Charting Change

Cartoon Issue 20

After Undergraduate admissions released numbers concerning campus diversity since 2000, administration and student senators have gone back and forth over what the numbers truly mean.

On the administration’s side of the argument, President Donald Christian argues the compiled numbers show an overall improvement in student representation of racial minority groups. On the other end, students are unhappy with how administration is handling the issue, saying that while the numbers may be improving, they are still unacceptable for the 2013 school year.

We at The New Paltz Oracle see the troubles on our doorstep and are hoping that the hostility between students and administration will soon come to an end. There are serious issues that must be dealt with, and they can only be solved once the two groups come together and initiate that change.

The numbers in the survey showed a consistent drop in the overall black student population over the past decade. The number is down by half and student leaders have pointed out their primary concern is the retention rates of not only black students, but of all students from racial minority groups.

Due to events that have transpired within the past two years, we cannot say that we are surprised the university is having difficulty in strengthening the black student population. The racial sign postings of the fall 2011 semester and the vandalism of the Shango Hall sign in late February, among other various instances of bigotry and ignorance, show that despite the liberal and progressive image we’ve fashioned for ourselves, we are not as accepting and safe as we believe ourselves to be.

This is an egregious problem that is unacceptable not only because of our identity, but because it’s a disservice we give to anyone who wants to come here in the future. Institutions of higher education are supposed to be safe havens for those who come to learn and anything short of that are intolerable.

However, action must be taken on both ends of the spectrum. While we hope our administrators will take the steps needed to initiate change and bring us to our ideals of acceptance and social justice, we also ask for our student leaders to be patient in enacting change.

There are several beliefs that our administration and student leaders share in common concerning the lack of students from racial minorities coming to New Paltz.

Schools in underprivileged areas don’t properly prepare their students for college and lower incomes in these areas have been issues pointed out by both parties that block prospective students from pursuing higher education.

With these trends crossing across all levels of higher education, the blame for these numbers – whether they indicate a trend or not – cannot rest solely on the shoulders of the SUNY New Paltz administration. Our campus is not immune to these systemic problems. The only course of action, for both administration and student leaders, is to work within our means to change these trends on our campus.

We applaud our student leaders who have suggested that SUNY New Paltz offer pre-college level courses and we applaud our administrators who are figuring out ways to have current New Paltz students help recruit prospective students.

But before we give all of our credit to both, we need to see both parties come together and make these dreams become reality. How much longer can we merely talk about the change we want to see before we join as one to make what’s right become what’s real? We know that negotiation, compromise and moving forward in enacting change is capable of both sides, and anxiously await for the two parties to come together and make it happen.