Racial diversity stays stable but GW has fewer blacks

Despite the University’s emphasis on a racially diverse student body, statistics released this week show that for the past three years, undergraduate diversity at GW has been relatively stagnant, and there are 100 fewer black students enrolled now than there were a year ago.

Each year in October GW compiles admissions statistics noting each student’s race and ethnicity, and for the last three years these numbers have barely budged from 65 percent white, 5 percent Hispanic and 9 percent Asian. This year, the undergraduate population is 5.2 percent black (519 students), a decrease from last year when the campus was 5.9 percent black (624 students). In 2003 the campus was 5.3 percent black (530 students).

Kathryn Napper, director of admissions, said her office does not have a specific percentage in mind when putting together each year’s freshman class but that ethnicity does play a role in the admissions process.

“We use race just as we would geography, special talents, special achievements, legacy, athletes, valedictorians, presidents of the class and leaders in high school,” she wrote in an e-mail this week.

GW specifically uses student diversity on campus as one of its selling points to potential undergraduates. The prospective students Web site boasts that undergraduate diversity is one of the campus’ main attractions.

Even though the University’s numbers overall have not changed much, Napper noted that this year’s freshman class is more diverse than last year’s. In the freshman class, there are 30 more students enrolled from minority backgrounds this year than there were in 2004.

“The numbers increased from last year, even though the class size was reduced,” she wrote.

Charles Basden, sophomore and public relations director for the Black Student Union, said he is aware of the increased diversity in this year’s freshman class.

“Allegedly this is the biggest and most blackest freshman class ever,” he said.

Although most of the undergraduate population is white, minority student leaders across campus said that they do see GW’s undergraduate student population as diverse, especially since the campus has very involved minority student groups. Instead, however, their concern is with a lack of integration on campus.

“I don’t think that it (GW) is integrated at all,” Basden said. “For example, there is the presence of a lot of different cultural groups on campus but it is rare that you see a mixing of these cultures with other cultures.”

Paulina Abaunza, a senior and co-president of the Organization of Latino American Students, agreed with Basden and said that while GW’s campus has an overall diversity, the groups seem to remain segregated from each other.

But Basden, like Abaunza, is under the impression that racial diversity has increased over the years at GW, even though minority enrollment statistics have barely changed in three years.

Professor Kim Gross, who teaches a class on race, media and politics, said it’s important to have a diverse campus because students benefit when there is a breadth of viewpoints offered in class. She said that when a class has few minority students, their views might be perceived as those of their entire race, which isn’t fair to them.

Some students believe, however, that the reason undergraduate statistics have remained the same over the past three years is because minorities do not tend to stay at GW for all four years.

-Ryan Holeywell contributed to this report.

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