Make the U’s legacy more equitable

Despite years of progress, campus issues with diversity remain.

The Minnesota Daily’s feature last week on University of Minnesota professor John Wright raised questions about our campus’s issue with diversity. Wright’s story highlights the ongoing issue in higher education of a lack of students, faculty members and leaders of color, as well as the University’s own unique history with people of color and ethnic studies departments.

Wright told the Daily that today’s black students can feel “isolated.” This makes sense, as only 3.9 percent of University students are black and fewer than half graduate in six years.

Wright is one of just a handful of black faculty and staff members at the University, and only about 5 percent of full-time faculty are black nationwide.

The lack of black and other minority faculty members is an ongoing problem because without these people on campus, there will undoubtedly be fewer marginalized groups represented in University leadership and tenured positions.

Campus group Whose Diversity? recently demanded adding a faculty member of color in all departments without representation from those groups. While this all-encompassing demand is lofty, its intent speaks to the fact that many students on our campus never interact with a faculty member of color in their college career. More faculty of color could go a long way in correcting this circular issue by affecting the futures of more students of color, who may stay in higher education and become faculty themselves.

The lack of black students and leaders at the University is also alarming given the race-based issues on campus, such as concerns over racial profiling during the past school year. These issues could potentially push people of color off campus, instead of into our classrooms.

While affirmative action has proved a controversial route for some universities trying to enroll more people of color, the University and colleges nationwide can also try to retain and graduate students of color.