Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass continues to fail underrepresented minorities

By Joanna Zhu

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(Randy Crandon/Daily Collegian)

(Randy Crandon/Daily Collegian)

Diversity on college campuses is an increasingly salient issue. Even with the recent 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, the United States and its public universities have done very little to promote educational equality. Putting the financial burden aside for a moment, students of color consistently remain under-enrolled at the University of Massachusetts. We compared the demographics for the state of Massachusetts in 2013 against the racial and ethnic breakdown of UMass in Fall 2013:

Black and Latino/a individuals, considered to be underrepresented minorities due to lack of physical representation within the University, are enrolling at UMass at 4.9 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively, compared to white students. The label of Asian also homogenizes the experiences those of of East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian students, especially when the latter two groups have a significantly larger percentage of refugee families. The New Directions of Institutional Research recently published a study showing concerns about finances, immigrant status, first generation educations and family security, meaning there is insufficient assistance available to help minorities enroll at universities.

But once we all arrive at college, the past is behind us. Right? We are all just students working toward our degrees. Right? Wrong.

College is more than just academics. From dorm life, to student employment, to co-curriculars, there is so much more than just sitting down for 50 minutes for a lecture. Often, students of color in predominantly white institutions, such as UMass, encounter a multitude of issues including a stark change in cultural norms, lack of access to appropriate resources (including money) and limited contact of people within their own race, according to the NACADA Journal.

Student Bridges, a student-run organization, has been firmly and directly asking Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy to increase the rate of admissions of underrepresented minorities by 5 percent each. This has also been met with a heaping pile of complacency and misdirection on behalf of the administration.
Student retention rates reveal a disturbing reality, and emphasize our administration’s lack of concern for all students. The graduating class of 2013 witnessed a nearly 16 percent difference in graduation rates. White students boasted a graduation rate of 67.4 percent, while students of color only graduated at a 52.1 percent rate, according to the UMass Amherst Office of Institutional Research.

Perhaps these students are simply encountering setbacks due to the additional hardships they may experience in the university. The class of 2011 is the most recent class with data available to track a six-year graduation rate. Underrepresented minorities are still graduating at a noticeably lower rate, with African American students graduating at a rate of 60 percent, and Latino/a students at 57 percent, compared to 74 percent for whites.

The lack of diversity and support for students cannot go ignored any longer. In order to begin addressing these problems, there needs to be an assertive request for the University to publically announce what it intends to do and a clear demand that the school cannot continue to drag its feet. The lack of financial support for Registered Student Organizations dedicated to underrepresented minority interests must be addressed at the institutional level. Student groups fighting for equality with strategic campaigns and direct organizing action have existed on this campus for years, and newly branded ones, like Multicultural Organizing Bureau, continue to emerge. There are students willing to commit to their underrepresented peers, but the question now is if the University is willing to do the same.

Emily Belko is the MOB core team leader and can be reached at [email protected] Joanna Zhu is a MOB core team member and can be reached at [email protected] Students interested in MOB can find more information in the CEPA office, Student Union 423A.

3 Comments

3 Responses to “UMass continues to fail underrepresented minorities”

  1. Locke on October 27th, 2014 1:01 am

    I agree completely with the sentiment, goals, and argument of this column, but the statistics in the graphic seem extremely poorly done by whomever does images for the Collegian.

    First off, the bars don’t seem to measure anything. They’re not proportional at all- just look at the “Asian” bars, how on earth is “9%” only a smidge higher than “6%”? That’s 50% more and the bar doesn’t reflect this. Similarly, the gap between “78%” and “75%” in the “White” bars is more than twice as big as the gap in the “Asian” bars, even though both gaps are 3%, and the “8.1%” African American bar ought to be more than twice as tall as the “4%” bar.

    Also, the statistics in the graphic clearly do not match the statistics cited by Ms. Belko and Ms. Zhu, nor those listed by the UMass Office of Institutional Research (from which I assume theirs were taken, seeing as they match). The authors list Latino/a students at 7.2%, as does the OIR, while the graphic claims 6%. Similarly, the OIR lists White students at ~67.6%, which is far, far below the graphic’s reported figure of 78%- the only way the 78% figure could possibly make sense would be if one assumed every single person under the “Race/Ethnicity Unknown” demographic is white, which is absurd. It’s a bit interesting to note that, with the correct stats, white students don’t seem to be overrepresented as a percentage of the student body, though I’m sure within the “white” category there are many overrepresented and underrepresented groups, particularly along class lines.

    All of this is made even worse by the fact that the graphic lists on its sidebar that its data was pulled from the Office of Institutional Research. Seriously Collegian, this is a good article that cites accurate statistics- either provide an accurate graph or don’t put an image at all.

  2. Mike on October 27th, 2014 4:16 pm

    I totally agree. In order to raise diversity we must consider the color of a person’s skin during admission. The black student should get in over the white student if they have the same admission profile. Also I am also not against letting in under qualified applicants into the university if it raises diversity!

  3. Wang Dang Doodle Ng on October 28th, 2014 9:40 pm

    Diversity is vastly overrated. There is plenty of evidence illustrating successes and failures of both diverse and non-diverse groups/businesses/countries. It’s the talent and abilities of the participants/countrymen/students that matter, not the color of their skin, or ethnicity, etc.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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