Campus not ripe for racial interaction, diversity

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    Racial and class diversity have become a priority in admissions offices across the country, and TCU is no exception.These concerns stem less from an affirmative action point of view and lean more toward embracing a multicultural society, as shown by efforts of TCU’s Admissions Office.

    Black-student enrollment has captured the attention of the TCU Admissions Office. Minority enrollment trends typically increase annually, but the 2006 freshman class saw a decrease from previous years’ statistics in this segment of the student body. While enrollment of Hispanic and Asian students increased this past fall, black student enrollment slipped from 80 freshmen in the fall of 2005 to 79 in 2006, compared to an increase of 16 between the fall semesters of 2004 and 2005, according to Institutional Research.

    Michael Marshall, admissions counselor, said 1,123 black students started to submit applications, but only 517 completed the process.

    A Step in the Right Direction

    The Admission Staff hosted a brainstorming luncheon for black faculty and staff in early September 2006. The purpose of the luncheon was to gain feedback on how to increase the number of black students who accepted their admittance into TCU.

    Last spring, Intercultural and Inclusiveness Services and the admissions office began implementing new steps to boost minority enrollment by enlisting current minority students to call prospective students and talk to them about the college experience from a minority perspective. Also, Marshall wrote personalized letters to black students who had begun the application process.

    However, Darron Turner, vice chancellor for intercultural and outreach services, suggests the hardest obstacle to overcome in recruiting more black students is the fact there are only 347 undergraduate blacks currently on campus.

    “We have fewer black students applying because we have fewer black students,” Turner said.

    In fact, in the Princeton Review’s “The Best 361 Colleges” 2007 edition, TCU is ranked among the lowest colleges in the category of racial and economic class interaction. The 80-question student survey taken in 2004 asked students if they felt different types of students, such as black and white or rich and poor) interact frequently and easily. Out of 361 colleges, only 10 ranked lower than TCU.

    But, for some students, problems go beyond the numbers. The combination of low numbers of minorities and little interaction prompted friends of junior Taylor Lyons to leave TCU. Her 2004 freshman class had 64 black students enrolled, according to Institutional Research.

    Lacking Interaction

    “Many people leave or get mad about not having enough black students on campus,” said Lyons, a fashion merchandising and business major. “I went to a predominately white high school, but some people from more urban places have trouble adjusting to maybe being the only black person in their class.”

    Lyons said she and other black students in her freshman class knew from campus visits and research beforehand that TCU would be a predominantly white school.

    Juan Floyd-Thomas, an associate professor of history who teaches African American experience, said blacks on campus should not have to give up their right to complain or want to change their environment.

    The Black Student Symposium, held earlier this month, provided a forum for students to express opinions on racial interaction and other topics of concern.

    At the Symposium, J’ai Holliday, a sophomore communication studies and radio-TV-film major, said, “Diversity, in the true sense, which is racial and cultural representation, is definitely not what is happening at TCU.”

    Jace Thompson, student government president, said student involvement is the best way to increase interaction.

    “I have friends from all different kinds of backgrounds,” said Thompson, a junior entrepreneurial management major. “The best way to have diversity is for everyone to get involved in at least one organization on campus.”

    Turner said there are classes and programs, such as the Black History Month events happening currently, in place to foster interracial interaction, but natural communication will depend on students’ comfort level around other those with other ethnic backgrounds.

    “You can’t just throw people in a room and expect them to interact,” Turner said. “We have to find more opportunities to draw them to a place they feel comfortable and have interaction naturally take place.”

    Allison Robinson, a senior and the president of the TCU chapter of the NAACP, said a lack of diversity is an unfortunate reality of TCU but that she hopes cultural events can help to change the perception.

    Michelle Fabrega, International Student Association president, said interaction among races doesn’t happen in situations she has experienced. She said the communication gap is generated from a lack of knowledge of people of other ethnicities.

    “It’s more about ignorance,” Fabrega, a junior advertising and public relations major from Panama said. “Sometimes people will ask me questions like ‘Do you speak Panamanian?’ or ‘Where is Panama?’ and I think to myself that they have so much to learn.”

    Fabrega said serving on the ISA executive board has helped to give her more of an international experience.

    “I like working on the executive board a lot,” Fabrega said. “You learn so much about how to respect people from other cultures.”

    Change in the Works

    Linda Moore, a social work professor who teaches Issues in Diversity, said she tries to foster the idea of respecting other cultures in her class. The course, which is open to all students, focuses on not just ethnic diversity issues but also deals with other issues such as sexuality, gender and physical handicaps.

    “I try early on establish a comfortable environment to encourage discussion among students,” Moore said. “The class is really good for students who don’t realize how hurtful some words can be.”

    Classes, such as Issues in Diversity, among others, that fulfill the global awareness or cultural awareness core curriculum credit aid the process of breaking down racial barriers, Moore said.

    But can TCU break down racial barriers?

    Admission staff remains optimistic as more than 3,600 prospective students have begun the application process for fall 2007, and more than 1,400 of those initiated applications are from black students, Brown said. But he still wants to work with IIS on implementing some of the new ideas suggested at the black faculty and staff luncheon.

    Most ideas centered on the idea of specifically targeting outreach programs to prospective black students such as including staff and faculty visits to area high schools. The group also posed the idea of hosting a black-student only “Monday at TCU” where the tours, major/minor sessions and financial aid advising sessions that normally take place would be specifically tailored toward black students and their parents.

    Ray Brown, director of admissions, said the admissions office has adopted an approach to recruiting much like President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

    “We will do anything, not knowing what will happen,” Brown said. “If you have an idea for programming, we’ll do it.