Broadcasting diversity

The University Guides should continue their efforts to make their membership more reflective of University demographics

In the past year, the University Guide Service has focused on making tours more inclusive toward a diverse variety of prospective students. According to Domenic Puzio, Guides speciality tours chair, when guides give tours, they talk about student groups and events which are geared towards minorities. But Puzio also recognizes that the lack of diversity within Guides weakens their organization because they don’t have a complete representation of minority student perspectives.

Guides has made an effort to make their latest incoming class more representative of the demographics of the student body. Guides Probationary Chair Aaron Ojalvo said U-Guides had many more students from diverse backgrounds try out this year, as a result of several new initiatives to reach out to minority student groups. Such efforts should continue, since members of Guides serve as ambassadors between the University and the public. Guides are in the perfect position not just to discuss diversity, but to broadcast it.

Including information about resources for minorities in admissions tours is not sufficient when such information is delivered largely by a group of students of low ethnic diversity. This is not to say that minority students would necessarily be better tour guides than white students, but such a message would likely be more meaningful to a prospective minority student if it came from a current minority student. A white student relaying information about the activities of the Black Student Alliance, for example, likely would not have as much weight as a black student talking about having a positive experience at the University because of joining the BSA.

Of course, because only one guide gives a tour to a group of 20-30 prospective students, it would be impossible for every prospective minority student always to be paired up with a guide who is also a minority student. And no student, no matter what race, can offer a personal experience of every club on Grounds. But more diversity is still a worthy pursuit. If the diversity of U-Guides was more representative of the University population, a more diverse variety of prospective students would likely form a connection with the University.

Greater minority representation in U-Guides could encourage more minority students to apply and enroll. About 28.3 percent of University students are minorities, but this is significantly less than the percentage of minorities in the state of Virginia, and in the United States, which is 36 and 37 percent, respectively. Granted, not necessarily the same percentage of minorities applies to college at all, but such a significant gap still shows much room for improvement.

The University does use a race-conscious admissions process, as is necessary to compensate for social factors that may limit the pre-college achievements and advantages of non-white students. But if only a relatively small number of minority students applies in the first place, there is only so much that affirmative action can accomplish. Making U-Guides representative of the current University population is one step to alleviate our current deficiencies, so that the University can be a place for high achieving students of all backgrounds.

Published March 6, 2014 in Opinion

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