Auburn University ranked in the bottom 20 percent of colleges for racial equity, according to a report published by the Race and Equity Center at the University of Southern California.
“I was not surprised,” said James Kelly, executive vice president of Black Student Union.
At the time the study was conducted, Auburn’s black student population rested at 6.7 percent in comparison to the state’s 32.3 percent of black 18–24-year-olds — a 26 percentage point difference.
“We do not believe Black students are largely responsible for their underrepresentation and lack of success at public colleges and universities,” the report reads.
The report gave the state of Alabama a 1.95 equity index score, which assess the representation equity, gender equity, completion equity and black students to black faculty ratio. Auburn ranked .2 points lower than the state’s average equity index score, and Auburn ranked .25 points higher on the scale than the University of Alabama.
“Auburn University is focused on broadening its commitment to diversity and inclusion,” wrote the University in a statement about the report. “We continually strive to foster a more diverse student body as we prepare our students for life and leadership in a multicultural world.”
Kelly said some of the University’s efforts, like talks and guest speakers, become numbing and redundant. He said some students just wish to see continued action overtime rather than a token speaker when necessary.
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“I love [the Office of Inclusion and Diversity]. They do a great job,” Kelly said. “But Auburn needs to make sure they are keeping a close bond, a close hand with these organizations.”
Kelly said the University should work toward reaching out to the local schools — Auburn High School and Loachapoka High School — early on to encourage students.
Kelly said Auburn should prioritize local students, and he noted that the international student population was more than the black student population.
According to the most recent statistics available from the University's Office of Institutional Research, there are 2,955 international students enrolled this term and 1,781 black students enrolled, a number that declined from 1,893 in fall 2017, 1,917 in fall 2016 and an all-time high of 2,096 in fall 2007.
This term, 23,113 white students were enrolled, a number that has steadily increased.
According to the report, Auburn was ranked in the fourth quintile for completion equity. The graduation rate at Auburn is about 72 percent, but only 57 percent of black students enrolled — a 14.4 percentage point difference — end up graduating.
“Even with scholarships, you come into an area where you rarely have anyone that looks like you — teachers and students,” Kelly said. “It is hard to connect. If you can connect to something — if you can feel comfortable, you will succeed.”
As for black faculty in 2016, there was one per 29 black students enrolled at the time. This ratio gave Auburn a B grade.
Kelly said he has only had three black professors or teachers in his three years at the University. In comparison, the University of West Alabama was ranked with one of the highest equity index scores at 3.25 — a difference of 1.3 points.
“We need to do something,” Kelly said. “We do not just need to be heard. We need to see action.”
Chip Brownlee, editor-in-chief, contributed to this piece.
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