From The Grio — Last week, Harvard University made news when the Harvard Gazette newspaper reported that 11.8 percent of its incoming class of 2015 will be black students. There was rejoicing as this appeared to be a clear sign that African-American students were gaining access to a top university, and it appears to be a record amount of black admissions. Even The Guardian newspaper in the UK lauded the increased diversity, noting in contrast that England’s renowned Oxford University had recently come under fire from Prime Minister David Cameron for its lack of black students.
And while Harvard should rightfully be lauded for increasing its diversity, numbers were up for Latino and Asian students also, what no one talks about are the new federal regulations that instruct schools on how to report, or not report, race and nationality.
According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, the number of black students at top U.S. schools are rising. Columbia University has doubled its percentage of black students from 6 percent to 12 percent in only one year. Ten percent of Stanford students are identified as black, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an institution that has struggled to admit blacks, has seen a rise to over 9 percent of new black students. But like all things, the devil is in the details.
“This year the federal government has changed the rules for how schools count and report ethnicity. In the past, if a student self-identified as both African-American and white, or both African-American and Hispanic, the student would be counted as African-American,” said Jeff Brenzel, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University.
“Now the federal government has changed the definitions so that any student reporting multiple races must be reported separately under the “two or more races” category — one that has not been used in the past. Also, if an individual reports himself or herself as Hispanic, this category now “trumps” all other categories. So statistics going forward will be very difficult to compare apples to apples to statistics from the past. We are working on a way now to make a separate public report that would provide an indication of how many students total self-identify as African-American as at least one ethnicity.”
These new regulations serve to either tamp down the amount of black students, or can artificially prop up the numbers of other ethnicities. So a Dominican or Brazilian with dark skin can check “Hispanic” and she’ll not be counted as a black student. The irony is that the multicultural inclusiveness that is desired by colleges and universities, and African-Americans advocating for more inclusion in colleges and universities, is the same thing that can distort the numbers for black students.
And this isn’t the only area where there’s controversy. There’s also competition with the black community for spots in colleges. With increased immigration from African and the Caribbean, you now have Nigerians, Ghanaians, Jamaicans, and other nationalities all competing with native born African Americans. And colleges and universities, for the most part, aren’t reporting on the numbers.