Schapiro, students discuss socioeconomic inclusion

Shane McKeon, Assistant Campus Editor

University President Morton Schapiro said there should be no excuses for Northwestern to limit the number of admitted students with financial need given the University’s economic resources at a forum on socioeconomic diversity Friday afternoon.

Students presented anecdotes about socioeconomic diversity, discussing where NU stands on these issues and how it can improve.

“We have the sixth-largest endowment,” Schapiro said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be a leader in increasing affordability.”

Schapiro answered questions from both a panel of students and from audience members, some of whom were faculty.

Nearly 200 people crowded into Harris Hall for the forum, organized by Associated Student Government and Quest Scholars Network.

ASG vice president of B-status finances Kenny Mok asked if Schapiro supported the proposed U.S.-centric Social Inequalities and Diversities requirement. The proposal calls for a University-wide requirement in which students would have to take an approved course on issues on diversity and social inequalities. It also includes an extracurricular component involving Sustained Dialogue discussions.

“Students don’t want to see another five years where this issue is in limbo,” the Weinberg junior said.

Schapiro showed modest support for the requirement, saying “having one of these requirements is a good idea,” but that it wouldn’t be a cure-all for making students more empathetic.

Later, Schapiro said promoting empathy among students is hugely important to him.

“If Northwestern University doesn’t make people more empathetic, then we’ve failed them, because that’s what the world is about,” he said.

Schapiro also said the requirement should be worked out between students and faculty because faculty decide which classes count toward degrees.

The faculty’s role in making NU more inclusive was a prominent theme throughout the discussion. Schapiro said it’s difficult for administrators to make faculty more aware of students’ different financial backgrounds because of the independence the University grants them.

“Faculty have a lot of autonomy, and that’s what makes all of our institutions great,” he said. “But it means you can’t tell them what to do.”

Before Schapiro took questions, a few speakers shared their experiences with socioeconomic diversity at NU.

Kellogg student Daniel Flores (Communication ’14), a first-generation college student and the founder of NU’s Quest Scholars chapter, said his family moved to the U.S. from Peru when he was five years old.

He said he attended a public school on the west side of San Antonio and that he “didn’t get the same quality of education” as many of his peers.

Flores said he wished faculty and advisers better understood low-income students’ backgrounds so those students feel more comfortable reaching out.

“We want to make this a safe space, where students can come forward and show weakness,” he said. “I wish my adviser had known that my high school didn’t have a college counselor or a career counselor, but a parole officer.”

Communication junior Amanda Walsh, president of NU’s chapter of Quest Scholars, voiced a similar opinion, saying the University should help to “build bridges” for low-income students to both faculty and their peers.

Michael Mills, the associate provost for University Enrollment who started his job in 2005, said NU was “pretty homogeneous” 10 years ago, something that has since changed.

Mills said 14 percent of undergraduates receive Pell grants, and that the University is aiming have 20 percent of its freshman classes be recipients by 2020.

“I feel really optimistic with where we are, more than any other time in my time here,” Mills said. “We’re on the cusp of something really significant.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the country Daniel Flores moved from. He moved to the U.S. from Peru. The Daily regrets the error.

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