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May 19, 1997

Commission recommends strategies for increasing campus diversity

By Francine Tyler

More minority students will join UCSC as freshmen next fall than did this past fall, reported Vice Chancellor Francisco Hernandez of Student Affairs at a forum last week in Classroom Unit 1.

The "1 or 2 percent" increase in minority freshmen is particularly heartening because it comes after a downturn in applications from minority students, Hernandez said. He attributes the increase to work done by the campus that encouraged more students to accept offers of admission.

"We visited more high schools, visited more community colleges, and encouraged more high schools to visit the campus," Hernandez said. Students, faculty, and staff also called students who were admitted and encouraged them to tour UCSC, he said.

Hernandez's comments came at the May 13 meeting of the Chancellor's Commission on a Changing Campus (CCCC). The commission was formed earlier this year to advise the campus community of ways to maintain and build campus diversity in the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 209.

Passed by California voters last fall, Prop. 209 eliminated affirmative action--one of the important "tools" UCSC had used to promote diversity--in student admissions and limited its use in staff and faculty hiring. The constitutionality of the proposition is currently being debated in the courts.

Approximately 60 people attended the CCCC meeting, where commission members presented proposals for student, faculty, and staff diversity; discussed what had been accomplished since the first meeting of the group in February; and heard questions and comments from the audience.

A recurring theme in many of the presentations was that the campus community should continue to express the importance of diversity, and that faculty, staff, and administrators should receive more training about its value.

UCSC's goal in admitting students is to compose a class that is a "reflection of the high school graduating class of the state of California," Hernandez said. Hindering the university are the dramatic differences in eligibility rates for different ethnic groups, he said.

Approximately 37 percent of graduating Asian American high school students qualify for UC, while 12 percent of Caucasians, 5 percent of African Americans, and 4 percent of Chicano/Latinos qualify for admission.

Hernandez's committee recommends that the university continue to increase its outreach efforts, targeting even younger students. "If you're in the eighth grade and you don't know to take algebra and instead enroll in general math, you're already behind," Hernandez said. In addition, the university must increase the retention rates of students once they're here, he said.

Efforts also need to be made to recruit and retain graduate students, said professor of psychology Anthony Pratkanis. The most daunting obstacle the campus faces, Pratkanis said, is the elimination by Prop. 209 of fellowship and financial aid programs targeted specifically at minorities and women. Without these programs, Pratkanis said, UCSC will lose talented graduate students to other schools that can offer more support.

To address this problem, the task force recommends asking the UC Santa Cruz Foundation to make graduate student fellowship support a priority. They also suggest establishing fellowship programs--not directly related to ethnicity or cultural background--that would likely aid minority students and women in the sciences.

Curriculum can also help to attract and keep students. The CCCC task force on multicultural studies recommends that UCSC add approximately a dozen ethnic- or cultural-group-specific courses to the curriculum, said George Brown, chair of the Physics Department and of the Academic Senate Committee on Educational Policy. In addition, the university should increase the number of regular faculty--as opposed to temporary faculty--who teach these classes and appoint an administrator to coordinate them, Brown said.

Diversity among faculty may be maintained and increased through the continued use of extensive hiring searches and the resurrection of a program to hire faculty who bring "a particular expertise or value" to the campus, said CCCC cochair Michael Cowan, chair of the American Studies Department. In addition, departments with recruitments that may yield a more diverse faculty should be given funding priority, said Cowan, who spoke for the task force on faculty diversity.

Several surveys under way should help the campus in its efforts to diversity its staff, said Valerie Simmons, director of the Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Office. One survey asks recent applicants their impressions of the UCSC hiring process, and another asks the same of current staff. A third asked community people what they thought of UCSC as an employer, she said. The staff diversity task force is looking into several ways to increase retention, including a new orientation program, more career opportunities, and more diversity education for staff, Simmons said.

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