Diversity dilemma: Lack of diversity self-perpetuating and tough to beat

By Glenn Judah

Jim Roche, a political science major, feels certain opinions were missing from a class discussion on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi this semester because his classmates were all white.

Roche is not the only Flagler student who has experienced this. Last year the Princeton Review ranked Flagler as “most homogeneous.” This year Flagler didn’t make that list, but the college’s demographics haven’t changed much.

Statistics from the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida show that Flagler is 90 percent white, while Stetson is 77 percent white and Rollins is 71 percent white. A 2005-2006 accountability report from ICUF, which Flagler belongs to, found that 51 percent of their students are white, while minorities make up 37 percent.

Despite the lack of diversity on campus, Flagler’s Admissions Office says it does not define their recruiting practices based on race or financial need. Marc Williar, director of Admissions, said Flagler’s admissions policies are based on self-reported grades, test scores and non-academic interests. Flagler finds students that meet those standards by purchasing lists of students from organizations.

“We are color blind and need-based blind,” Williar said. “It doesn’t matter what your socio-economic status or race might be.” Williar said students who have good grades, good test scores, show a strong work ethic and come from a lower economic standing may receive a higher preference for being accepted.

But he said Flagler’s best buy quality surprisingly does not attract as many students who lack the funding to attend a more expensive school. Williar points to tuition discounting as a reason minorities would chose a college that is triple the cost of Flagler. The actual amount they pay may be lower than Flagler’s base tuition rate.

Williar doesn’t believe that Flagler’s approach will change, but says anything can happen. He believes the lack of diversity is a self-perpetuating situation rather than a recruiting problem. “Not having a diverse campus does not attract diversity,” Williar said. “But to attract diversity you need a diverse campus.”

Jerae Forde, a black freshman from the Virgin Islands, says her first concern about Flagler was the lack of diversity.

“I wondered if I would be able to get along in an environment that is not as diverse as the Virgin Islands,” Forde said.

Forde says she had a difficult time adapting to this homogeneous environment. “I feel like the minority in every aspect at Flagler,” Forde said. “Flagler could go to different places in the world to create a variety of students.”

Forde agrees with Williar that not having a diverse campus already is the main reason Flagler doesn’t attract diversity.

“It seems like it’s already set in stone,” she said. “I bring diversity by coming here, but at the same time the lack of it turns me way.” She believes more diversity would create a better learning environment.

“My comfort level would be more at ease, which would help my learning experience,” Forde said.

Roche isn’t bothered by the lack of diversity on a day-to-day basis, but feels that in some situations it affects his education.

“The only time I think about diversity is when I have a class discussion on that,” Roche said. “I would like to get other cultures’ input.”

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