The University of Minnesota’s small population of black students has been a cause of concern for some time.
Of the fall 2012 Twin Cities campus freshman class of more than 5,000 students, 3.4 percent identified as black, causing students and community members to urge the University to take more action to diversify campus.
Saron Theodros, communications sophomore and Black Motivated Women officer, said people notice her more at the University than at her high school, which she said was very diverse.
“If I’m not in class [then] everyone notices because it’s easier to notice me in a classroom than a Caucasian person,” Theodros said.
She also said she knows many students of color from her high school that didn’t go to the University because they didn’t want to be looked at differently.
Freshman Hamza Musse agreed.
“Growing up in a public school, there was a fair amount of African-Americans there, so when coming to the [University], I would have expected the same diversity,” said Musse, who is one of six black men in the Huntley House — a Living Learning Community for African-American men at the University.
The Huntley House reaches out to first-year black men to provide them with a support system.
Patrick Troup, coordinator for Huntley House and director of retention initiatives for the Office for Equity and Diversity, said he thinks the program has been successful so far, and he hopes the house will have more men next year.
“We need to do more recruiting to entice students to think of the [University] as a place they want to continue their education,” Troup said.
Despite the efforts of campus organizations, some students said they feel the University should be doing more to increase the number of black students on campus.
“They’re not doing as much as they can,” said Eskender Yousuf, communications junior and a co-chair of the Black Student Union.
“They should be saying ‘We should figure out a way to help engage African-American students and bring them in,’” Yousuf said.
Theodros agreed but said the responsibility doesn’t fall entirely on the University.
“I feel like it has a lot to do with the high school educational system,” Theodros said.
In response to low African-American high school graduation rates in the Twin Cities, the University has started taking initiatives to narrow the achievement gap.
University President Eric Kaler is on the co-chair for Generation Next — a Twin Cities partnership-based organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap.
“Our job is to find out what really works in terms of getting kids ready for college and invest our resources into that,” said Michael Goar, executive director of Generation Next.
The Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence’s Kids on Campus program organizes University visits for elementary and middle school students.
Kids on Campus Coordinator Tex Ostvig said the program tries to engage community youth by letting them see what it’s like to be a college student.
“We really try to spark the curiosity,” Ostvig said.
Inner-city schools in the Twin Cities area are becoming more proactive when it comes to getting kids ready for and excited about college, he said.
After visiting campus, many students say they want to go to school at the University someday, Ostvig said.
Yousuf said black students also have a responsibility to recruit.
“It’s upon our shoulders to engage more with our culture,” Yousuf said. “We have to go out and grab those students so we can help lead the legacy.”