The percentage of students of color on campus has increased since this fall, delighting admission officers, but also raising questions among some students abut what it means to be diverse.
The number of students of color has increased four percent since last fall, according to a report released by the Office of Institutional Research.
“Students of color are 30 percent of the Mills student population,” said Terra Schehr, institutional research analyst. In addition, the number of students who “classify themselves as bi-multi ethnic students to ten percent since last fall, bringing the total number of bi-multi ethnic students to ten percent of the student current population, according to Schehr.
In the undergraduate student population specifically, “the proportion of the [students of color] has risen three percent since last fall to its current level of 31 percent of the entire undergraduate class, or 42 percent if bi-multi ethnic students are included,” Schehr said.
Comparing the diversity of Mills to other liberal arts colleges across the nation, Mils ranks fifteen out of 197 colleges according to U.S. News and World Reports. on a scale ranging from 0.0 to 1.0, with 1.0 indicating a very diverse student population, Mils received a score of 0.42, said U.S. News and World Reports.
Avis Hinkson, dean of admission, attributed the increase [in the number of students of color] to the Admissions Office’s “efforts to personalize the admissions process.” Joan Jaffe, admission officer, said, “increasing diversity on campus is [something] the admissions office strives for every year [and that this year] all of [the Office of Admissions’ efforts] have paid off.”
Jaffe said Mills recruits students of color by “flying in students of color to preview days, visiting schools with large populations of students of color [and] purchasing the names of students of color [from the College Board search program.”
Mills is also “a member [of] the National Hispanic Institute [and the program] A Better Chance,” Jaffe said. Mills uses both the National Hispanic Institute and the Better Chance program to “send (targeted) mailing to students of color,” she said.
Dale Robards, who is incharge of Operations and Special Events, said Mills has always focused on diversity, but that Mills is trying “to make it a bit more of a focus.” For example at the first student visiting day and overnight that will be held this year, Mills is making a point of having presentations by Kim Seals of her diversity programs,” Robards.
Myrt Whitcomb, dean of students, said the “strong ethnic studies department (and the college’s recieving the) Irving grant a few years ago,” played a role in the increase of students of color on campus.
Whitcomb said that Irvine grant encouraged the integration of the perspectives, history and culture of different people,” into the crriculum. This “contributes to more variety in the curriculum and students of color can find their history and culture,” she said. Students of all backgrounds can find their place here, she said.
Despite the reported increase in diversity, some students are hesitant about calling Mills diverse. “It’s not really all that diverse,” said freshwoman Nicole Johnson, “but I’ve noticed that there are people trying to work on it so it could get better.”
“I didn’t expect [the lack of diversity at Mills] at all because [the college is located] in the Bay Area which is filled with a diverse group of people,” said sophomore Shamekka Kuykendall, an active member of the Black Women’s Collective. “I think the school should reflect the fact that we are in the Bay Area.”
Kuykendall, who also works at the Office of Admissions, said, “I did push the Admission Office about [the lack of diversity] last year and i’m glad to see more women of color this year.”
“I think that [Mills needs] to do more recruiting outside California in ethnically diverse areas,” said sophomore and President of the Hawai’i Club Nicole Baumhofer. “[Mills also needs to] be sensitive to ethnically diverse students and not make us feel like minorities [and the college should] pay more attention to mixed students.”
“[There needs to be] more ethnic understanding at the individual level, it’s not something the college can teach you through a workshop. Diversity workshops are too institutional,” she said.
“I don’t want diversity workshops to lecture to me,” said sophomore and vice president of the Hawai’li club Dana Higashi. “I don’t want them to tell me what somebody else’s life is like. I want to see it.”
Still, others on campus feel that diversity does exist. “I think that the different [diversity based] clubs [on campus] are a good way to get people involved [and] to learn about different backgrounds and cultures,” said sophomore Erin Miura.
“In terms of different types of diversity [such as] African-American, Latina, Asian-American, homosexual, bisexual, and it’s got to be one of the most diverse places I’ve lived as a conscious human being,” said sophomore Aurelia Donnelly.
“For me, [diversity] includes race and ethnicity and goes beyond to encompass age, geography, academic and outside interests,” said Robards.
“The increased diversity in the class serves to enhance the Mills experience for everyone,” said Hinkson.