By KAYLA LASURE
Members of Eastern’s Diversity Planning Council on Tuesday said that Eastern was one of just two universities in Kentucky to meet the state’s diversity objectives.
The announcement came during an open meeting in the O’Donnell Auditorium in which members of Eastern’s diversity council met with students and faculty to discuss the university’s to promote diversity and to solicit feedback.
“We seem to be taking steps forward in making Eastern more diverse,” said Sandra Moore, Eastern’s associate provost for diversity planning. “But with moving forward sometimes we also take steps back.”
According to Eastern’s “Fact Book,” the percentage of minority students, both in undergraduate and graduate programs, has steadily increased over the past five years.
For example, the percentage of black undergraduate students at Eastern has increased from 5.1 percent in 2008 to 5.9 percent in 2011. The percentage of black students in Eastern’s graduate programs increased from 4.6 percent in 2008 to 6 percent in 2011.
The increase in minority students at Eastern, however, is not always a steady one—occasionally the numbers dropped during a year. For instance, the percentage of undergraduate black students dipped to 5.3 percent in 2012 from 5.9 percent a year earlier.
President Michael Benson, who spoke at the meeting, said Eastern is continually working to make campus more diverse. Benson pointed to initiatives, such as Eastern’s move to increase minority scholarships, as evidence of Eastern’s efforts.
All state universities in Kentucky have been charged by the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) to come up with specific strategies that promote diversity on campus as well as set out “measurable goals” that reflect institutional demographics in comparison with the general population demographics.
Eastern, along with the University of Kentucky, were the lone universities in Kentucky that met all eight diversity objectives set out by the CPE.
Still, at Tuesday’s meeting, several students commented that they’d like to see more done to promote diversity and that they’d like to see more students involved in diversity programs.
“Eastern has a mostly white student population,” said James Clark, 19, of Frankfort. “We have black people here, don’t get me wrong, but we do not have a black community.”
Clark, who is biracial himself, said coming to Eastern was a culture shock for him. Clark said he was born in Kentucky but grew up in New York, where it is more racially and culturally diverse.
Other minority students agreed, saying that it was a difficult transition when they moved to Eastern, where they said they were often the only minority student in some of their classes.
Rose Skepple, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, said that when she was a student at Eastern, minority students typically were assigned mentors. While that may not true today, Skepple said that students shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to faculty, regardless of their race.
“A mentor doesn’t need to look like you, they just need to be for you,” Skepple said, adding that she encourages minority students to get involved in organizations and leadership groups on campus if they want to help effect change.