Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Riverside Campus is UC's Most Ethnically Diverse

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times reported that UC Riverside -- a lower-tier campus at the University of California -- has become not only the system's most ethnically diverse campus, but is also the most diverse research university in the nation:

UC Riverside, sometimes viewed as a dumping ground for students who can't get into other UC campuses, has become the university of choice for many black and Latino students, whose numbers remain disproportionately low at other UC campuses.

While campuses like UCLA and UC Berkeley struggle to attract students from underrepresented minority groups, UC Riverside increasingly enjoys a reputation as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation.

"Maybe they should be looking at what UCR is doing right in attracting minorities," said Jayna Brown, an assistant professor of ethnic studies there.

Since 1996, state law has forbidden using race in college admissions. But at Riverside, administrators say they have worked hard over the last decade to reach out to eligible minority applicants, giving financial aid packages to promising students such as Curry, and creating race-based programs to assist minority students once they enroll.

UC Riverside Chancellor France A. Cordova, hailed as the first Latina chancellor in the UC system, notes that more than half the students say Riverside was their first or second choice."

We are not UC rejects," says Samantha Wilson, 19, a white student who chose Riverside because of its diversity. "We are UC on the rise."

On the campus of 17,000 students, the university's success in achieving a diverse student body is obvious. At midday, the Commons is filled with young people of many ethnic backgrounds, some sitting in mixed groups, some with others of the same heritage.

Nearby are offices set up by the university to serve targeted groups. There are places for black students, Chicano students, Asian Pacific students, Native American students. There is a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center and a Women's Resource Center. Similar programs exist at many colleges, but the effect is palpable.

"It's the face of California," said Ellen Wartella, UC Riverside executive vice chancellor and provost. "It's not the campus of last resort. It's the place that minority students feel comfortable coming to because we are diverse."

This year, the UC Riverside undergraduate student body is 7.1% African American, 43% Asian American, 25.1% Latino and Chicano, and 18.7% white.

In 2005 — the last year for which system-wide figures are available — UC student bodies overall were 3.1% African American, 39.9% Asian American, 14.3% Latino and Chicano, and 35.8% white.

Riverside has the highest percentage of African Americans of any of the 10 UC campuses and the highest percentage of Latinos of any UC campus except the small, new Merced campus, which has slightly more.
Read the whole thing. I'm intrigued by the article's opening vignette, about UC Riverside student Woodrow Curry. Curry's a respectable student, with grades and test scores that got him accepted to UC Berkeley. He chose to attend UC Riverside instead, however, citing the campus's increased black student population as the determining factor:

Spurning one of the nation's premier public universities, he picked UC Riverside. Although Riverside is sometimes scorned as the lowliest of UC campuses, it offered Curry something that Berkeley did not: a place where he felt welcome.
I wonder if this is what Martin Luther King, Jr., and other leaders of the civil rights movement had in mind when they fought to break down the walls of segregation and inequality. Here you have an outstanding African-American student who turned down the chance to attend the nation's premier public university because he was worried that there wouldn't be enough blacks!

Well, so much for integration -- school choice among minorities nowadays is all about feeling "welcomed" rather than attaining the highest levels of achievement or reaching the pinnacles of the educational establishment. Curry mentions in the piece that he plans to attend law school, although apparently no one advised him of the huge advantages a Berkeley undergraduate degree would confer on him in the highly competitive law school application process. It's perverse, really. At the same time you've got radical activists protesting against the low numbers of minorities at UC, the top historically disadvantaged students who are accepted are turning down their opportunities to attend these elite school's. In other words, resentment of historic underrepresentation at America's campuses is in fact contributing to self-segregation among today's minority applicants. Something's not right here. It's a shame, really.

No comments: