An increase of new African-American students on campus supports one of the university’s goals: diversity.
Chancellor Rita Cheng anounced in her Sept. 5 State of the University Address that African-American students make up 37 percent of the 2012 freshman class. That number is up by about 8 percent from last fall’s 29.37 percent, according to the 2011-2012 SIU Institutional Research and Studies.
She said the university hosts students from 20 countries, with 8.5 percent of the student population being Hispanic.
Joseph Brown, director of the Africana Studies department, said diversity is not something to be celebrated. He said SIU should instead ad
apt to the fact that a multi-cultural campus is its reality.
“We’re supposed to do everything we can to keep the global community that we already have,” Brown said. “We can welcome diversity all we want, but does it show up in our actions? Are we taking time out to get know students from other countries that we otherwise would not have had the opportunity to get to know?”
Brown said he is proud of the steps the university is taking to commit to having a multi-cultural community. The Africana Studies department has five professors who are not African-American teaching African-American courses.
“I believe SIU takes such pride in announcing what a diverse community we have because it’s written in the mission statement that it is a major characteristic of the school’s foundation,” Brown said.
SIU’s mission statement is: “Enrolling students throughout Illinois and the United States and from a large number of foreign countries, SIUC actively promotes the intellectual and social benefits of cultural pluralism, encourages the participation of non-traditional groups, expands student horizons and leads to superior undergraduate education.”
Darrel Heard, a senior from Chicago studying accounting, said the university’s diversity was a major factor in his decision to attend four years ago.
“SIU was the first school I visted during my college search, and its diversity is what made it stand out the most to me,” Heard said.
Christopher Gillespie, a senior from Carbondale studying speech communication, said he believes SIU is a very diverse campus with an abundance of ethnicities.
“I’ve visited other college campuses in Illinois, and I believe SIU is one of the most diverse campuses I’ve seen,” Gillespie said.