Jan. 30-Feb. 12, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 2
Back Issues
Darden to run ethics institute
First Lady of Virginia, Lisa Collis, a leader in public service
Facilities focus of BOV’s Student Affairs meeting
Headlines @ U.Va.
Undergrad wins Mitchell Scholarship
Online COMPASS makes room reservations easy
Humans began altering global climate thousands of years ago
Xiaoming ‘Peter’ Yu
Revisiting Racial Diversity
2004 Black History Month Calendar of Events
Stem-cell researcher finds unusual ally in GOP leader
Can the spam: E-mail filter weeds out those unwanted messages
Collage glues together numerous pespectives
What’s a Didjeridu?
Mini-med school accepting applications until Feb. 27
Students drive real estate market

Revisiting racial diversity

This is an excerpt from an opinion piece published in The Daily Progress on Jan. 18, 2004

By M. Rick Turner,
Dean of the Office of African-American Affairs

The University of Virginia, one of the nation’s premier institutions in research and in academics, has also become a leader in the retention and graduation of black students. ... It is no small feat that we ... graduate 87 percent of [black students], a percentage well above the national average. However, ... [I] have become increasingly concerned about the declining number of black students applying for undergraduate admission and subsequently enrolling as first-year students.

In its 2002 summer issue, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education [noted that] ... “in recent years, black first-year students and overall black enrollments [at U.Va.] have dropped significantly.” ... [A] primary factor ... is the diminishing recruitment of black students. This situation initially resulted from the University’s concern about the threat of litigation from ... adversaries of affirmative action. The Supreme Court’s June 2003 decision upholding affirmative action has effectively alleviated that threat. ... [Therefore], it is important for the University of Virginia to resume aggressive recruitment ... [of] black students ... [and to] strengthen [its] ... commitment to ... creating a supportive and welcoming climate ... [for] African-American students, faculty, staff and administrators. ...

Clay Carson, a Martin Luther King Jr. scholar at Stanford University, reminds us that when we discuss ... diversity, the basic question should be, “Do African-Americans have access to educational opportunities equal to white Americans?” The answer is clearly a resounding “NO!” Diversity initiatives do not address the complexities of inherited disadvantage.

Frank Hale, whom many consider to be the Father of Diversity, asserts in his new book, “Diversity in Higher Education: Why It Matters”: “It is an illusion to believe that diversity in its genuine sense is alive and well in the academy. ... Until sincere efforts are made to encourage campus communities to make the cause of diversity their own and translate it into models that work and produce positive results, it is sheer nonsense to have high-minded expectations.”

We want to be sure that the efforts of the University of Virginia are sincere and proactive. The Commission on Diversity and Equity, and the Special Committee on Diversity ... [were created] in part from the dismal racial climate on Grounds during 2003, when we witnessed racial assaults ..., biased reporting ..., [and] blackface incidents. ... If [these] efforts ... are to be taken seriously, ... the University [must] regain its momentum in enrolling black [undergraduate] students. ... [I]t must also ... make a significant difference in our black graduate and professional school enrollment. ...

Deneese L. Jones, in her Nov. 20, 2003, article in Black Issues in Higher Education, states, “A diverse administrative body means that issues of access and success for all students can be addressed from multiple perspectives. Additionally, the impact of diverse leadership for creating genuine academic communities can make a critical difference in the way institutions effectively educate and prepare future faculty and students to occupy their positions in the larger society.” ...

It is encouraging to see that the Office of the Provost has begun paying more attention to how deans and department chairs address the five-year decline in the percentage of black faculty. Holding administrators accountable for addressing the hiring and retention of black faculty is an important step forward. We must address these important issues of diversity by developing creative strategies and bold leadership that are seriously committed to implementing them.

As the number-one public institution in higher education, the University of Virginia must do no less than lead.


© Copyright 2004 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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