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Boise State Trying to Bring Diversity to Almost All-White Campus

Boise State Trying to Bring Diversity to Almost All-White Campus

BOISE, Idaho

      Walk across the Boise State University campus, and the diversity you’re most likely to see is a range of ages: White and young, White and middle-age, White and senior.

      But Boise State has taken notice, announcing that all new students must take a diversity-focused class as part of their required coursework.

      “American students, particularly Idaho students, tend to be monocultural and need to learn about other societies and other languages,” says BSU anthropology professor Bob McCarl. “The whole state suffers from a homogeneity that is not typical of even West Coast states or the rest of the globe.”

      Roughly 82 percent of Boise State students are White, says Frank Zang, the school’s spokesman. Seven percent did not report their ethnicity, while 5.7 percent are Hispanic and 2.8 percent are Asian American. Roughly 1.3 percent are Black and 1 percent are American Indian.

      The school does show more diversity than Idaho’s population of 1.3 million, which is 91 percent White. Nearly 8 percent of Idaho residents are Hispanic, while Black or Asian residents each make up less than 1 percent of the population. Roughly 1.5 percent are American Indian or Alaska Natives.

      Instead of requiring a separate diversity class that would add to the course load, dozens of current classes have been revamped to add more multiculturalism, McCarl says.

      English professors may focus on Black literature, while political science professors will discuss contemporary political ideologies — such as the way different cultures deal with truth and justice matters.

      Even some science classes are on the list. Students taking botany will now consider the ways different societies have historically relied on different foods, and which groups controlled the production of those foods.

      For example, students will consider the changes wrought by replacing crops used for subsistence, such as corn in some parts of South America, with crops more economically desirable by other countries, such as bananas.

      “So, they’re not just looking at plants from a biological perspective, but from within a global framework of social and economic change,” McCarl says.

      The requirements will go into effect for freshman this fall.

      Latoya Richardson, who started attending BSU part-time in 1997, says she was often the only Black student in her science classes. By the time she graduated with a biology degree in 2003, diversity at the school had dramatically increased, she says.

      The university could recruit more minority students by simply adjusting its advertising strategy, and by offering more activities of interest to minority students, Richardson says.

      “A lot of minority students don’t hang around campus that much because it’s not really culturally friendly, and most of them have to support themselves with a job,” she says. “What BSU needs to do is not only to go and recruit athletes, but to recruit minority students in general.

      BSU Provost Dr. Sona Andrews acknowledges that the school has fewer minority students and faculty members than she’d like, but says the new class requirement shows Boise State is committed to diversity.

      “One of the things that happen to students who come as a minority is that they’re looked at as being very different, isolated,” Andrews says. “By exposing our students to these kinds of classes, we hope we are making them more accepting of people who are different from them.”

      — Associated Press

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