Archive for Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Forum at KU targets school’s lack of diversity

April 17, 2002


Alexzia Plummer said the Kansas University promotional material she received in high school didn't accurately represent KU's predominately white student body.

"I love it here, but it doesn't look like the viewbook at all," the Bellevue, Neb., sophomore said. "Don't lie to (prospective minority students) and tell them it's wonderful."

KU's recruitment process was one of the issues discussed during a student forum Tuesday conducted by KU's newly formed Commission on the Status of Minorities.

The commission, which already has sent proposals to administrators, was seeking student suggestions how to make KU more diverse.

About 9.4 percent of KU students are minorities, with another 6.9 percent international students. According to a Student Senate study last year, KU ranked 10th in minority numbers among Big 12 universities.

KU's minority numbers are up slightly from 1991, when minorities made up 7.6 percent of the student body. About 8.1 percent were international students then.

Fred Rodriguez, associate dean of the School of Education and the commission's chairman, said the group already has forwarded some recommendations to Provost David Shulenburger. They include:

l Adding $150,000 annually to the university's base budget for recruiting minority students. The money was included in this year's budget for the first time, Rodriguez said, but the commission wants it to be an annual allotment.

l Requiring each department to have a minority recruitment program, and coordinating efforts between the departments.

"We saw a real mix of plans and strategies," Rodriguez said.

l Increasing funds to HAWK Link, a program that guides minority students through orientation, advising and tutoring.

l Developing more connections such as a joint database system between the Office of Admission and Scholarships and the Office of Student Financial Aid.

Many of the 40 students who attended the forum in the Kansas Union said KU could do more when it comes to getting minorities involved on campus.

Hung Nguyen, a Wichita sophomore, said the key is getting organizations such as Black Student Union, Asian American Student Assn. and Hispanic American Leadership Organization involved in orientation. Many minorities are hesitant to get involved, he said.

"If we can show to these minorities they can get involved as much as any other student, maybe they'll stay," he said.

Tiffany Lopez, Minneapolis, Kan., junior, said increasing the profile of KU's Media Resource Center a platform issue of student body president-elect Jonathan Ng is key.

Courtney Bates, Lawrence junior, said she thought holding more minority student days would help recruitment.

"When students come as a group they're more likely to ask questions about the climate on campus," she said.

Janet Murguia, KU's executive vice chancellor for university relations and a commission member, said the group likely will conduct similar forums in the future.

"This is a good chance for the commission, after we've been bombarded with paper and deans, to hear from students about strengths and weaknesses in the areas related to recruitment, retention and the climate at KU for students of color," she said.

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