USC has confirmed that its longtime Latinx student center’s director, William Noe Vela “Billy”, is no longer employed by the university.
“Billy Vela is no longer working at USC. Naddia Palacios, Senior Director of Student Equity and Inclusion Programs for Student Affairs, is serving as the interim Center Director of La CASA,” a university statement released on Oct. 7 reads.
USC has not given a specific reason for Vela no longer working at the university.
Vela first joined USC as the director of what was formerly called El Centro Chicano in May 2005. Last year, the center was renamed La CASA where he remained in his position up until Oct.7.
Earlier in his career, Vela has worked at UC Berkeley as a Resident Director, as well as as the Director of Chicano Latino Student Services at Loyola Marymount University.
La CASA, which means “home” in Spanish, was first established in 1972. It has served as a space for Latinx students to go to for cultural identity, leadership and social consciousness development, as well as community building.
The center is a critical space for USC’s Latinx student population as they navigate a historically white serving institution, despite being located in South L.A. 's highly populated Latinx neighborhood.
The center’s supervisor, Leticia Delgado, thanked Dímelo’s request for comment but stated that she prefers not to comment at the moment. Naddia Palacios was also reached where the university’s official statement was reiterated.
Isabela Gonzalez, a junior communications major, had only attended two recent La CASA events. During those times, she said Vela was “welcoming” and enthusiastically helped people get involved. She hadn’t heard of his departure prior to speaking with Dímelo.
“I didn’t know him too well yet, but this news really surprises me,” Gonzalez said. “He played a large role in making everyone feel comfortable and like it was a safe place even though we were virtual.”
Gonzalez said that Vela would make the meetings a “safe space” by never recording them and encouraging discussion by sharing his own perspectives first. Dímelo reached out to Vela on Thursday for comment but did not get a response in time for publication.
If you’d like to share with Dímelo about Vela’s absence, you can do so here: https://cah20077.typeform.com/to/PWqhqSd4