Oklahoma State University Increases Diversity Efforts
Oklahoma State University officials will meet this weekend with others across the nation to discuss efforts to increase racial diversity on college campuses, officials say.
“We’re working extremely hard internally to diversify our campus,” says Dr. Cornell Thomas, vice president for institutional diversity at OSU. “We want to make sure that we can provide more scholarships and garner continued support from the community.”
Of the 20,000 students attending classes on OSU, about 88 percent are White, about 7 percent are American Indian and about 3 percent are Black. Of 1,000 faculty members, about 20 are Black, Thomas says.
“This is a major challenge across the nation, but it’s changing,” he says.
About 80 percent of Oklahoma’s population is White and about 8 percent is Black, according to 2004 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Thomas and several other higher education officials met in Los Angeles recently for the first conference of a new organization called the National Association of Diversity Officers in Education. The group will exchange ideas on how to increase diversity on predominantly White campuses.
Currently, OSU is adding three positions to its Affirmative Action Office, implementing mandatory diversity classes for all incoming freshman beginning in the fall of 2007 and making efforts to aggressively recruit professors and students of color, Thomas says.
The three positions in the Affirmative Action Office include an intake specialist to monitor complaints, a seminar coordinator to host diversity workshops and a women’s program coordinator.
The diversity classes would tackle issues like “how being Black, Hispanic or poor impacts a person’s ability to become successful, rather than focusing on generalizations about different cultures,” Thomas says.
The university also plans to strengthen its ties with Langston University — Oklahoma’s only historically Black university — in hopes of enticing Langston graduates to apply for graduate programs at OSU.
“We want to develop better partnerships and ensure that our students are able to work and compete in a global market when they graduate,” Thomas says.
OSU kicked off this year’s Black History Month observance by honoring Nancy Randolph Davis, the first Black student to break the color barrier at the Stillwater campus.
Now 80, Davis was allowed to enroll in three courses in the summer of 1949 despite sanctions facing the university, then called Oklahoma A&M College.
Initially told by one administrator that Blacks were not welcome, Davis persisted in her demands to pursue a master’s degree at OSU and was able to enroll with the help of the NAACP.
— Associated Press
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