FGCU strives for racial diversity
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 01:10
A diverse campus can breed a rich and dynamic educational background for the attending students. However, diversity on campus can occasionally be a touchy subject when a student feels they’ve been slighted or rejected because of their race, religion or gender.
Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz, both white Texans, have claimed they were discriminated against because of their race after they were denied enrollment at the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. The case is currently before the Supreme Court and should Fisher and Michalewicz win, Grutter v. Bollinger, a case that determined race could play a small roll in university admissions, may be overturned.
Admissions at University of Texas includes a policy that only allow students who are in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class to gain automatic acceptance.
The University of Texas claim that both Fisher and Michalewicz were denied acceptance to the school because neither girl graduated in the top 10 percent of their class, not because of their race.
The University of Texas goes by a policy called the holistic admissions process, which does take race into account. According to the University of Texas’ news website, the holistic admissions process also takes into consideration honors and awards, extracurricular activities, community service and a list of other qualifications.
At FGCU diversity is listed in the mission statement as one of the key features for making the school great. The school’s guiding principles state:
“Diversity is a source of renewal and vitality. The University is committed to developing capacities for living together in a democracy whose hallmark is individual, social, cultural, and intellectual diversity. It fosters a climate and models a condition of openness in which students, faculty, and staff engage multiplicity and difference with tolerance and equity.”
However, Florida is one of seven states that have banned racial preferences in admissions. The other states are California, New Hampshire, Washington, Arizona, Michigan and Nebraska.
Jimmy Myers is the head of the Office of Equity and Diversity at FGCU and asserts the school understands the importance of a diverse campus.
“We know that a diverse learning environment supports a student’s academic and social development and provides them with a better understanding of the rapidly changing nature of life, work and relationships in the 21st century,” Myers says.
Myers explains that at FGCU there are no predetermining factors to racial acceptance, but part of the FGCU admission policies includes making a “good faith effort” to keep the campus diverse.
“In [each school’s] efforts to address their individual diversity needs, each state institution of higher education structures and implements its own diversity programs based on its needs, its campus culture and available resources,” said Myers.
Senior environmental studies major Erinn Campbell doesn’t feel FGCU’s efforts have been effective in creating a diverse campus.
“[Our school isn’t as diverse] as I think other schools are,” said Campbell, who has attended FGCU since her freshman year. “I feel like since I’ve started it’s become more diverse but it’s still pretty one sided.”
While students such as Campbell feel the diversity of the FGCU campus has been subtle, there is no denying the school is becoming more dynamic. From 2006 to 2011 the school increased the number of students of color by 44 percent, according to President Bradshaw’s 2011-2012 performance evaluation.
President Bradshaw included diversity in his platform when running for office. He assured his presidency would include creating a more diverse place for students and faculty alike. According to Myers, President Bradshaw has taken major steps to accomplish this goal.
“Since President Bradshaw has been in office, he has presided over the formation of the Office of Equity and Diversity within the Office of the President. The president supports the office in its role as the centralized resource for diversity on campus.”
The Office of Equity and Diversity is responsible for three main goals of campus diversity: valuing diversity, achieving diversity and managing diversity.
The Board of Trustees reports this year 9,400 of the 13,615 students who attend FGCU are white. This puts enrollment at 69 percent white. The second largest ethnic group at FGCU is Hispanic students at 17.2 percent.
Although the number of black students has increased over time, this group only makes up 8 percent of the student body with 1,034 individuals enrolled.
The other 6.2 percent of students are made up of Asians, Native Americans, non-residential aliens and students who have chosen not to disclose their ethnicity.
Kyle Carper, a senior at FGCU, has witnessed the changes in FGCU’s diversity.
“When I first came to school here, it was a complete culture shock going from a school that was predominately Hispanic and black to a school that was almost completely white. For the first time in my life I didn’t have friends of another race. I went from an extremely diverse south Florida to here where it was basically whitewashed,” Carper said.
While the demographic make-up of the campus was a turn-off to Carper his freshmen year, he said he feels the school is moving in a more diverse direction.
“In the last four years I have seen the school become a melting pot of cultures. It would be great to see this trend continue in the future,” he said. “It is important that people of all races, cultures and genders have the opportunity to achieve a higher education.”