If you are a college looking for the best students with the best GPAs and the most diverse extracurricular activities, should you be worried about the race of those students? If you are University of California Berkeley, the answer is yes.
Fifteen years ago, the voters in California did something that I actually agree with (its a rare thing), they determined that colleges should not factor race into their admission criteria. This initiative was led by a businessman named Ward Connerly back in 1996, Connerly happens to be African-American. He felt that college admission should not be dictated by race but by merit and that California’s colleges would benefit from this initiative. I agree with this idea, I LOVE the fact that California voters wanted everyone to be counted the same and that every student entering their public universities has the same opportunity to get in without so-and-so getting bonus points because s/he is “….. race” or “…… socioeconomic status”.
So where’s the problem?
I guess the problem is that UC Berkeley is seeing that the demographics of their college is not quite the same as the demographics of the state of California. For example, the population of Asian students is 47%, 4 times higher than the percentage of Asian students currently attending grades K-12 in California. The percentage of white students is 30%. On the flip side, over 50% of the K-12 population is Hispanic, and only 15% of the UC Berkeley population is Hispanic. California is 7% African American, while only 4% of UC Berkely is African American.
Supposedly, many minority (African American and Hispanic) students leave Berkeley during their college careers in favor of schools that have more “diversity” among the student population. I can see Berkeley’s concern with this, if these populations are already small, you don’t want those students to leave, making fewer members of those populations because then how do you entice more minority students to attend your school? Is the solution to then start factoring in race into admissions so that Hispanic students see more Hispanics at your school?
NO! Emphatically NO!
I’ll bet that if the administrators and recruiters from UC Berkeley took a field trip to the local jail and prison they would find the missing members of the entering freshmen’s demographics. California prisons are 37% Hispanic/Latino, 27% African American, 27% white, and 8% “other” (Wikipedia). A majority of prisoners are members of gangs before they enter prison, and if not before, then definitely by the time they leave they are a member of a gang because gangs offer protection during incarceration.
My question to Berkeley is, what are you doing to influence these kids to enter college rather than enter prison? Obviously, the choice is not quite as cut-and-dry as this, but what are Berkeley and other college facing this same dilemma doing to influence kids to choose college (the harder road) over a life of crime and mediocrity (the easy choice)? Are they sponsoring mentors to go out into the communities and show kids what hard work can do? Are they inviting at-risk kids to their college(s) to demonstrate what is “out there” beyond drive by shootings, drugs, and violence? Are they reaching out to the kids in areas that are predominantly black or Hispanic and introducing the idea of college at an impressionable age, then following these students throughout their K-12 academic careers and grooming them to become incoming college freshmen? If they are doing outreach, are they taking the white and Asian kids or are they taking the kids from the neighborhoods that grew up with Auntie and Uncle and big brother/sister and who can relate to the kids that the colleges are targeting?
Or, are these administrators sitting back in their cushy offices going, “why can’t we get the right percentage of _______-kind of student to come to our college?” and expect students who fit into the correct empty boxes to just fall out of the sky?
(2012). “Campus diversity suffers under race-blind policies.” Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/04/21/campus-diversity-suffers-under-race-blind-policies-2081929089 on April 24, 2012.