists is an organization that quite literally saved my life,” she said.
The family later moved back to Colombia before eventually returning to the United States, where her father, Daniel Coronell, become president of Univision News.
Coronell Uribe initially planned to follow in her parents’ footsteps by pursuing a career in journalism, but she changed trajectories after being diagnosed with leukemia at 16. She said her doctor left a lasting impression by making her feel safe in the face of a life-threatening condition, something she wanted to do for others.
“Having to come face-to-face with my mortality at such a young age really changed everything for me,” she said.
But after starting pre-med classes at Harvard, she found herself drawn again to writing and journalism. She said she found her “home” on campus at the newspaper and began to think about how she might have a role in shaping its future as a leader. Senior leadership candidates must gain at least 75 percent of the vote to be elected.
Many on social media welcomed the news.
“It’s always a delight to watch our young residents do big things — congratulations, Madam President,” tweeted Daniella Levine Cava, the first female mayor of Miami-Dade County, Fla. Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro (D.) also shared well wishes, while Jorge Ramos and other journalists wished her luck.
Coronell Uribe is not the only Crimson president to make history in recent years. In 2018, Kristine E. Guillaume became the first Black woman to lead the paper.
Across the industry, there remains significant underrepresentation of long-marginalized groups. A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report found that Hispanic workers made up 8 percent of all employees working for newspaper, magazine, book and directory publishers in 2019. A survey by the News Leaders Association that year found that people of color make up 18.8 percent of newsroom managers at print and online-only publications.
Reflecting on her new role, Coronell Uribe said she hopes that by being the first she can ensure that she isn’t the last Latino in the paper’s top job.
“I do question why it took 148 years to elect a Latinx president,” she said. “And I think that it’s indicative of a problem that the Crimson has been working toward fixing and done a better job at, which is making sure that we are accessible to anyone who wants to join.”
She added: “And that is not just in joining the organization but getting to the point where you can run for a leadership position or shoot for a leadership position. I hope to continue that work.”