Harker discusses diversity, student life at trustees meeting

By Tom Lehman 9:58pm, December 11, 2012
University of Delaware president Patrick Harker addresses the school's board of trustees
The University of Delaware is getting more diverse, but the school’s president says more work still needs to be done to diversify the school’s student and faculty populations.

UD President Patrick Harker told the school’s board of trustees that despite the university's admission of the most students with the highest SAT scores and receiving the largest number of applications in history, the diversity represented among students isn’t reflective of the greater population.

"Among full time undergrads, 4.4 percent are African American, 5.9 percent are Hispanic; 3.8 percent are Asian. We're building a network to change this. Every college, every unit, has programs in place to cultivate more diversity," he says.

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He says minority enrollment is improving with a 56 percent rise in African American freshman since 2008 and an increase of 27 percent of Hispanic students. Those numbers, he says, indicate progress but are developed from a low baseline.

A 2011 report from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education said UD needed to increase diversity within its student and faculty populations.

Harker says despite an "unsettled legal landscape," the school will continue to meet its diversification goals.

"With the Supreme Court set to rule on Fisher vs. UT Austin in june, the nation's eyes are on college admission practices and three decades of affirmative action law. But whatever the Supreme Court's ruling, it won't compromise our diversity goals," he says.

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In order to do that, Harker says the school needs to make the campus more inclusive to minority students, a goal within the school's strategic plan called the Path to Prominence.

The fact is, minority students won't choose us if we don't choose them. We choose them by creating an inclusive campus where they feel welcomed and valued and safe; where there's a marked diversity in their peers, their professors and the staff; and where that diversity is clearly a point of pride," he says.

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Harker says another major area of focus for the school will be improving the campus experience for the entire student body.

"We've made student life a priority, because enrolling bright, talented, diverse students is only half the challenge. Once they're here, we have to engage them in the life of this university," he says.

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He says recent renovation of school buildings and construction of new, high-quality facilities will benefit students socially and academically. Among the new additions that will be added to the school's campus in the near future are the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Laboratory, STAR Campus and new freshman dorms.

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