Lack of UI diversity is a barrier for some students of color

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E’mma Camara, a freshman who is black, said the student ratio of color to white students didn’t surprise her at the University of Iowa – but she expected to see more diversity when she would come to campus.

“I thought there would probably be more whites [on campus]”Said Camara.” But I expected to have more people of color in my classes, everyday and in the dining halls. I just expected to see more in more places, but I really don’t want not be honest.

She said the university does a “good enough” job of recognizing different identities and being respectful.

“But, you can’t really help the real numbers,” Camara said. “In all of my classes I’m pretty much the only person of color and if I’m not the only person of color I’m the only black person.

University of Iowa student E’mma Camara poses for a portrait on Thursday, September 23, 2021 (Grace Kreber)

In recent years, the retention rate for students and teachers of color has plummeted, with more and more people dissatisfied. According to the results of the 2020 Campus Climate Survey on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:

  • Only 49 percent of faculty and staff who identify as belonging to an under-represented minority said they would encourage someone who shares their social identity to take a job at UI.
  • 50 percent of faculty and staff who identify as an under-represented minority said they are seriously considering quitting UI, compared to 39 percent of faculty and staff who identify as white .
  • 45 percent of faculty and staff who identify as multiracial said they are seriously considering quitting UI.
  • 48% of faculty and staff who identify as Latinx said they are seriously considering quitting UI.
  • 26 percent of faculty and staff who identify as Asian said they are seriously considering quitting UI.

Andrell Rodriguez, a freshman Puerto Rican Advantage Iowa scholar, said his experience at UI was disappointing.

“When I was waiting for the bus after one of my classes, I started people-watching and noticed that for several minutes I hadn’t seen a single person of color,” Rodriguez said. “I think there is definitely an effort to try to be the most diverse university, but as with everything these days, I feel like it’s more for the sake of being diverse. , and not because they actually care. “

Rodriguez said he knew before coming to IU that retention rates for students, staff and faculties of color were low.

“When I looked at the schools I wanted to go to, the vast majority did, the same graduation rate for people of color compared to white people,” Rodriguez said. “They were all lower.”

University of Iowa student Andrell Rodriguez poses for a portrait on Thursday, September 23, 2021 (Grace Kreber)

Grayson Lottes, a Puerto Rican and Cuban student, said his time was different from others on campus.

“My roommates, two of us are Hispanic, one of us is black, then my roommate is white,” Lottes said. “And so mainly there, it’s already different from other people’s experiences.”

He said that in his classes he feels there is a lot of diversity.

“I saw quite a few more points than I expected,” Lottes said. “I expected it to be mostly white people. But it wasn’t.

As an Advantage Iowa Fellow, Lottes receives emails about opportunities regarding diversity and inclusion programs and other resources, helping Lottes feel connected, he said.

Danielle Martinez, director of student retention in tutoring and retention, said she is working with students of color and first-generation students to close the gap between the retention rates of majority students and students of color.

“We ask students’ what do you love most about the University of Iowa”, and for many of our rural students, our white students, they say, “Oh my God, the diversity , there are so many different people here, I love it, ”said Martinez. “Then we ask the same question: What do you like least about Iowa? And what we hear a lot from our students of color is, “Oh, my gosh, that’s not diverse at all. “

In the UI class of 2025, 22% identified as students of color, up from previous years, Martinez said. Martinez added that the retention rate for students of color in the fall 2020 cohort is around 86.9%, reported by the Registrar’s Office.

Maria Engler, a student at the University of Iowa, poses for a portrait on Thursday, September 23, 2021. (Grace Kreber)

The retention figures for students of color are also lower than the retention figures for white students at all public universities in Iowa, according to the Fall State Board of Regents’ Graduation and Retention Report. 2020.

  • In 2019, the percentage of white undergraduates who returned for a second year was 88%. The four-year undergraduate graduation rate was 54 percent.
  • The percentage of undergraduate students who identified as part of a racial or ethnic minority who returned for a second year was 87 percent. The four-year undergraduate graduation rate was 42 percent.
  • The percentage of undergraduate students who identified themselves as part of an under-represented minority who returned for a second year was 85 percent. The four-year undergraduate graduation rate was 41 percent.

Filipino-American freshman Maria Engler said she was happy with the level of diversity she saw at UI.

“I was the only Asian person in my high school, and then coming here, it was nice to see other people who just looked like me,” Engler said. “Other Asian people or people identified as Filipino-Americans, it was nice to see.”

Nepalese first-year honors student Pratibha Khatri said there were enough resources at UI for various students, but she had not received as many emails as Advantage Iowa Scholars students.

“When you think about it, teachers probably also face xenophobia in one way or another,” Khatri said.

The UI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division seeks to alter these results, wrote Liz Tovar, Executive Director of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division in an e-mail to The Iowan Daily. Tovar wrote that the changes don’t happen overnight, but are a focal point of the new strategic plan.

Pratibha Khatri poses for a photo on Thursday, September 23, 2021 (Grace Kreber)

“The results from our climate campuses suggested that we need to do a better job in this area,” she wrote. “We need to understand the reasons for leaving and allow our data to strategically guide us around this issue. “

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division is committed to keeping its faculty and staff at UI, Tovar wrote.

“We have many voluntary programs, including the BUILD training program, which our teachers and staff participate in every year,” Tovar wrote. “The key is that everyone on our campus has a role to play in this effort. We can all purposefully work to respect everyone, commit to keeping great talent in Iowa, and work to build a welcoming community for all. “

It’s everyone’s job in the community to take steps to be more assertive, provide opportunities and support each other, Martinez said.

“I think that as an institution we have very good opportunities to create change,” said Martinez.

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