Living the Critical Mass

BY EMILY KRAACK
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 23, 2005

Whether you live on North Campus, Central Campus or the Hill might affect how often you interact with students of other races.

Ken Srdjak
Percentage of campus-area populations that are underrepresented minorities (GRAPHIC BY MATTHEW DANIELS)
Ken Srdjak
Percentage of residence hall populations that are underrepresented minorities (GRAPHIC BY MATTHEW DANIELS)

While the odds of bumping into an underrepresented minority student are higher in the residence halls than they are on the campus as a whole, some dorms have higher concentrations of certain minority groups than others do, the University Housing demographics show.

Overall, about 11,000 students live in the residence halls. Almost 6,000 of those residents are first-year students, and many of the remaining students are second-year students.

While 11 percent of the incoming freshmen this year could be categorized as underrepresented minorities, according to fall enrollment statistics, a higher percentage — 14 percent — of students living in residence halls identify themselves as underrepresented minorities — black, Native American and Latino students.

The numbers come from student surveys and application information gathered by the Housing Information Office.

But it’s not the overall representation within the residence halls that has students questioning the racial makeup of on-campus housing — it’s the geographic distribution of underrepresented minority students that has led some students and administrators to question whether campus housing is increasingly isolating certain minority groups.

For example, 17.4 percent of students living in North Campus dorms are underrepresented minorities, compared with 13.3 percent on Central Campus and 13 percent on the Hill.

University Housing spokesman Alan Levy said the current housing assignment process does not use race as a factor in room assignments. Housing assignments for freshmen are made through a lottery in mid to late April. Levy said applications sent in after the lottery are assigned based on room availability, because some freshmen who have already requested rooms later decide to attend other schools, allowing previously assigned rooms to become available.

Levy added that incoming students are assigned rooms based on their preferences and room availability. Students can express preferences for substance-free housing, room type (such as double or triple) and campus neighborhood — North Campus, Central Campus or the Hill.

Levy said more first-year students are assigned to North Campus or single-sex residence halls than list these choices among their preferences. He said that if students make a request to live with a specific individual, they are more likely to be assigned a room on North Campus due to a shortage of available doubles on Central Campus.

Yet even without specifically using race as a factor in the housing process, racial distribution throughout the halls is uneven. For instance, Mary Markley Residence Hall, which has the highest proportion of first-year students (More than 93 percent of the dorm is freshman.) is only 6.7 percent underrepresented minorities. Black students make up only 3 percent of Markley, whereas 5.7 percent of the general freshman class this year was black. Levy called this distribution “something that would require more examination” and said he did not have specifics to explain this occurrence. Markley also has smaller-than-average populations of Asian and Latino students, making it the whitest dorm on campus. On admissions applications and housing surveys, about 74 percent of Markley’s residents indicated they are white, compared with 58 percent of the entire residence hall population.

In past years, the Baits Residence Halls on North Campus have housed a very large population of black students, who make up close to 30 percent of the Baits population. This year, 18 percent of the freshmen entering Baits were underrepresented minorities, far above the 11-percent representation of the incoming freshman class.

Ten percent of the freshmen in Baits are black, almost double the concentration of black students in the incoming freshman class.

Other residence halls show smaller demographic differences. Northwood I, II and III, which largely absorbed the upperclassmen from Baits this year, have a relatively high concentration of black students, while East Quad has a slightly smaller than average black population relative to the other dorms.