Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

University Diversity: How GW’s stats compare to other schools

Click to see a slideshow of GW students.

Four years ago, James Zarsadiaz was involved in student government, yearbook and community service in his high school in California.

Now a junior at GW, Zarsadiaz lists the following activities under his Facebook profile: Asian Student Alliance, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Philippine Cultural Society and East Coast Asian American Student Union, just to name a few.

Zarsadiaz, whose parents moved to the U.S. 30 years ago, said that even he was surprised by his participation in the GW Asian community.

“It was never really a major factor in my life,” Zarsadiaz said about his Philippine heritage before coming to GW.

“I kind of was just pulled into it.”

Asian students make up less than 10 percent of the GW undergraduates who enrolled in fall 2006, according to data released by GW’s Office of Institutional Research, and while Zarsadiaz said he wished the percentage were higher, he also described GW’s Asian community as “strong.”

“It’s strong in the sense that we’re small enough that a lot of us know each other,” Zarsadiaz said.

In addition to the 9.8 percent of Asian students that make up GW’s undergraduate student body, 5.9 percent are black and 5.4 percent are Hispanic, according to fall 2006 enrollment statistics published by GW’s Office of Institutional Research.

Compared to nine other undergraduate market basket schools, GW’s cultural diversity is below the average for percentage of black, Asian and Hispanic students. GW’s percentage of black students is the third lowest and GW’s percentage of Asian and Hispanic students is the fourth-lowest when ranked against the nine schools GW considers its market basket, according to the enrollment numbers for 2005 and 2006 published by the schools’ offices of institutional research.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he expected GW’s numbers to fall somewhere in the middle of the 10 schools.

“I would have thought we were normative,” Trachtenberg said.

He added that the socioeconomic characteristics of GW and of its prospective students are two reasons why GW minority numbers are low. Not only is GW an expensive school, but it does not have as many resources to give out financial aid that schools like Duke University does, he said.

“Even if we were first I wouldn’t be satisfied,” Trachtenberg said.

According to Kathryn Napper, director of Undergraduate Admissions, increasing ethnic diversity remains one of GW’s goals.

Despite the fact that GW’s percentages of black, Asian and Hispanic students rank in the bottom half of the other nine undergraduate market basket schools, GW is still one of the more diverse schools in the country, Napper said.

The nine market basket schools include Duke University, Northwestern University, New York University, American University, Georgetown University, Emory University, Boston College, University of Virginia and University of Maryland.

“All the schools you have listed have strong multicultural numbers,” Napper wrote in an e-mail. “In comparing percentages between such schools, you need to consider such factors as geographic location of the school, its perceived prestige, its natural population draws and its costs. For example, I’m not surprised by University of Maryland’s diversity because of its costs and ability to draw heavily from a diverse state population.”

In high school, Samuel Fitzpatrick said that he was very involved with student organizations that promoted cultural diversity amongst his primarily white peers in his hometown of Louisville, Kent. But despite his activism in high school, Fitzpatrick, now a junior, said that when he applied to colleges, the size of the black community was not one of his priorities.

“I only found out during my freshman year that there was a small black community,” said Fitzpatrick, the Black Student Union’s first vice president.

Fitzpatrick said an undergraduate population that includes only 5.9 percent black students is a disappointment to him.

“That percentage isn’t acceptable, and I’d like to see it increase dramatically over the next few years,” he said.

Though Fitzpatrick said he thinks the black student community is small, he also said it plays a large role in his life at GW, adding that most of his friends at school are black.

“We’re very close and we have sort of a family network within the community,” he said.

Herbert London, the president of Hudson Institute and an expert on affirmative action and higher education, said that diversity cannot be assessed by looking at the number of minorities on campus.

“Do you get ideas by simply looking at skin color? I don’t think so,” London said.

For London it is more important that admissions offices ask potential students questions about their political thoughts and life philosophies in order to develop a truly diverse student body.

“If diversity is really your goal, it should be diversity of ideas,” he said.

Alma Clayton-Pederson, the vice president in the Office of Education and Institutional Renewal at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, agreed that looking at the number of minority races on campus is only one way to assess the diversity of a student body.

“People can have high numbers . but if their experience there is very negative the numbers mean nothing to me,” Clayton-Pederson said.

Clayton-Pederson said if a university is going to increase the diversity of its student body, then it is important for that school to have visible benefits for all students.

“The numbers say one thing but the bottom line is if you increase those numbers, what would it do for the learning on the campus?”

Trachtenberg said that increasing the number of minority students on campus will improve the quality of a student’s classroom experience.

“We all grow from hearing other people’s point of view,” he said.

William Villalobos, a junior and recent transfer student said he would like to take a class at GW about his Cuban heritage, but the only Cuban-related class he found was one on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“I know the school has other priorities in mind,” said Villalobos, an international affairs major.

He added that he thinks his Cuban heritage makes him stand out.

“Everyone sees me as the only Hispanic they know,” he said, adding that he feels like one of the only Hispanic students on campus.

Talking about the Hispanic community on campus, he said, “I just wish that there would be more embracing of it.”

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