Editorial: Ethnic diversity ends, and begins, with admissions

Posted by the Editorial Board

After a series of recent campus discussions, we are in consensus that the college has a diversity "crisis" - that we more or less have a racially homogenous student body.

From the moment we first step on campus, we can plainly see the college student body is predominately white.

This "crisis" is in part a result of our college's admissions process and the open house tours that segregate students of color from the rest of the incoming first-year class.

An obvious way to increase diversity on campus would be to simply admit more students of color into the college, but the solution is more complicated than this…

Our college admissions, unlike other peer schools like Hamilton College and Vassar College, considers whether a student can afford tuition as a part of his or her admission into the school; our college operates under "need-sensitive" admission, as opposed to "need-blind" admission.

For example, when two prospective students with the same racial backgrounds, test scores, grades and extracurriculars apply to Skidmore, the student who requests less financial aid will more likely be accepted.

This would seemingly yield a socioeconomically homogenous student body. However, according to Time Magazine's 2009 article on our admissions process, students of color "disproportionately apply for financial aid," so our admissions office accepts mostly non-minority students.

This is the unfortunate reality of our college's diversity, or lack thereof.

Ideally, Skidmore would have need-blind admissions; however, our endowment is not large enough to afford this luxury.

The college's endowment must double or triple before admissions can afford to offer need-blind admissions. Unfortunately, by the time this happens we all will have graduated. In the meantime, though, the college should focus on integrating incoming students of all races. The "Discovery Tour" in particular segregates incoming students.

Once prospective students of color are accepted, admissions invites them to the Discovery Tour, specifically for ALANA students (African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American).

On the tour, prospective students spend time almost exclusively with ALANA admissions officers, ALANA students, ALANA staff and ALANA faculty.

At the end of the Discovery Tour, ALANA students join other, mostly non-minority students, at an open house. When this ends, they are grouped back together in their ALANA group.

The Discovery Tour does not promote diversity at the college, but rather segregates students on our campus.

The first visit to college is a critical time to make new friends and relationships. We make some of our best friends at these admissions events. Separating the incoming and accepted students into groups based on race during the first visits to school is detrimental to the future diversity of campus.

We understand the intent of the Discovery Tour is to promote diversity, but diversity programs are useless unless attended by a heterogeneous group. Diversity is not defined solely by the percentage of racially diverse students on campus, but rather the degree to which students of different backgrounds interact with each other.

And these different backgrounds do not refer solely to race. Religious, intellectual, sexual and cultural diversity are of equal importance.

Thus, we propose a different type of diversity for admissions open houses and tours: academic diversity.

Students who are interested in specific disciplines and studies can go on unique tours with students who have similar interests. Prospective art students can visit the Tang Teaching and Art Museum, galleries downtown and Saisselin Art Building with primarily art students. Prospective government students can speak with Professor Beau Breslin, tour city hall and learn about government classes. The possibilities are truly limitless...

The Discovery Tour sets a bad precedent for students when they first enter this college - that students of color are separated from the rest of the student body. By eliminating this well-intentioned program, we can send a clear message to incoming students that this college promotes and fosters diversity - not just ethnic, but intellectual, sexual, etc.

Homogeneity and uniformity are antithetical to creativity, therefore if we want to live our ubiquitous college motto, we must diversify.

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