Orlando Williams & Dijon Thornton, Contributing Writers
Some students of color have reported recently that the Oneonta campus and community is unwelcoming and unsafe to students of color. The quantity of students is separate from the issue of the experience these students have on this campus. Student Justin Jones states “I never felt like a minority until I came to Oneonta.” Students of color can feel pressured, and potentially targeted, when they are alone or among a few. For example, recently a student reported that a faculty member looked at her and asked her a question about “ebonics” as she was the only student of color in that class. Other times, faculty and administrators look to students of color for validation, putting them on the spot.
The President’s Council on Diversity affirms this belief: “As a campus community, we believe that every individual is important in a unique way and contributes to the overall quality of the institution. We are committed to recruiting and retaining diverse faculty, staff and students, and to fostering a learning environment, which draws strength from, celebrates, and honors diversity. We strive to eliminate prejudice and discrimination; to respect the dignity of all persons; and to learn from differences in people, ideas, experiences and opinions.” David Cephus states “We, as students, affirm that need for diversity is large but the rate in which it is growing is very slow. We understand that change cannot happen overnight, but the school is still recovering from the Blacklist which occurred over 19 years ago, and still needs to redeem itself. By recruiting more faculty and students of color this college can begin to redeem itself and be true torchbearers for diversity.”
An average of 51 percent of white students that apply to SUNY Oneonta are accepted, and 27 percent of students who are accepted end up enrolling. Only 12 percent of black students who apply are accepted to Oneonta, while 23 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Asians, 30 percent of American Indians, and 31 percent of other ethnicities were accepted. Averaged all together, all non-white students were accepted at a rate of 28 percent, and enrolled at a rate of 23 percent. The actual numbers are 9,861 White non-Hispanic students applied, 5,058 were accepted, and 1,372 chose to enroll. This is in contrast to all other categories, but especially the Black non-Hispanic category, where of the 1,430 applied, only 171 accepted, and of those accepted only 48 chose to enroll. The overall categories of admission statistics for students of color is in addition to the 2,010 students that applied to SUNY Oneonta through the EOP program. While understanding that a portion of EOP (Equal Opportunity Program) applicants are White non-Hispanic, the majority of students are of color. This raises applications by multicultural students to over 5,000, with acceptance at 1,196, and actual enrollment of 298. Many multicultural students are denied entrance into SUNY Oneonta at much higher rates than White non-Hispanic students, even though the numbers illustrates that these students apply to Oneonta at the same rates.
It is a well-established fact that there are gross ethnic inequalities in K-12 education. Higher education seeks to redress some of these problems or at least take them into account. My professors in the Africana Latino Studies Department often state that K-12 education penalizes students of color and despite more than six decades since Brown v. Board of Education (1954), segregation remains a part of many people’s academic experiences. In addition, SUNY, a public institution needs to emphasize access, a common refrain among protestors during the occupation of the quad 3 weeks ago.
Daniel Pneuman states, “When seeking answers as to why, students began questioning the admission rates for non white students vs. white students as contributing to this cause. Institutional Racism and Classism is not determined by conscious intent, rather it is understood as the consequences of action or inaction. If the consequence of hiring practices and admission policies is found to discriminate against multicultural students, both denied, currently enrolled, and alumni, then corrective action needs to occur.”
Data was analyzed from an email sent on behalf of Provost Thompson to faculty, titled “Enrollment Management Committee Data”. This e-mail has discrepancies with the information provided by admissions advisor, Karen Brown. However, it shows that yield of students who chose to enroll after actually being accepted for white non-Hispanic students, Black non-Hispanic students and Hispanic students are between 19-24 percent over the past three fall semesters of admissions, indicating reliability in the predictions for students who choose to attend from those who are accepted.
While the admissions office is able to reliably predict who will enroll based on the number of students they accept, what is not clear is why they choose to accept far less percentages of students of color who apply as compared to White non-Hispanic students. Is the admissions department over-reliant on standardized exam scores or incoming GPA, rather than looking at other indicators of potential success? Many students express concern that these standard operating procedures are inherently disadvantaging students of color, and suggest that this partly contributes to a poor representation of students of color and those from more modest socio-economic backgrounds. Students who have visited or transferred to SUNY Delhi, Binghamton, and Oswego have reported a more diverse campus and report back that the community is more inclusive. If Oneonta is to continue to attact a affluent student body, these are questions those in Admissions should certainly address.