The 2014-15 academic year started a conversation about diversity at the University of Kansas.
In January, Student Senate appointed its first Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Jameelah Jones, the first to hold the position, helped facilitate conversations after different incidents involving race and ethnicity occurred on campus. Omar Rana, succeeded Jones in the position.
President Barack Obama visited KU in January, appealing to many students, minorities included.
In April, Blane Harding, the Director of the KU Office of Multicultural Affairs announced his resignation, because he didn’t “like the direction central leadership is going” at KU, he said. Precious Porras is serving as interim director of the OMA. A national search for a new director is currently underway.
Also in April, the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity expelled four members after they sent out an Islamophobic video post on social media.
In May, photos of Student Body President Jessie Pringle and Vice President Zach George standing next to people posing as Native Americans surfaced on the Internet. Pringle has since apologized for the photos.
The diversity conversation at KU has deeper roots than the problems that came about. The diversity conversation starts with the enrollment of minority students at the University.
During the 2014-15 academic year, enrollment of African-American, Latino, Pacific Islander and Multi-Racial undergraduate students were at their highest levels of all-time.
The biggest jump in undergraduate enrollment the past 13 years is Latino demographic. In 2002-03, according to the KU Office of Institutional Research and Planning, Latino undergraduate enrollment was at 590 students. Over the next 13 years, Latino undergraduate enrollment continued to rise, peaking in 2014-15 at 1,299 students, an increase of 120 percent. The 1,299 students account for 6.8 percent of the student body.
Like the enrollment numbers of Latinos, the enrollment numbers for African-American undergraduate students at KU have continually been on the rise since 2002-03, as well. In 2002-03, 587 African-American undergraduate students were enrolled at the University. In 2014-15, 893 African-American undergraduate students were enrolled at KU, a 52.1 percent increase.
The increase in minority enrollment extends far beyond the borders of Kansas.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 1976 to 2011, the percentage of Latino students rose from 4 percent to 14 percent. From those same dates, the percentage of African-American students rose from 10 percent to 15 percent
The Pew Research Center has come up with the same conclusion—Latino enrollment is on the rise nationwide. In 1993, 728,000 people who identified as Latino were enrolled in college. In 2012, those numbers jumped to 2.4 million—an increase of 229.7 percent. In 1993, 897,000 African-Americans were enrolled in college. In 2012, enrollment numbers spiked to 1.7 million—an increase of 89.5 percent.
The situations regarding the awareness of diversity on college campuses reach farther than the University of Kansas as well.
In March, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma was closed after members were recorded while singing a racist chant. Members in the video were expelled from OU.
In April, two students were expelled from Miami (OH) University after writing anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic and racial slurs on a bulletin board.
Also in April, a noose was left hanging in a tree at Duke University.
As the minority enrollment levels rise, the outcry after insensitive and ignorant actions continues to grow. The resources for minority students are continuing to expand, as well as the growing number of positions that are specifically tailored to help minority students.
Only time will tell if the increased minority enrollment will help fix the problems surrounding the diversity at KU in the future.