UI forum focuses on minority enrollment

By Michael Logli

Minority enrollment and retention affect campuses across the nation, but they continue to be problems at the University, Zenobia Ravji, senior in LAS, said Tuesday night at an open forum in the Illini Union’s Courtyard Cafe.

The Illinois Student Senate’s Committee on Cultural and Minority Affairs organized the event to inform students of the issue and asked for input and suggestions on what can be done to solve it. Representatives from the University, including Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano and Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Keith Marshall, spoke to students about enrollment trends and plans for increasing minority student enrollment and encouraging them to complete their degree.

“We need to change with the minds of the students,” Romano said. “It’s a constantly changing array.”

Many students also voiced their concerns about minority enrollment. Ashton Clark, sophomore in Business, said he was been very involved with the University. He said he spends a lot of time at the African American Cultural Center and has a blog on the University admissions Web site that he uses to encourage other minority students to attend the University.

Clark said that many of the cultural houses need upgrades and better resources. Even their presence on campus may not be enough, he said, because he still sometimes feels singled out as a minority.

“It’s hard to relate to a lot of the students because there are not a lot of us (minorities),” Clark said.

Domonic Cobb, associate vice chancellor and director of Student Affairs, said he also experienced the feeling of being asked to represent his entire race and believes that work needs to be done both inside and outside of the classroom to fix that.

“None of us are monolithic and we cannot represent our entire segment,” Cobb said. “When we have our classroom experiences, we shouldn’t feel isolated.”

Chris Garibay, senior in LAS, said he would like to see the University increase Latino enrollment and community involvement through service or outreach programs.

“When they can see the University from their window, but they cannot afford it, I believe that’s a problem,” Garibay said.

Marshall said that many different initiatives are already in place to increase these numbers in the undergraduate population. Programs such as the President’s Award Program give financial assistance to gifted minority students, but he acknowledged more needs to be done.

“We want all kinds of diversity: cultural, geographic and ethnic diversities,” he said. “Creating a diverse population is always one of our main goals.”