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EDITORIAL: Rutgers’ diversity perpetuates inequality

Poor minority groups underrepresented on campus

When giving his 2016 commencement speech at Rutgers University, which was in celebration of the school’s 250th anniversary, former President Barack Obama declared: “America converges here. And in so many ways, the history of Rutgers mirrors the evolution of America — the course by which we became bigger, stronger and richer and more dynamic, and a more inclusive nation.”

Obama is correct with this digression: Rutgers truly does stand as a microcosm of America.

The immediate parallels are easily seen. America has been anointed a “melting pot,” with the classification metaphorically chiseled into Plymouth Rock. 

Rutgers also boasts its diversity. In an aptly titled tab on its website “We Are Diverse,” the University stated, ”For Rutgers University—New Brunswick diversity is an everyday ingredient of university life and one of our greatest strengths.”

Neither the U.S. nor Rutgers are lying about their intersectional hodgepodge of cultures: The U.S. is historically a nation of immigrants, and Rutgers does have a wide offering of ethnic backgrounds attending. The issues, as per usual, lie in the context.

In Western modernity, specialization is a prerequisite to getting a well-paying job, as recent years have seen other nations funnel in most manufacturing work. In other words, you now have to have a college degree in order to afford basic necessities.

Colleges and universities now stand in a unique and perhaps unprecedented spot: Being the sole ammunition the nation can use to fight stratification. Outside of meteoric success stories (usually through some vein of entertainment), picking yourself up by the bootstraps without a college education is nearly impossible.

Rutgers’ diversity is very selective. White people make up the largest portion of the school at 37.6%. Asian Americans follow with 26.2%. While it is beneficial for students to be exposed to new ethnicities, and while for some students those new ethnicities may very be Asian Americans or white people, it does not solve the fundamental inequities that elicited the increased focus on diversity.

Executive Order 11246, signed by former President Lyndon B. Johnson, stated: “The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Such action shall include, but not be limited to the following: employment, upgrading, demotion or transfer.”

It is clear that the intent of this order, which is where the widely used term “affirmative action” originated, is to bridge the major socio-economic divide between America’s various races through employment. 

Now that college is a requirement for most sufficiently compensatory careers, it should stand that diversity’s main purpose in higher education is not to serve as a peacock’s feathers of campus affluence nor prestigiousness, but to provide opportunity to those who are in the most desperate need of it.

Black and Latinx people are both severely underrepresented at Rutgers. New Jersey is now approximately 14% Black, while Rutgers is only 7.1%. The Garden State is also 19% Latinx, while only 12.2% of Rutgers is.

Both ethnic groups happen to be among the poorest in the nation. Black and Latino men make 73% and 69% respectively of what white men do, respectively, while Asian Americans, over-represented by Rutgers, make 117%. The rates are proportionally similar for women. 

Obama was right about Rutgers being a mirror of the U.S. — unfortunately. Much like the nation as a whole, Rutgers perpetuates racial and class inequality by providing opportunities to those who need it least. 

This is also seen in the average income of a Rutgers student’s family, which, according to The New York Times, is $103,500, firmly in the upper-middle class. To make matters worse, the proportional rate of Black students at the school has actually decreased over time. 

In 1979, the population of New Jersey was 10.7% Black, while Rutgers’ student body was 11.5% Black. As stated before, New Jersey is now approximately 15% Black, while Rutgers is only 7.1%.

Rutgers should not promote itself as a champion of diversity if it only accepts the overrepresented.

There are many reasons for the underrepresentation, explained by Courtney McAnuff, vice chancellor of Student Enrollment, according to The Daily Targum.

“We look at many factors when planning class, among them ethnicity, urban, rural, academic major, discipline,” McAnuff said. “Rutgers is a pretty complicated place and people apply to a number of different schools.”

While, according to the article, race cannot be evaluated, ethnicity can. Explaining how the school can reach out, the article stated, “The University can also do in-context reviews, which evaluate students based on their level of income. For example, (McAnuff) said if a student tests a 600 on the SAT and the score for average enrollment is 700, the student can be admitted if their score is much higher than the average for their low-income school district.”

The question then becomes one of utilization. While it certainly is good that Rutgers has methods at its disposal, why have they not been employed enough to prevent this piece from being written?

Obama was right about Rutgers. We do mirror America, in all the good and the bad. In another way, we should be extremely grateful for Obama's astute comparison, because much like in America as a whole, we have the voice to impact change at Rutgers.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority   of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff. 

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