Committee reports drop in ethnic enrollment

In a report to the Academic Senate, the U Diversity Committee reported a decline last year in enrollment of all ethnic groups except American Indians.

The Diversity Committee-reorganized from diversity groups of the past-is in its first year and will be used by the Senate to address long-term issues.

Edward Trujillo, the chairman of the Diversity Committee, said the committee is now an official part of the Senate and will submit a report annually.

Robert Flores, the president of the Senate and former chairman of the 1999 Diversity Committee, said the report was an attempt to assess the current situation and update the 1999 diversity report.

“I think that one of the troubling aspects reported was that there has not been success in increasing racial diversity in students or faculty,” he said. “There has been little backsliding until this year, but even holding steady is not good enough.”

The report showed that African-American, Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Latino ethnicities all decreased in the 2004-2005 academic year.

African-American ethnicities had the smallest decrease, falling from 0.6 percent in the 2003-2004 academic year to 0.5 percent, while Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander ethnicities had the largest decline, falling from 4.1 percent to 3.7 percent of the student-body population.

The Latino ethnicity fell from 3.6 percent to 3.3 percent, while the American Indian/Alaska Native ethnicity stayed constant at 0.7 percent.

Trujillo said the committee used statistics and information from the Office of Budget and Analysis.

“We wanted to have a good, reliable source of data,” he said. “However, most of the information provided was self-reported.”

Trujillo said self-reported information often results in students choosing the “other” category rather than picking an actual type of ethnicity. In the report, there was actually a greater percentage of unknown ethnicity than the total ethnic minorities.

Flores said trends of low diversity are a problem for the university. In his eyes, a student ought to be exposed to different types of experiences and diverse cultures as part of an education.

“The more diverse the university is, the more likely they will be exposed to a wide variety of perspectives,” he said. “National boarders are disappearing, people need to relate with people of other cultures to be successful.”

Trujillo said diversity goes back to what a university is at its core. An institution that is intended to educate beyond a narrow field.

“A university is supposed to be universal,” he said. “If you can’t gain an education of other cultures, then you aren’t as prepared as you should be entering the career field.”

The diversity committee noted that local demographics make recruiting and retaining students of varying ethnic groups difficult. Because of this difficulty, the committee hopes to use the information they have collected to make proposals for making the process easier.

Karen Dace, vice president for diversity and a member of the committee, said that retention was a key part of the committee’s study and report.

“It is wonderful to recruit, but it is better to retain,” she said. “It is not good enough to replace one (student or faculty member) for each one that is lost.”

The report found for the three years studied-entering classes of 1996, 1997 and 1998-minority groups did not have as high of a retention rate as did students of white ethnicity.

All minorities averaged 41.7 percent graduating within six years over those three years, while whites averaged 48.8 over the same time span.

The only ethnic group to perform better than whites was the Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander group.

Trujillo hopes these and other trends found in the report will begin to change-for the better-as the report is brought to the public and used.

“Everyone has to work together, not just our committee,” he said. “There is so much potential at our university that, if everyone were working on this, we would see changes immediately.”

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