Black Alumni Request Outside Review Of Diversity at Arkansas
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.The University of Arkansas’ Black Alumni Society has proposed that Chancellor John White hire an off-campus firm to determine whether Blacks are represented fairly at the university. The group says the review it proposes would assess how effective the university is in recruiting minorities as athletes, students and faculty. It made the request soon after basketball coach Nolan Richardson had the last six years of his contract bought out. “We would like to see what an independent assessment would bring,” says Gerald Jordan, president of the Black Alumni Society. “I would just like to see somebody from the outside who has absolutely nothing to do with this take a look.”Arkansas’ total enrollment for fall 2001 was 15,795 students. Of that total, White (non-Hispanic) students totaled 80.9 percent. Other groups were represented as follows: Black (non-Hispanic), 6.2 percent; international students, 5.8 percent; Asian or Pacific Islander, 2.6 percent; American Indian or Alaskan Native, 2.0 percent; and Hispanic, 1.5 percent.Among the university’s 889 faculty, Blacks only made up 3 percent. Yet, Blacks make up 15.7 percent of the state’s population. Through two committees — a Diversity Task Force created in 2000 and a Recruitment Task Force established last year — the school is trying to increase minority enrollment. “We have been recruiting aggressively for the last three years,” says enrollment dean Arlene Cash, who serves on both committees.Jordan, a journalism professor at Arkansas, says the intent of the proposed review is not to question the integrity of the campus diversity and recruitment committees, only to have someone not affiliated with the university address campus efforts. In the alumni society’s letter, dated March 5, the group said the decision to “terminate coach Richardson” makes it unclear whether Arkansas wants a more diverse institution. “Our enduring concern is that efforts to recruit and retain African American students, faculty and staff of the U of A have sustained a severe blow,” the letter said. The university’s 200-member Black Student Association also sent a letter to White saying Arkansas “made one of the largest mistakes” by buying out Richardson’s contract. The letter asks the university to employ more Black faculty to “ensure that the African American community has somewhere to turn.”Neither the Black Alumni Society nor the Black Student Association had heard from White regarding their letters. A university spokesman said last month the administration appreciated the input. “We certainly welcome their interest in this situation and we’ll take whatever they recommend seriously,” says university spokesman Roger Williams. “Increased diversity has been one of John White’s five major goals, and we’ve made some gains. “We need to do much better. There’s no question,” Williams says. When asked if he was sensitive to how Blacks would react to Richardson’s dismissal, White says one of his goals as chancellor was to create more diversity on the Fayetteville campus. “I am very concerned that African Americans in this state don’t think this is any way a step back in regard to that agenda,” White says.Williams, a member of the Recruitment Task Force, says Arkansas’ Black enrollment is increasing. “It’s not gaining as quickly as we like, but we’re not losing African American students,” he says.Black enrollment increased to 945 in the fall of 1999 from 880 in the fall of 1998, a 7.4 percent gain, according to the university. By the fall of 2000, Black enrollment increased another 2.1 percent, to 965.
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