Let's Talk About Race, Baby!

When thinking about CMC, "racial diversity" is not the first phrase that comes to mind. Yet CMC does not fare too badly in terms of general racial diversity. Statistics for enrollment in the Fall of 2010 reveal that Hispanics make up about 7.6% of the CMC class, and due to our geographic diversity, CMC has a fair amount of Asian and Indian students. However, when it comes to diversity with black students, CMC falls short. In the fall of 2007, black students comprised 4.5% of the student body. Both the number and percentage of black students enrolled each year has gone down since then, and statistics for enrollment in 2010 reveal that blacks make up only 3% of the student body. These numbers are substantially lower than Pomona College, where black students made up 9% of their student body for the 2010 year.

For many people, this may not be a problem. Why should we care about racial diversity? Or more specifically, even if we care about racial diversity, why should we specifically care about a student body that is diverse due to its number of black students?

We should not care just to care, to show that CMC is so wonderful, or to have more people to choose from for a CMC promotional catalog. We should care because diversity promotes better classroom discussions, and the lack of black students at CMC hinders everyone from exposure to different perspectives.

I visited my friend at Northwestern over fall break and sat in on her sociology class. The class had about 140 students, over 30 of whom were black. The professor, a black female, bluntly asked all of the black students in the class how they felt about a recent article they had read on white privilege. The discussion that ensued was one that simply could not happen at CMC.  If we are going by Northwestern's class percentage we should have 4 black students in a class of 20 (my classes rarely have 1). Perhaps the class topic attracted more diversity than an economics class would, but Northwestern's undergraduate body is 6% black. Northwestern isn't perfect and it has its share of racial issues, but its undergraduate population of black students is still proportionally double that of CMCs. As a school with class time weighted heavily towards class discussions, CMC does students a disservice by not providing a variety of perspectives and the associated academic benefits.

Now what? How do we get more black students? It is clearly something easier said than done, but there is a concrete step we can take: hire more black professors.

According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Claremont McKenna College has only 2 full time black professors on its staff, with black professors making up 1.6% of the overall staff. And according to the article, "Claremont McKenna College...is the only highly selective liberal arts institution to decline to participate in this year’s survey." Not only does CMC have few black professors, but it is uncooperative as well.

While it is hard to prove that an increased number of black professors leads to more black students, there seems to be a correlation between the two. Of the 25 schools that the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education ranked as the top "black friendly" schools, the average amount of black professors was a little over 3%, double the amount of black professors on CMC's staff. So, it seems that generally, the higher percentage of black professors at a school, the higher percentage of black students.

CMC needs to increase the amount of black students enrolled here. Increasing the amount of black enrollment will further the different viewpoints one has access to in a classroom. As a school that prides itself on intimate class settings (and one of the reasons I think many of us chose to come here) it is a natural step for CMC to increase black enrollment and further the benefits one can reap from class discussions.