The subject of campus segregation raises many complex and delicate questions that most of the student population tends to subconsciously avoid. While it may be easier to look the other way, it is time for University administrators and students to move beyond the status quo and delve deeper and more honestly into this issue. Segregation is an unfortunate but undeniable reality on this campus. The evidence lies in everything from dorm life to night life, the Greek system to cafeteria dinner tables. I first understood the magnitude of this issue while living with my black roommate freshman year, when I was given the privilege to see first hand the possibilities that exist when diversity and integration are truly achieved.
At a University that strives to be a pillar of academic diversity, campus segregation seems strikingly self-defeating. The University is a passionate advocate for affirmative action, and University President Mary Sue Coleman has made a concerted effort during her tenure to get minorities to apply and attend. While the University seemingly understands the value and necessity of a diverse campus, once students settle in, separate corners are resumed. The irony and loss here is obvious. The questions are: What causes this separation, and more importantly, what can be done about it?
The statistics have proven what we all knew to be true: Certain dorms and areas of the campus have a higher percentage of underrepresented minorities than others. University Housing demographics show a higher percentage on North Campus — 17.4 percent — compared with the Hill’s substantially lower 13.3 percent. Two dorms on campus, Baits and Markley, serve as prime examples of this separation. Baits has an underrepresented minority population of 20.2 percent, while Markley has an embarrassingly low 6.7 percent — and there are no residential learning communities to account for this difference.
Yet not all the statistics are as extreme as one may have thought. The difference between underrepresented minorities on the Hill and North Campus is only 4.1 percent — much lower than the common perception. Who would have guessed that Alice Lloyd houses the most underrepresented minorities of any dorm on the Hill, or that only 9 percent of Bursley Hall is black? We all know the stereotypes surrounding the dorms; Lloyd is not known to be particularly diverse, and most students believe North Campus houses the majority of the minority population. However, these perceptions are simply not in line with the statistics. And so the question arises: Why does the campus feel more segregated than it actually is?
The answer is self-segregation. Students naturally gravitate toward people of their own race and ethnicity, and despite the many opportunities for integration on this campus — the “comfort zone” prevails. The benefits of a diverse campus are lost.
The issue here is twofold: The University has a responsibility to combat racial segregation in the dorms by making sure the housing placement of its freshman class is balanced. But it is up to us, the students, to really make a significant change. It is easier to remain inside a racial or ethnic bubble, but it is definitely not as rewarding. Isn’t education the reason we are here? We have so much to learn from one another, why settle for the norm of racial clustering? We must strive to take advantage of the diversity on this campus, despite the obvious challenges and obstacles that stand in the way. We will all be the better for it.
Dibo is an LSA and School of Music sophomore and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.