UNC Values Diversity Stats Over the Diverse Students Themselves
Anyone opening a website associated with UNC-Chapel Hill is likely to be greeted by the smiling faces representative of Carolina’s diverse population. It’s impossible to walk around campus without seeing brown students plastered on banners for Carolina’s “For All Kind” campaign - a fundraising tactic meant to celebrate the abounding opportunities here for students, regardless of their identity. Researching the university or coming on a tour will surely result in boundless information about the diverse student population and the countless resources for them on campus.
But the reality is, despite all that publicity, UNC remains a predominantly white institution (60.5 percent white, to be exact), and more importantly, more often than not, minority students on this campus are all but invisible. Unsupported and underrepresented in positions of power, these students are left floundering in all aspects of student life, from academics to extracurriculars. First-year Native American student Lauranna Masters sums up the point beautifully:“When I was applying here they constantly threw statistics about diversity at us and also boasted about how many organizations are diversity based. But once I got here...I guess the dream wasn’t as close to reality as I would like.”
There is a myriad of evidence to support this, the most alarming of which is UNC’s abysmal retention rate for black men, which sits nearly 10 percentage points lower than that of their white male peers. Apart from that, Latinx students have been lobbying the university for years to create a larger safe space for themselves on campus, only to be met with silence from the administration and most recently, the removal of their working space for the Latinx Education Research Hub. As for extracurriculars, UNC loves to publicize the fact that it hosts the largest collegiate powwow in the Southeast, but the administration refuses to work with indigenous students to organize the event. In addition to these inadequacies, UNC’s faculty is predominantly white, making up 74.5 percent of the staff, while black professors make up 5.3 percent and all other races are relegated to a 20.2 percent “other category.” It seems impossible that Carolina could claim they value minority students when its faculty isn’t even representative of the student body.
All of this is not to say no resources for minority students exist on campus - only that those already present are often hard to find or inaccessible to many students. With regards to the Latinx safe space, UNC asserts that the existence of a Residential Learning Program aimed at Latinx students is more than enough, but that single option is neither accessible to all nor even wanted by all Latinx students. Additionally, minority students have done their best to create cultural clubs, but more often than not those only provide fellowship, when what is really needed is tangible, accessible, and helpful resources that come officially from the university.
There are two separate and vastly different stories at Carolina. The university tells a story of diversity and inclusion. It proclaims no matter who you are or where you come from, you will be treated fairly and be successful, just like any other Carolina student. When we look at the data and talk to those minority students, we hear a different story. The current system at UNC is not only frustrating for minority students, but also downright inequitable. This discrepancy between what we see and what is cannot continue. Minority students deserve more, because frankly, their success and wellbeing might depend it.