As CSU organizations promote events to celebrate Black History Month on campus, students are reminded that education is often the first stepping-stone on the road to social justice.
But the student body //– about 87 percent white, mostly middle-class — serves as one bad example of how many of the nation’s schools struggle to harbor a diverse campus.
“When I first came here, it felt like you could walk into a classroom of 500 people and be the only person of color, and that can be a little daunting,” said Angelica Riley, editor-in-chief of the Griot, a Black Student Services newsletter. “It’s not bad or anything. It’s just a different feeling, a different demographic.”
CSU is no exception to an ongoing trend that ethnic diversity among college campuses remains minimal, according to a recently released Colorado University and College System report.
The university is 13.2 percent ethnically diverse according to this year’s institutional profile, falling below the national average from 2004, which according to the National Center for Education Statistics, was 32 percent.
Of the roughly 25,000 students at CSU, about 500 identify themselves as African American, according to Black Student Services
Of CSU’s main peer institutions, North Carolina State University at Raleigh had the overall largest black undergraduate demographic at 9.6 percent, whereas Oregon State had the smallest at 1.5 percent.
Student leaders at CSU say orientation and recruitment programs at the university can be misleading in their portrayal of a diverse academic population.
Estevan Jaimes, chair of the Diversity Advocate Council, said when he came to CSU, he was expecting a wider range of diversity from recruiting program portrayals of the student population.
“When I was applying to schools, one thing that really caught my eye about Colorado State University was the videos they showed, the pamphlets and everything, you see a lot of diverse people in those” Jaimes said. “But when you actually step foot onto this campus . it’s not really what it looks like.”
A campus that looked more like its promotional pamphlets would only enhance the college experience, he said.
“Being able to interact with others who really provide something new, provide a different perspective, contributes to the success and the initiative that (students) have,” Jaimes said.
But Kerry Wenzler, assistant director of Student Orientation, said the programs at CSU are designed to ensure adequate representation of the CSU community, not necessarily specific demographic information.
“We’ll work with all of the advocacy offices, not just ethnic advocacy . to recruit some of the students that work with them or are involved with their offices, who work with the residence halls and other leadership areas across campus, too,” Wenzler said. “We want to do that in order to have a diverse student group representing the university.”
In order to have a well-rounded community and campus experience, all aspects of diversity must also be considered and applied, Wenzler said.
“Ethnic diversity is also part of diversity, but it’s one component of what we define as diversity,” she said. “So we just want (students) to really reflect on what their own diversity is that they bring to the campus and really appreciate what the campus offers.”
Staff writer Andy Dose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.