A recent report by the Race and Equity Center of the University of Southern California named UAA as one of the institutions with the highest equity score for black students in the nation.
The report assigned public colleges and universities letter grades on four equity indicators. The indicators were representation, gender and completion equity, as well as the ratio of black student to black faculty. The equity index score is equivalent to a grade point average on a 4.0 scale.
Associate Vice Chancellor of Alaska Natives and Diversity Jeane Breinig said she was pleased to see UAA’s progress in the area but emphasized the need to also look at other indicators.
“The numbers tell one story and for a deeper understanding… We need to consult with our African-American students, staff and faculty on what they think of the numbers and to what extent they think the improved scores contribute to an improved experience for them,” Breinig said.
UAA scored a 3.0 overall, with an A for gender equity and Bs in representation C and black student to black faculty ratio. For completion equity, UAA received a C.
Cheryl Cox Williams, psychology major and president of the Black Student Union at UAA, has a critical view on the results presented in the report.
“The first thing that jumped out at me was that the top 10 [public schools] did not have a lot of As. That’s a very sad commentary as to how low the standards are,” Williams said.
The authors of the report highlight that though this score might be high in comparison to other institutions, the schools with the higher scores are still not “necessarily models of national excellence.”
“We deem it problematic to offer kudos to any campus that sustains inequity on any equity indicator or that otherwise disadvantages black undergraduates,” the authors stated in the report.
UAS received one of the lowest scores in the nation with an equity score of 1.0. UAF scored a 1.8; the average equity index score for Alaska is 1.83.
Breinig thinks that cooperation in the UA system regarding issues of equity could be helpful.
“Sharing best practices across our system is a positive move,” Breinig said.
Williams believes that though the university is headed in the direction, the traction of the changes is slow.
“It’s literally changing people’s attitudes as to its importance, and it’s been a very hard change,” Williams said. “You can expect somebody to wake up in the morning and have an attitude adjustment. It takes systematic sensitization to what’s causing it in order for the… changes to happen. Right now, things are kind of on the surface – lots of talk.”
Williams thinks that the main problem is people not understanding different perspectives.
“People are not spending time to get to know each other,” Williams said.
She sees the creation of spaces allowing people to connect with each other as a first step in the classrooms, the Student Union, everywhere on campus.
“We lack the skills to know each other in a non-threatening way. And once we can get over that, then we can start talking about diversity,” she said.
The full report can be found on the website of the USC Center of Race and Equity at race.usc.edu.