By: Lauren Glass – Contributing Writer
Students and faculty are responding to the University of Dayton’s development of programs to attract African-American minority students with a mix of appreciation, concern, and thoughts of their own.
After a drop in the number of freshmen African-American students enrolling at UD last semester, the university has been focused on developing more initiatives to attract these students. Although many of the faculty and students interviewed were not previously aware of the new initiatives, they provided their own commentary on this news.
Alana McGee, a senior sociology major and white student at UD, said she wants to see more diversity on campus, and hopes the new initiatives will be successful.
“I like being a part of different cultures, like I don’t want my same culture all the time because it’s boring and who wants to do that,” said McGee, adding that having the opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds not only makes college more interesting, but also equips students with the people skills they will need for life after college.
Joel Carter, a junior history and international studies major and African-American student at UD, said he feels there is not a lot of diversity at UD and getting to see more students like himself on campus would help make him feel more comfortable here. However, he said he doubts the university will be able to attract many more African-American students than those who are already interested.
“I don’t think you can do much, truthfully because that’s just how it is,” Carter said. “That’s how the school is. It’s created for certain type of people to come.”
Lee Sleet, a fifth year electronic media communication major and African-American student at UD, also said cost and the perceived student body culture are going to be barriers.
“There’s this kind of perception that UD is kind of… for rich people,” she said.
Sleet said African American students at UD face stereotypes such as they only listen to hip hop, or they are all from “the hood.” She said stereotypes like these are going to deter prospective students too, and should be addressed. Sleet does believe however, some new initiatives such as the book scholarship and the new four-year tuition transparency plan will help attract more African-American students.
Most of the students interviewed said they were not previously aware of the initiatives, and several expressed disappointment that the administration had not revealed this to the entire student body.
“I think it’s interesting that they wouldn’t involve us in something that actually is about the student body,” said Sam Hamilton, a senior English major and Caucasian student. “Maybe the school should want to know, ‘Yes, we would like to have more diversity. Yes we would be willing to do this, this, and this. What can we do to make it a more welcoming school, or what’s the issue that we can help fix?’”
All of the faculty interviewed were aware of the President’s address in the fall about the low numbers of African-American students at UD, but many had not been made aware of any further initiatives undertaken by the university, or had asked to be involved.
Simanti DasGupta, an anthropology professor and native of India, said she was interested to know more about what initiatives the university would be taking after she heard about President Dan Curran’s address to the faculty in the fall. However, when she tried to contact individuals who she thought might know more about these initiatives, she did not receive a clear response. DasGupta said she doesn’t see the faculty being engaged much on the issue.
Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management Rob Durkle said the administration has been making an effort to reach out to students and faculty regarding the development of the new initiatives. The deans of the schools have been working to identify and contact faculty and students who would be available and interested in getting involved with some of the initiatives, he said.
An article about these initiatives was also published last fall in the Campus Report, a publication available to all faculty and students on campus, Durkle said, as one way the university has tried to make the campus aware of these new initiatives.
Durkle said any faculty and students who have ideas or would like to get involved are encouraged to contact Patty Alvarez in the Office of Multicultural Affairs or Rob Durkle in the Office of Enrollment Management.
Sleet said she’s glad to see the administration taking steps to raise the enrollment of African-American students, but hopes they will do just as much to focus on keeping the students after they come to UD. She said she knows African-American students who left because of factors such as not being able to receive enough financial aid or not feeling welcome at UD, and if those things don’t change, it will continue to happen.
“If you do attract all these minorities, how are you going to keep them, you know?” Sleet said. “It’s great that you have all these plans, but you’re always going to have people across the board that just get here a year or a semester and go, ‘no, I don’t want this.’”