Increasing decline in student diversity reported at SU

The statistical decline in minority students at Syracuse University over the past two years could be representative of a larger diversity issue.

Syracuse University is home to more than 20,000 students with varying ethnic and religious backgrounds.

However, the university has seen a steady decline in diversity (by measure of statistics) over the past two years. Every ethnic background large enough to be recognized by the school, other than caucasians and international students, has decreased in population.

Photo: Nate Band
The Office of Multicultural Affairs is located in the basement level of the Schine Student Center, and aims to support underrepresented racial and ethnic groups on campus.

This comes at a time where racial tensions have been the topic of debate around the country, especially following the 2016 presidential election results, as well as police-related shootings that have made headlines over the past few years.

SU’s campus has also has had its share of race related incidents, such as the infamous“Blackface” incident in 2002 and the viral video of anSU women’s soccer player using racial slurs in 2014. Both incidents sparked outcry and protests on campus.

Fast forward to the present, and student run organizations likeTHE General Body and various independently identifying students are still protesting the same issues, including a lack of diversity and inclusiveness at SU.

According to statistics via the SU admissions website, the university experienced at least a 1 percent decrease in nearly every category of minority students that make up the student body as a whole.

Chancellor Kent Syverud addressed these numbers in a letter to the university at the start of the school year, and noted that although there was an improvement in enrollment of students of color at individual colleges, the university saw an overall decline.

David L. Jackson, a senior from Miami, Fla., and activist for various causes on campus related to minority students, said he's noticed less students of color around campus, and sees that number continuing to drop with the current political climate.

“From my freshman year in 2013, to now, you could clearly see – even in spaces like Schine or just walking through the quad – the number of black and Latino faces decreasing,” Jackson said. “I think the diversity rate is going to keep plummeting, especially now where students are damn near afraid because we’re driven by fear sometimes, and I know a lot of black students who may just be too afraid to go to a predominantly white institution, especially now with President Trump in office.”

Despite the university’s efforts to offer support systems to minority students, such as free tutoring, more financial aid and a council on diversity and inclusion being just some of the new resources the school has offered minority students, the diversity rate continues to decline.

“Even though the school says it offers fair support I don’t think it does. I think as minority students we find our own support. We find ways to channel our anger and frustrations at our situation as a cohesive group,” Jackson said. “If we don’t feel safe why would we go to them to feel safe because that just makes no sense.”

One of the few places on campus where a minority student may immediately feel comfortable in is the Office of Multicultural Affairs, located in the basement of the Schine Student Center.

Dr. James Duah-Agyeman, a Ghanaian immigrant and director of the office since 2001, said that although the university has made some strides in providing the necessary help for minority students, he still feels that it has not been enough to allow those students to truly feel comfortable in a foreign environment.

“When you have a predominantly white institution and have an incoming class with a diversity rate of 24 percent, that’s not that bad,” Duah-Agyeman said. “But, if you bring these students in, access is one thing, but how about support? I think the university has to reach a point where they ask themselves, ‘what can we do?’”

Duah-Agyeman also noted Chancellor Kent Syverud’s efforts to make inclusion a priority along with the concept of diversity, which is something he believes can also make a difference.

“Diversity by itself is not enough,” Duah-Agyeman said. “Bringing me to the room is not enough. Are you going to include me in the discussion? Are you going to value my opinion? Somebody once told me, diversity is like inviting me to the party; inclusion is asking me to dance.”

SU 2016-17 Campus climate survey by Nate Banḋ

Some minority students have seen the university make signficant strides in offering support systems. Ryan Kim, an Asian-American senior from Fullerton, Calif., said that there have been numerous efforts by the university to help out minority students, however, also said that those efforts have increased as the minority population has declined at SU.

"I've seen the statistics over the past few years and with the minority student decline, I've actually noticed an increase in the university's efforts to offer support systems and really be there for students feeling left out," Kim said. "This past month the university celebratedAsian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and the event had its biggest turnout yet. That's just one of the few things the university's had to offer this year alone, so there's definitely been a signficant increase in help systems available to minority students."

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