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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: UA isn’t nearly as diverse as students think it is

It seems like everywhere I go, I hear the same words used to describe our campus and student population. Most everyone agrees our food choices in the Arizona Student Unions are less than sustainable, our weather is incredible and our social scene is revered by many.

I agree with all of the aforementioned statements—however, when I hear “diverse” used to describe our student body, it makes me pause and think twice.

People seem to forget that the meaning of a word is subjective to one’s previous surroundings. If someone isn’t used to being surrounded by, let’s say cactuses—arriving in Tucson is a culture shock for that person regardless of whether they’re looking at Saguaro National Park or a cactus garden on the UA Mall. I hope you’re catching on to the metaphor here.

I’m thankful I was brought up in a metropolitan area and went to public school. I quickly learned not see color, but instead individuals, and not to see percentages, but friends. As cliché as that sounds, it’s absolutely true. And not in the “I have a black friend so I can use derogatory terms freely” kind of way, but in the sense that I, a white female, was truly uncomfortable with the lack of diversity I found when I first came to this university. I can’t imagine how people of color would feel arriving on campus for the first time.

Every five years, the UA takes a student-wide survey aimed at gathering information about students’ attitudes about the climate of campus. The most recent information comes from the 2011 study. It’s important to note that the 2011 survey only had an 11 percent response rate. It’s hard to examine general attitudes on campus when you’re talking to less than an eighth of the student population.

Nonetheless, when these students were asked if they thought the UA had a diverse population, 83 percent—an overwhelming majority—agreed. This startled me, but thinking about which 11 percent of the population was being tested reminded me that there’s a very good chance it wasn’t the students thinking about racial issues daily.

The reality is nearly 57 percent of UA students are white, according to College Data, an online college adviser. This number seems surprisingly low. If you walk on campus, you can typically count the visible diverse individuals on a hand or two. Diversity on our campus is not as visible as the numbers make it seem.

The only other substantial group at the UA is Hispanic/Latino, making up about 27 percent of our population. Meaning that all other ethnic groups combined—yes, combined—amount to just above 16 percent of the entire student body.

The simple numbers are not nearly as problematic as the physical and atmospheric situation is.

Our university should not be considered diverse until the subjective attitudes of the majority of the population are considered.

Follow Stephanie Shaw on Twitter.

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