Despite the continuing fear that the recent affirmative action ban will hurt campus diversity, there have been some hopeful signs in the University’s fight to protect diversity. A stronger outreach program has contributed to the 5-percent increase in minority applications from this time last year. However, until the University has its real test next year with a full year under Proposal 2’s restrictions, outreach programs need to continue to expand and be creative if they hope to overcome the negativity generated by the debate surrounding University admissions.
Since the affirmative action ban passed, the University has come under fire from both sides of the political spectrum for its diversity policy. Supporters of Proposal 2 attacked the University’s admissions process as illegal under the new amendment, forcing an immediate change in admissions policy. On the other side, BAMN filed a lawsuit trying to force the University to continue its affirmative action policy despite the new state law.
High school students who pay limited attention to the news rarely get the full story and are likely to be disturbed by seeing the University attacked. All this would be expected to have a negative effect on minority applicants. Following the University’s Supreme Court battle in 2003, there was a 28 percent drop in black applicants. Most expected this to happen again.
These dark predictions have not happened yet – but this stasis is temporary. Instead, the University seems to have found a grassroots formula that transcends the negative portrayals in the media: simple, individual outreach. It’s time to move forward with that policy.
As of now, the University’s outreach program is primarily targeted at upperclass high school students in underrepresented areas. However, the University often gets to these students too late. While wealthier school districts in the state are able to provide advising from the beginning to ensure students understand the requirements to get admitted to the University, low-income districts are not so fortunate. By simply expanding the efforts already in place for juniors and seniors to include freshmen, sophomores and perhaps even younger students, the University can begin preparing students to be admitted, not simply inform them about the application process. The University wants a more diverse body; it has the chance to literally build that one student at a time.
Outreach programs must also move beyond students to include reference groups that students turn to when they need to make difficult college decisions, like teachers and parents. Not only are these groups important for changing the image of the University’s commitment to diversity, they also provide the pressure that pushes students to prepare for college.
These efforts should not be exclusive to just the University administration; students can have an impact on how high school students perceive our campus culture. In the past, the University has e-mailed students asking them to participate in recruiting events in their hometowns over the summer. We hope these events continue, and students must seize these opportunities to share the positive experiences they have had at the University.
The University should be commended for its actions in securing diversity thus far, but it should never become complacent.