Students rally for diversity

Christina Salter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Tyris Jones wants Northwestern students to remember a number.

It’s 81 – the number of black students in the Class of 2012.

“I want that 81 just burning in people’s heads,” said Jones, a Weinberg freshman and the president of the Freshman Activities Board, an affiliate of For Members Only. “It’s an outrageously low number.”

The Freshman Activities Board held a rally at The Rock at noon Monday to raise awareness of their numbers and encourage students to get involved. Black students make up 4.2 percent of this year’s freshman class, a 1.3 percent drop from last year and the lowest level since 1995.

About 35 students attended the event, which included a performance of the Black National Anthem, a poetry reading on diversity and several speakers who spoke on the meaning of diversity and student efforts to improve minority recruitment at NU.

“It’s a concern when the university markets its diverse population and the African-American population isn’t represented,” Jones said. “We’re trying to make it not a FAB problem or a FMO problem or the African-American population’s problem, but make it the NU community’s problem.”

Their concerns are not new. Black enrollment at NU peaked in 1976, when 667 black students made up 9.6 percent of the undergraduate student body. Last year, 5.8 percent of undergraduates were black.

Medill freshman Eryn Rogers said she was surprised to find out that her class is less diverse than she had hoped. Rogers, who is black, said Monday’s event was a good start toward raising awareness.

“It definitely brings us a step closer to what needs to be done, but there’s definitely going to be more that has to be done,” she said.

Administrators have expressed concern about the small number of black students on campus in the past, but say they face difficulties in recruiting, including a relatively small pool of qualified students and stiff competition from other top universities.

Former FMO coordinator Mark Crain spoke about his experiences with diversity and encouraged students to be “very aggressive in making this a priority on the agenda.” He also said he had hoped for a bigger turnout.

“We never really see the crowd that this issue deserves,” the Weinberg senior said.

The Office of Undergraduate Admission agrees that there is a need to increase black enrollment and is currently working on several new initiatives, said Bradley Akubuiro, coordinator of NU Ambassadors, a group within the admissions office that specifically targets minority students.

Akubuiro, a Medill sophomore, encouraged students to get more involved in recruiting efforts. NU Admissions is starting an effort this December to send black and Latino students back to their high schools to speak about their experiences at NU.

“The only way we’re going to get them here is to show them this is where they want to be,” Akubuiro said.

Integrated Marketing Communications student Carrie Brown, Medill ’05, said the drop in black students wasn’t “super surprising.” As an undergraduate, she worked on African-American recruitment efforts and said it’s most effective to get students involved in efforts early.

“It’s really great that people are getting so active and involved and being so vocal,” Brown said.

Veronica Morales said she attended the rally to find out more about the issue and to see how Latino and black recruitment efforts could work together. Latino enrollment dropped 0.9 percent this year.

“It’s definitely a relationship we want to form,” the SESP sophomore and Alianza exec board member said.

Jones said the ultimate goal is to increase black enrollment to 13 percent or higher.

“Whatever percentage America has, we want that to be reflected by the university,” he said. “That’s the way NU will grow and flourish.”