LTE: UNI has a racial diversity problem

Letter to the Editor

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UNI’s Strategic Plan states an aim to “Attract and retain diverse students, faculty and staff who are integrated into the campus community.”

At the Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) candidate forum this past week, the issue of “diversity and inclusion” was raised many times. A lot was said, many ideas were mentioned and it became evident that we are failing to name the problems that are staring straight at us.

According to the 2016-2017 Fact Book created by UNI’s Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, 82 percent of undergraduate students are white.

We have a grand total of 273 black or African American undergraduate students, out of around 10,000 students. Out of our 755 faculty, 658 are white. 20 are black or African American, which amounts to 2.6 percent.

Some context for those numbers: According the U.S. Census Bureau, Iowa’s population is between 86 to 91 percent white, depending on how white is defined (this relates to intersections between race and ethnicity, particularly within the Hispanic and Latinx communities).

Black Hawk County, home to UNI, is 85 percent white. So, we are — perhaps by a very, very narrow margin — only slightly more diverse than the state of Iowa, and certainly not more diverse than the community we live in.

In fact, the community in Iowa with the highest percentage of black or African American people is Waterloo. Waterloo is one of the most diverse communities in our state and, depending on how you use your GPS, it is a grand total of 14 minutes away.

UNI teachers are employed in all 99 counties in Iowa. In Black Hawk County, there are 1,210 (as of June 1, 2016). So, if anyone is responsible for the college readiness of students of color in Iowa, we certainly are.

Also, according to the same Fact Book referenced earlier, our 273 black or African American undergraduate students is less than the amount we had in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

We had less black or African American undergraduate students last year than we had in the previous 11 years.

UNI is an overwhelmingly white institution neighboring a breathtakingly diverse and vibrant community. We have a racial diversity problem, and it’s time we start saying it out loud.

— Danielle Templeton,

senior elementary education major

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