Zach Narcross, Guest Columnist
Miami University draws in a lot of its students through its strong academic reputation, its safe campus, and above most of our subconscious, its predominantly white reputation.
Miami University’s Oxford Fall 2015 undergraduate enrollment class had 16,382 students. Of these students, 519 were multiracial, 628 were Hispanic/Latino, 483 were black, 367 were Asian and 12,504 were white. An astonishing 76 percent of students at Miami are white, and only 3 percent of students at Miami are black.
Some people from my hometown who do not understand the benefits of diversity argue that Miami University does not have a lot of black students because it is just a very tough school to get into. They say that only students who try hard in high school will get in here.
There are two things wrong with this ideology. First of all, by saying Miami University is a hard school to get into, they are acknowledging the fact that you would need to attend a strong high school in order to obtain the knowledge necessary to get in. Unfortunately, a lot of school districts in Ohio, and more specifically urban areas, do not receive the funding necessary to achieve at the level of its suburban counterparts. It has been 19 years since the first time the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that school funding in Ohio is unconstitutional and yet still nothing has changed.
Secondly, to say that African Americans are ‘not trying hard enough’ is the reason why racism continues to enter the young minds of America today. “Laziness” in black people was a stereotype borne out of Americans wanting to keep people of color subordinate in the reconstruction era. This idea of black laziness continued through much of 1930s when entertainers like Stepin Fetchit portrayed black characters for white audiences like “the laziest man in the world.”
As we see with the attitudes of many Americans today, stereotypes defining African Americans are not over. Stereotypes and prejudice need to be put to an end so we can move forward as a unified America. A great way to erase these stereotypes is by putting different ethnic/racial groups together to give the ignorant an opportunity to see how stereotypes are false, and how much we can learn from one another.
It is in the human psychology that we are drawn to be with others that look and think like ourselves. For this reason, we cannot blame our brains for the fact that Miami University has such a large draw for white high schoolers. Imagine you are a white student from Columbus, like myself: when you visit Miami you notice how beautiful campus is, you see all the spectacular classrooms and facilities, and walk away thinking, “Wow I could really see myself going here.”
However, if I was a student of color visiting Miami, and 76% of the student body walking around campus when I was touring was not like me, I might be feeling out of place here.
13.7 percent of Ohio’s population is black, which does not correlate to why Miami’s student body is 3 percent black. I recognize the opportunities in a more diverse campus, which is why I believe that students would largely benefit from a sharp increase in African American student body as well as other races. There is no better way to learn about the real world, beyond academics, than from others who are not like you. Diversity in college encourages collaboration which in turn fosters innovation. A successful diverse student body at Miami will translate well into the current growing diversity of the American population and workforce after college.
A corporation in the United States would never succeed if every employee was of the same age, race, and gender. Forbes recently published an article about McKinsey Global Institutes’s findings on the importance of both gender and racial diversity in the workplace. McKinsey analyzed 366 public companies, and “those in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians.” Furthermore “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry peers.” The numbers speak for themselves: diversity is very important to the success of any business. By diversifying campus now, Miami will ensure students will learn more and be more prepared for life after college. Now the question becomes: how will Miami University acquire more students of color in order to ensure a more diverse student population?
Most people are under the impression that the only way to ensure an increase in diversity is through quotas, which is completely wrong. It has been years since Regents of the University of California v. Bakke ruled that racial quotas were impermissible. Instead, schools like Miami need to do a better job recruiting students from more diverse areas of the state and country. Additionally, because Miami is a historically white institution, they need to prioritize spots in their enrollment to qualified minorities, rather than legacy students with equal or poorer grades.
I am ready for more diversity at Miami University. I hope that Miami is ready to take the steps necessary to ensure more diversity on campus so students can learn more, and our student body can begin to erase the lasting stereotypes of minorities in America today.