University Study Finds Progress in Diversity

University Study Finds Progress in Diversity

Increases in AHANA faculty and students, diversity programs cited

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

Boston College made steady progress in addressing issues of diversity during the 1990s, according to a recently completed University report that cites increases in the numbers of AHANA students, faculty and staff members at BC during the past decade.

In addition, the report notes efforts to promote diversity in academic and non-academic settings at BC also rose during the same period.

The report said that "a substantial and steady effort" to foster a more diverse campus environment had achieved gains that were "modest but real.

Diversity in the 1990s at Boston College
-AHANA and international undergraduates increased from 1,496 - 17.4 percent of the BC undergraduate population - in 1990 to 1,937, or 21.7 percent, in 2000.

-The number of AHANA freshmen rose from 434 to 537, or from 20.4 percent to 23.9 percent of the freshman class.

-A decade after the University introduced a core requirement in diversity, there were 100 faculty members offering 150 cultural diversity courses.

"The issues that surround diversity have not changed in the past decade, but there has been significant progress in the BC community's determination and capacity to address and resolve these issues."

The diversity study was written at the request of University President William P. Leahy, SJ. Special Assistant to the President Robert R. Newton compiled the report, working with vice presidents and academic deans as well as administrators in Affirmative Action, Enrollment Management and University Libraries, among others.

A summary was also included as part of an interim report made last month to the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which formally reaccredited Boston College in 1997.

According to the University's report, the number of AHANA and international undergraduates increased from 1,496 - 17.4 percent of the BC undergraduate population - in 1990 to 1,937, or 21.7 percent, in 2000. The number of AHANA freshmen rose from 434 to 537, or from 20.4 percent to 23.9 percent of the freshman class.

One important yardstick for BC's success with AHANA students, the report said, is the high rate - 84 percent - at which they graduate after 12 semesters, a figure almost double the national average for AHANA students in four-year colleges.

Accurate figures for BC's graduate programs were more difficult to obtain, the report said, because a large percentage of graduate and professional students choose not to declare their race. Based on available data, the study found that the percentage of AHANA students was about 20 percent in the Law School, Carroll School of Management, Lynch School of Education and Graduate School of Social Work, and approximately 15 percent in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The number of AHANA faculty at Boston College grew steadily between 1992-93 and 2001, the report said: from 42 to 70 (7.2 percent to 10.2 percent), with an increase of 17 AHANA faculty members in A&S departments. "Many departments have developed innovative strategies for identifying and recruiting AHANA candidates," the study noted.

BC also experienced steady diversity gains among non-faculty employees between 1990 and 2000: from 236 to 341, or 15.3 percent to 17.8 percent of the total non-faculty workforce. The introduction of a cultural diversity requirement to the University's undergraduate core curriculum in 1991 had an impact on teaching, research and students' education plans, the report said. By 2001, there were 100 faculty members offering 150 cultural diversity courses. In addition, the study found that "Diversity has influenced disciplinary offerings more broadly, with every school either introducing diversity courses or modifying existing courses to include diversity issues.

"Library collection policies and acquisition decisions have addressed the need for information resources to support an expanded diversity emphasis in teaching and research."

BC students also experienced diverse cultures through foreign study at a rapidly increasing rate, the study said. Between 1992-93 and 2001, the numbers of students going abroad more than tripled, from 223 to 755.

The efforts of the University's Human Resources and Student Affairs divisions to develop extensive diversity-related programs for faculty, staff and students also were noted in the report. Diversity events for students "number in the hundreds each year, in residence halls, multicultural clubs, and special events."

Human Resources "has specific strategies for recruiting a diverse workforce and the Office of Affirmative Action sponsors an annual series of programs and social gatherings to facilitate AHANA employees' incorporation into the Boston College community."

While studies of perceptions of diversity at BC have been "sporadic," the report said undergraduates "express general satisfaction with the core curriculum diversity courses, regard racial understanding as an important issue, and think the climate for AHANA students on campus could be better."

Interviewed last week, Newton said, "Most studies of diversity focus only on diversity percentages among students, faculty and staff. We did compile these statistics and found that they reflected steady progress. But we also wanted to look into how diversity goals had affected the curriculum, library resources, and campus co-curricular life. Here also we found that diversity has been high on the agenda campus-wide in the past decade.

"Someone in Students Affairs remarked in the course of compiling the report that the problems had not changed in the 1990s, but BC had developed systematic and constructive approaches to addressing the issues and moving forward."  

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