The Daily Illini

Editorial: Increasing University diversity in all areas

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

Beyond the academic opportunities of attending the University, the diverse student body provides experiences people might not receive in their hometowns.

While some may live in communities with racially and culturally diverse populations, the University is a mecca of cultures. From experiencing i-Unite’s hijab challenge on the Main Quad on Monday to Holi to a Black Lives Matter protest, there are events to open one’s eyes here that can’t always be found at home.

Breaking down the numbers: 14 percent of our undergraduate student population is Asian, five percent is African-American and eight percent is Hispanic. The variety of student ethnicities need diverse teaching populations to match it.

Recently, a new study by graduate student Lester Lusher and professors from the University of California at Davis and the New York Economic School in Russia showed that undergraduate students are more likely to earn higher grades when their teaching assistants are of the same race or ethnicity.

Lusher said as early as the second week of school, students are more likely to attend their TAs session if they are a similar race. The study results were completed at an anonymous California university.

It’s important to have diversity in all of our faculty members because they provide viewpoints from their own personal backgrounds we may not otherwise receive.

This fall, University enrollment of Latino students has increased 11.5 percent; African-American student enrollment increased 5.4 percent in the last year. But the numbers just increasing isn’t enough. We question what the results of the study would be if it was conducted at the University of Illinois. Like the study says, students relate better to TAs who are the same ethnicity. By increasing the amount of TAs — or the diversity within the current amount of TAs — we could potentially increase diversity in incoming freshman classes, which administration strives for.

The University does not track the racial ethnicity of its TAs, but this is something we encourage it to record and promote just like it does with enrollment numbers.

And the enrollment numbers we have still are not as diverse as The Daily Illini Editorial Board would like them to be. In order to provide a truly diverse campus with a variety of learning opportunities, we need to have TAs of all races involved in every college and area of study. Seeing TAs in academic roles can be inspiring to someone of a similar ethnicity who isn’t sure if they fit at the University.

Providing diverse leadership in the classroom ultimately provides two benefits. It provides a method for students to learn and understand a culture other than their own while also creating a space where people of minority students feel comfortable to learn.

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