Editorial: Expanding the pool
Uni must increase the number of minority applicants — and here are a few ideas
Published: Monday, April 28, 2008 - 12:43am
WE KNOW WHAT you’re thinking: “Oh no, not another article on diversity at University Laboratory High School.”
Rest assured, this is not an editorial that will unleash a firestorm of 150 angry and impassioned comments, because we will neither be defending nor criticizing the nature of diversity within our high school.
Rather, this is an editorial meant to explore a practical way of actually diversifying Uni High.
For the incoming Class of 2013, the numbers look encouraging: 36 percent of the Hispanic applicants, 50 percent of the African American applicants, and 100 percent of the Native American applicants were admitted.
That sounds good — until you realize that Hispanics made up only 5 percent of the applicant pool, African Americans 7 percent, and Native Americans 0.5 percent.
Thus, if Uni is serious about diversifying, the real challenge is to expand the number of minority applicants. But how to do that?
In addition to the standard afterschool and summer programs and the official tours, we need Uni students to reach out to prospective applicants.
The flaw in our current visiting system is that guests only have face-to-face contact with faculty and administrators like guidance counselor Sam Smith and Assistant Principal Sue Kovacs. Only the accepted and wait-listed students are allotted a half-day to hang out with real Uni students.
It’s not hard to imagine that any prospective applicant visiting Uni could be turned off or simply weirded out by some of the unusual things he or she may encounter in the hallway. Couple that with the fact that an adult is showing them around, and all in all it makes for an inaccurate first impression. Thus we must edit Uni’s current visitors policy and open up Uni’s doors.
The Gargoyle senior editors want to suggest a new method based on what we learned from a recent interview with Thomas Parker, dean of admissions at Amherst College, a small, selective college in Massachusetts to which Uni can draw some comparisons.
Parker explained that at Amherst entire weekends are devoted to minority prospective students. Aggressive outreach is key to diversifying.
“We do a lot of outreach,” Parker told the Gargoyle. “We target direct mail to students of color. We have our three diversity open houses where roughly 250 students are transported to Amherst at our expense and spend a couple days here to see if they want to leave, let’s say Illinois or Texas, to see if they want to go to a small liberal arts college in a relatively small town. We spend a lot of money and invest a lot of effort into outreach.”
Additionally, Amherst uses its small, close-knit environment to its advantage.
“Because we’re small, we can be really personal in our outreach effort,” Parker added. “If I’m working with a student and they’re interested in physics, I can say, ‘I’ll have David Hall, a friend of mine in the physics department, call you.’ Or if you are interested in tennis, I can get you in touch with the tennis coach.”
Uni should draw on these tactics. In fact, it may be easier to institute this type of system at Uni because we won’t need a lot of money to fly kids out from Idaho or Florida. Additionally, since Uni High is also a small, close-knit community, coordinators can match prospective students’ interests with those of current students.
If a male visitor is interested in playing basketball, he can be paired up with, say, senior Mike Renner, meet with coach Joel Beesley, and really learn about the opportunities he would have here. If a female visitor is interested in theater, Uni could pair her up with senior Hannah Lake-Rayburn, and she could attend play rehearsals after school.
Outreach should be about showing students how they might fit into Uni’s varied and quirky community.
We realize that Uni is cramped. As Kovacs says, “Uni has 60 kids too many.” Undoubtedly an influx of visitors on any given day would drive both students and teachers mad.
To fix this problem, students interested in Uni could visit on scheduled days throughout the year, and a preregistration policy would limit the number of students attending each open house. Though we ultimately may not be able to accommodate everyone who wants to visit Uni, these open houses would give a large number of students the opportunity to better acquaint themselves with the school.
Visitors could shadow current Uni students, attend an information session where Kovacs, a teacher, and a student could paint them an honest picture of life at Uni, and finally have lunch with current students. A program like this wouldn’t take up more than half the day, and coupled with a system more tailored to individual visitors, people could really get a feel for Uni.
In the process, advertising these new opportunities to visit Uni to members of the minority community would hopefully attract more applicants of color. This kind of targeted, personal outreach would be a great first step toward diversifying Uni.