Minority enrollment still rising

Walking around A&T’s campus this semester, one might quickly assume that in comparison to previous years, the number of minorities has significantly increased. That observation is partly accurate.

“We have had greater numbers of minorities in the last three to five years,” says Cliff B. Lowery, director of A&T’s Multicultural Student Center (formally known as Minority Student Affairs), “but in that time, we’ve also increased the African-American enrollment, so the ratios have pretty much stayed the same.”

As of Sept. 1, minority students, including Caucasian-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, Native American, and other non-black races, composed approximately 10 percent of A&T’s population for this semester. African-American students made up approximately 90 percent.

“We do have a lot of people – faculty, staff, and students – involved in admissions,” Lowery continues, “and they’re doing such a good job in recruiting minorities. I think the point is that we’re increasing by percentage just as much with our black students, but they don’t show as much because they’re the majority. I’ve had some people who have thought enrollment has increased greatly with minorities, and I’m able to tell them no – proportionately, it’s about still the same.”

A&T’s website shows the minority percentage at 11 percent from 1998 to 2000, 12 percent in 2001, and 13 percent from 2002 to 2003. The greatest amount in the past two decades was in 1984 and 1988, each with a 17 percent minority enrollment.

In addition to stating that A&T has more students from a “wider geographical area ” Lowery says he is most excited about is the faculty staff, which are greatly diversified and seem to have a true respect for diversity.

“I think that is a step in the right direction. The opening of the new Multicultural Student Center will help us to dramatize the diversity that we have and we hope it will increase the interaction among and between the various diverse groups,” Lowery said.

Students have a wide range of views on the university’s diversity.

Senior electronics and computer technology major Merceda Siler and junior biology major Michelle Perinchief – both, African-American students – have noticed that racial diversity has improved greatly since their freshman years.

“I’ve seen a whole lot of minority people since I was a freshman. When I first got here [in 2001], it was just pretty much an all-African-American school,” Siler said.

Perinchief adds, “You see more minority faces on campus.”

Second-semester senior political science and criminal justice double major Ben Edwards, one of A&T’s Caucasian-American students, says “diversity-wise, it has improved quite a bit. My freshman year (fall 2000), I felt like I was alone a little bit – not alone in a bad way. As it went on, it has been a minority presence on the campus moreso now – I’d say within the last three or so semesters – than I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

“Racial diversity since I’ve been here for three years has really improved,” says junior biology major Justin Lewis, an African-American. “I mean, I see more white people and Arabian people here everyday.”

Rahsaan Snipes, an African-American sophomore majoring in marketing, says that even though he feels as though A&T’s diversity in race has “improved drastically, I think that this year, we as students need to try to unite more as an Aggie family and celebrate not only black culture but the culture of others.”

He goes on to say, “We could improve by having more events that promote diversity.”

Despite A&T’s progression thus far, Siler does feel the divesity could still use more improvement, but “it just depends on whether you want to come to A&T or not. People are going to choose where they want to go and where they feel more comfortable at, so I guess it just depends on the people.”

Siler said despite being heavily outnumbered, the minorities on campus seem to be comfortable.

“They just fit right in,” says Siler. “You know, you pass everybody on A&T’s campus – I guess it’s because we’re down South and we’re country, but [minority students are] cordial. If you’re just a mean person, you’re just not going to fit in anywhere you go.”

Perinchief says, “I do feel [minority students] are comfortable because I feel that African-Americans are more accepting of other races than other races are of [African-Americans]. I think that they would feel comfortable here because [African-Americans] make them feel comfortable.”

Evelyn Rodriguez, a non-traditional Hispanic-American A&T student majoring in special education and the president of the Multicultural Student Center, speaks mostly about the Caucasian-American students of A&T, due to her having rarely encountered any other minority race on the campus.

“I see a lot more minorities; however, they are in clusters. They’re still very clingy. I don’t think they’re at the point to where they feel comfortable enough to make friends. From my experience here, probably since they’re used to being the majority at their schools and now they’re the minority, I don’t think they feel as comfortable,” she said.

Rodriguez says she’s only run into one Hispanic female in her years at A&T, and “she was always by herself – I never saw her with any friends.” She says there was a Native American female she also knew of who “never associated with others, even in her class.”

“Most [Caucasian-American students] come with their friends, and instead of them taking a chance of being accepted, they don’t want to take a chance of being rejected.” She says that “black females look at white females up and down like ‘What are you doing here?’ and ‘What is this white girl doing here?'”

Rodriguez says she has never felt uncomfortable at A&T, but she attributes that to her age.

“I’ve never had a fitting-in problem, but I’m pushing 40. I could be a lot of these students’ parents. I do know that if I were 19 or 20, I would have a problem. No one is going to stick up for me here. But, I’m not focused on black, white, purple , nothing. I’m focused on human being. I look at every opportunity as one to meet a new friend.”

Edwards says, “I’ve never really had any problems here; I just think it’s going in the right direction. One of my past professors Dr. Gibbs said once that ‘We don’t teach you what to think, but how to think,’ and the only way to know how to think is to bounce ideas off of different people and experience diversity.”

The contact number for the Multicultural Student Affairs office is (336) 334-7800. It is located in room 213 of Murphy Hall.

  • Jameya Porter