By Tui Rademaker, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 23, 2012
When senior Levester Williams came to the University as a freshman, he said he often felt disconnected from the campus community as a black student.
More like this
Though Williams overcame these initial feelings through active involvement in various multicultural groups, he said he still thinks the student body lacks diversity.
Enrollment figures released by the Office of the Registrar on Monday indicate that Africans Americans represent 4.74 percent of the student body, Hispanics constitute 4.75 percent and Native Americans comprise 0.19 percent.
In 2011, the total student body was comprised of approximately 4.77 percent black students and 4.68 percent Hispanic students, both lower than the 2010 national averages of 14.5 percent and 13 percent respectively, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Native American students made up 0.2 percent of the student body last year.
Of the enrollment figures for the 2012 freshmen class, 10.2 percent are underrepresented minorities, a slight decrease from last year’s 10.5 percent.
John Matlock, an associate vice provost and the executive director of the University’s Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, said minority enrollment numbers have decreased as a result of Proposal 2, the 2006 state referendum that banned affirmative action policies, which prevented public institutions from using race or ethnicity as a deciding factor in admissions decisions.
According to Nina Grant, the director of the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, underrepresented minorities have consistently comprised about 10 percent of incoming freshman classes in recent years. Grant added that while she always hopes to see an increase in minority enrollment at the University, the numbers nationwide are not where they ought to be either.
Underrepresented minority groups include African-American, Hispanic and Native American students. Lester Monts, the senior vice provost for academic affairs, said most Asian ethnicities are not considered underrepresented at the University or in Michigan because they have such a prominent presence in the state.
Monts said the number of underrepresented minorities might also be lower at the University due to the relatively homogenous population of the state, adding that comparing the University’s numbers with colleges in other states is misleading.
“California’s population, is much, much larger than Michigan’s, and because of immigration, its proximity to Mexico and being on the West Coast … there are more people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds,” Monts said. “So it’s ill-advised to make that kind of comparison based on the number or percentage of students.”
Michigan State University’s demographic make-up is similar to the University’s — black students represent about 6.2 percent of the student body and Hispanics consist of 3.4 percent.
Eastern Michigan University, however, boasts an underrepresented minority population of 24 percent among undergraduates.
University officials asserted that statistics often do not accurately reflect the general attitudes and commitment to diversity on campus. Matlock said he believes that diversity is one of the University’s most defining attributes.
“I think some schools get into the numbers game … to me diversity is not only who and how many people you bring in, but how many people you get out and what kind of climate they have that’s conducive to it,” Matlock said.
Matlock pointed to the large populations of out-of-state, ethnic minority, lower income and international students as proof of the University’s commitment to expanding diversity. He noted that while the gender imbalance is no longer a primary concern, only 25 years ago women were not as equally represented at the University as they are today.