Colleges should reflect nation's diversity

Nearly 38 percent of the country’s residents are members of a minority group, according to 2014 census data. Several states already have majority minority populations and in about 20 years, demographers expect white Americans will no longer be a majority, but a plurality of the populace. Millennials are members of the most diverse generation to date in America.

We are a diverse land, a fact that many argue is a cornerstone of our strength as a nation. Given the demographic statistics, it just makes sense that colleges and universities continue to strive for diversity among their student bodies. Campuses should be demographic microcosms of the country as a whole; places where young people with a broad base of ideas, world views, backgrounds, heritages and experiences come together to learn and be enriched.

Even as the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era affirmative action guidelines for colleges and universities, it is heartening that local college administrators reaffirmed their commitments to ensuring diverse student bodies on their campuses.

“Having a diverse student body that reflects the world we live in is one of the advantages of being educated at our CSCU (Connecticut State Colleges and Universities) institutions,” Maribel La Luz, director of communications for CSCU, said recently.

Not only do we agree with La Luz’s statement, we also contend having a diverse study body is an advantage for any college or university, public or private, large or small.

Early this month, the Trump administration took steps to discourage the use of race in college admissions and public school enrollment. The Education and Justice departments rescinded seven policy guidelines on affirmative action put in place by the Obama administration. Current officials argued that the policies were executive overreach that went beyond a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the topic.

Local college officials responded by saying they continue to be committed to diversity. Jamie Romeo, Mitchell College’s vice president of enrollment management, said the New London-based college is “committed to having a student population that is diverse ethnically, socio-economically and in learning style.” An Eastern Connecticut State University spokesman said the Willimantic institution is proud to have boosted its population of students of color from 17 percent in 2009 to 28 percent this year. A Connecticut College official pointing out the historical disadvantages minorities faced, said race was one of many factors considered in making admissions decisions for the liberal arts college in New London.

A University of Connecticut spokeswoman said UConn officials are assessing the impact of the recent rescission. UConn did, however, file an amicus brief in the 2016 affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas, in which a white woman denied admission contended that the school’s use of race was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens. A split court ruled in favor of the university.

UConn’s amicus brief stated, in part: “We acknowledge the value of diversity in background and creed in its contribution to a creative and challenging educational environment.”

Diversity is at the very essence of the American way of life. College campuses should continue to encourage and reflect the demographic diversity that is reality in the country. Otherwise, schools that should be striving to prepare their students to thrive in careers and life will be doing them a grave disservice.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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