I had a housemate who I haven't had much chance to see since she moved out several months ago. Earlier this term, I invited her to swing by my office to have lunch, and catch up a bit.
She parks her bike, and not being part of the campus community, asks around to figure out where I'm located. She realizes that people are staring at her. She tells me this when we meet.
My stomach sinks as I realize that she is probably the only undergrad aged African American female on campus.
I've had several conversations about diversity on this campus recently. When we (the general public) tend to think of diversity on college campuses, especially expensive colleges that undergrads and their parents work very hard to get into, we still tend to think about diversity in the same terms that we think about it in our neighborhoods and public schools. "What percentage are non-white?" And schools come up with numbers of "minority" students, the overwhelming majority of whom are some stripe of Asian, Depending on the school, they may throw foreign students into that batch, the majority of whom are European of some stripe.
This type of rigging the books hides the key point behind the point of diversity pushes on campus. It should be about the underrepresented populations.
This diversity problem seems to be worse in the sciences and engineering than in the arts and humanities, which is one reason for the very undiverse undergrad student body at my campus.
In the interest of keeping this post from going the way of a rant, I'll end with a question.
How many african american or latino academics do you know? How many do you know of? How many are female? (If you are not based in the US, feel free to insert your favorite socially and economically disadvantaged minority into this question.)
My answers are, if I restrict to STEM fields, (2,1), 0, 1.