Some members of the University of Rhode Island community are concerned that there is not enough diversity in both the student body and the faculty, and hope that the University will attempt to fix this.
According to the Office of Institutional Research 2018-2019 Common Data report, 4,155 out of 14,770 of undergraduate students at URI are of color. This means 71.8 percent of the student body is white. URI ranked number 1,494 out of 2,718 in ethnic diverse colleges nationwide, according to list put out by College Factual.
“With lack of diversity and inclusion comes lack of social justice, and social justice is kind of the foundation for your everyday living,” said Leila Cox, a freshman communication studies and journalism major and a Student Senate At-Large Representative. “It can really just go towards you not being able to communicate with your teacher because there is a lack of cultural competency or not feeling comfortable in your classes because you’re the only student of color. Socially, you might not want to join a frat or sorority on this campus because you know you’re going to be that token black person, Latina person, Asian person, or Native American person.”
According to the Office of Institutional Research Job Group Analysis Summary, as of June 2018, 86.6 percent of the faculty at URI was white. According to College Factual, this is considered below the national average for diversity in the faculty on a college campus.
Earl Smith lll, an assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and an adjunct professor in Africana Studies, said that although there have been attempts from the University to promote diversity and hire a more diverse staff, it has been difficult.
“While there has been efforts to hire diverse candidates, it hasn’t really come into fruition,” said Smith. “We appease the students, give them something symbolic, but we never really tackle the knowledge base. So we just kind of repeat history and the number of faculty and staff have a significant indication of that. The welcoming and the affirmation of the environment that you reside in as a faculty member has a lot to do with whether you stay or not and how you impact students.”
The majority of professors of color teach within the College of Arts and Sciences. The Office of Institutional Research reports that as of March 2019, the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences includes 25 percent of people of color.
“One of the effects is people of color…start to think that the field they are pursuing is possibly not the field for them because all the people that are training them don’t look like them,” said Kendall Moore, a journalism professor. “It helps when students have a variety of different faces to see, but also diversity in our class background and our gender experiences. Those things lead to students feeling more comfortable and more confident about their contribution and involvement in a certain field.”
Every fall, URI holds Diversity Week, which is an event put on by the Multicultural Center. The event holds interactive workshops, films and lectures in hope to emphasize the importance of diversity in the community.
In addition, URI grants Diversity Awards to students and staff who have demonstrated commitment to promoting diversity and have made contributions to building a multicultural community at URI. However, some students said that this is not enough.
“I believe they preach that they value diversity and inclusion because you wouldn’t want to send your child to a school that doesn’t have diversity and inclusion,” said Cox. “A way to effectively represent it is to really just connect those with multicultural students and connect with those students that want to educate themselves more on what diversity and inclusion is and really take a stand and act upon it.”