By Annie Liebman

The state of California enjoys a diverse population, but does that translate to our education system? The University of California website lists that African-Americans constituted 2.6 percent of the student body in 2006, while Latinos pulled in at 15.5 percent and Asians constituted 19.5 percent. According to the numbers, the UC system is far from diverse.

The Diversity Study Group Report, adopted by the Regents this past September, is calling for major changes to university policy, especially regarding freshman admissions, in hopes of increasing diversity within UC campuses.

“The university particularly acknowledges the acute need to remove barriers to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of talented students, faculty, and staff from historically excluded populations who are currently underrepresented,” the report states.

The study group was launched by former UC President Robert C. Dynes in the fall of 2006. During the 10-month study, the group looked in great detail at issues of undergraduate, graduate, staff and faculty diversity.

The group was comprised of both students and faculty from all the UCs.

The Diversity Study Group Report served as a reminder that it is the goal of the UC system as a public institution to have a diverse student body and that “change is urgently needed,” as the report stated.

One of the findings of the Diversity Study Group calls for a reevaluation of the UC’s current policy with regards to freshman admission. Using factors like the SAT scores for admission “do not adequately reflect the context in which students have learned,” the report stated.

Michael McCawley, director of admission at UCSC, said that tests such as the SATs are in place so that people in charge of admissions can predict the success of a student during their first quarter at a university. Grade point average (GPA), and test scores both affect a student’s eligibility of acceptance into the UC system.

However, Larry Trujillo, director of the Academic Resources Collaborative (ARC), said that the SATs should be eliminated. “If I ran things, I would do away with the SAT,” he said. “We know so many students that don’t do well on the SAT but excel [at universities].”

Ruel Paul, co-chair of Engaging Education, also known as E-squared, said that the SAT acts as a barrier to diversity on campus.

“The SATs are a form of institutionalized racism,” Paul said. “[They] measure very little of a student’s potential.”

Paul said that many students of color attend high schools with inadequate counselors and teachers who are not credentialed.

He also added that SAT prep in these communities is not readily available.

Students in more affluent communities typically have more resources, and thus a higher chance of succeeding at these exams.

John Johnson, a social psychology graduate student at UCSC and co-chair of the Black Graduate Association, wrote in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press (CHP), “High schools in low-income communities of color don’t offer the same education as schools in middle-class, predominantly white communities.”

He added, “Not only does this disparity in available resources make UC admission particularly difficult for low-income students, disproportionately black and Latino students, but it also makes it hard for them to succeed when they are admitted.”

McCawley said that he would look into removing any admissions process that acted as a barrier to underrepresented students.

A part of the admissions process has to do with looking at what kind of school a student is coming from. Depending on how the high school’s performance, students are awarded “points” so that the playing field will be equalized with students from higher-performing schools.

However, Johnson said that even if these students from low-performing schools are admitted into the UC system, they have to spend their time trying to make up for what they missed, like taking extra math classes, just to be on the same page as all other students.

But the bigger issue might be getting minorities to attend a UC at all. Data from the Diversity Study Group Report shows that underrepresented students in the top one-third of the students admitted into the UC enroll at much lower rates than other students in the top one-third.

According to Johnson, one of the main reasons these students enroll at lower rates has to do with money. “While a large number of students are admitted into UC Santa Cruz, very few end up coming because they don’t have the funds,” he said.

A 2006 study taken by the California Department of Finance showed that poverty rates for minorities are significantly higher than for whites.

Poverty rates for white people averaged 7.5 percent, while poverty rates were 21.5 percent for African-Americans and 20.5 percent for Hispanics.

Because poverty rates are higher for minorities, increasing financial aid may help increase diversity. The Diversity Study Group report also recognizes this.

“UC should consider a broader assessment of financial aid need that might better account for differences in wealth (as opposed to income) known to exist between underrepresented and non-underrepresented families,” the report states.

The Diversity Study Group Report also states that underrepresented students borrow more money more often.

They are also more likely to be “price-sensitive” in regard to how much money they are willing to spend in order to finance an education.

Nicole Hill, assistant director of advising at the UCSC Financial Aid Office, wrote in an e-mail to CHP, “We strive for equity in our assessment of financial aid eligibility and treat all families equally. That being said, race and ethnicity is not a determining factor when awarding aid.”

Pedro Castillo, former provost of Oakes College, said that the university needs to have more financial aid to offer to students.

“Sometimes, financial aid doesn’t cover enough to permit students of color from working-class backgrounds to attend a UC,” Castillo said.

Castillo added that hiring and retaining faculty of color would help increase diversity; faculty of color could help and mentor students of color.

Justine Katindoy, fourth-year student and program coordinator for E-squared, said that it is important for faculty to be diverse.

“It is hard when all of your professors are white because they can’t relate to you as much,” Katindoy said. “I need to see people [on campus] who are like me and who have been through similar experiences and struggles.”

Katindoy added that an ethnic studies major at UCSC could also help increase diversity. UCSC is the only UC without an ethnic studies major with the exception of UC Merced, a relatively new campus.

“Our histories are never reflected in the classroom,” he said.

According to the Spring 2007 election at UCSC, 77 percent of students would like to see an ethnic studies program for those interested.

The Diversity Study Group Report also stated that underrepresented students are less likely to graduate. The university should expand academic “support programs that facilitate academic integration and success,” the report stated.

Early outreach is critical and serves as “great corridors for underrepresented students,” Trujillo said. “Once students get to a university, it is important to have strong retention programs. Providing academic support is critical.”

E-squared, the program that Paul is affiliated with, is one of the outreach and retention programs UCSC offers. E-squared focuses on providing support to students from underresourced and underrepresented communities.

However, Paul said that E-squared is student-initiated and run.

“UC doesn’t provide outreach or retention programs specific to E-squared,” Paul said. “It is the students who create these programs.”

Students are forced to create ways to help and support themselves. “[The Diversity Study Group Report advocates] basic principles and rights that students have been arguing for for years,” Paul said.

If the UCs want to increase diversity on their campuses, it is apparent that there will need to be major changes made. But having a diverse campus is something that everyone can benefit from.

Getting students of color on campus is “the right thing to do,” Trujillo said. “Diversity improves education. The more you have, the more vibrant the campus.”