After more than a decade spent recruiting and building a support base for minority students, the University of New Hampshire remains a very White school in a very White state.
Minorities made up about 6.5 percent of the school’s undergraduates as of last fall. That’s more diverse than the state as a whole — which is about 95.5 percent White — but below the goal set in 1998 when a group of students staged a sit-in at the university president’s office to demand more diversity.
To end the sit-in, then-President Joan Leitzel agreed to 11 objectives, including increasing Black student enrollment to 300 by 2004 and increasing the number of Black tenure-track faculty members to 10 by 2003. By fall 2008, there were 197 Black undergraduate and graduate students at UNH and UNH-Manchester, and eight tenure-track faculty members.
The school has responded to the challenge with a range of minority recruitment programs and a support system that includes the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the Black Student Union, and the Diversity Support Coalition. In 2007, the university was one of two dozen colleges and universities around the country recognized for its diversity programs by Minority Access, Inc., a national nonprofit educational organization.
Some students say the culture shock of arriving on campus was nearly unbearable and that they seriously considered transferring to more diverse schools. Things improved for senior Nina Reyes of Westchester, N.Y., after she helped form Delta Xi Phi, a multicultural sorority in 2007.
“Delta Xi Phi has been an anchor for me and a way for all of us sisters to create positive social change at UNH and within our community,” she told the New Hampshire Sunday News.
Reyes said she’s turned any negative experiences she’s had at the school into learning experiences.
“I am passionate about diversity and social justice, and coming to UNH has challenged me in ways that I would not have been if I had gone to a different school,” she said.
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