Diversity has always been a major issue on college campuses like Cal Poly and now with drastic budget cuts and measures to limit enrollment, it can be expected that the already small populations of women and minorities amongst higher education faculty and students will also be diminished.
CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed has said that the percentage of minority students is not expected to drop if the CSU system cuts the number of transfers and existing students by almost 1,600. But increasing educational costs will limit the options for many non-white students with limited incomes. They now will be forced to live at home or attend community college and by putting off acceptance to a university they could hinder their chances of being enrolled as their application will be placed in the transfer pile looking to be cut.
Even if minorities do decide to go to the school of their choice, the limited federal funding could be a factor. Beginning in 2008, caps were placed on the amount of financial aid and scholarships available. According to the Cal Poly Factsheet of 2008, of the $89,815,419 distributed in financial aid, 44 percent went to women and 34 percent went to minorities. Despite the reassurance of Reed, the increasing cost of tuition is still obviously a major deliberator for minorities applying for college.
In recognizing the presence of diversity on campus we must also look to new faculty who bring new curriculum that broadens the topics students explore within the classroom. In 2008, 29 percent of higher education faculty were non-white and within this year alone women will earn 59 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 61 percent of master’s degrees, as well as half of all Ph.D.s., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Yet for many looking to teach on CSU campuses such as Cal Poly the opportunity will not be available.
According to the 2008 Cal Poly Factsheet only 34 percent of the faculty were women and only 13 percent were non-white. However, when examining statistics of those working as lecturers, a non-tenure position, 45 percent were women and only 6 percent were non-white. Ultimately if the furloughs are not extended to next year CSU’s qualified minorities and women working as associate professors and lecturers will be among the first let go. By following the “first hired, first fired” protocol to conform to the budget, Cal Poly student and faculty can expect to see the lack of diversity increase.
On a campus such as Cal Poly where diversity is already minimal just the presence of a diverse faculty reminds students of the contributions of minorities and women to American society as well as the conflicts in existing policies. As individuals they bring new ideas to develop curriculum and discussion intended to develop well-rounded individuals entering a society that is becoming increasingly more multicultural.
Structural problems within the education system will also develop without a faculty of various ages, genders and ethnicities, which allow students to be exposed to a variety of material and teaching methods. Professors will be taken away from teaching their specialty in an upper division course and be asked to teach a general lower division class. Also, as more courses are cut, classes become overcrowded and students will be forced to follow a one-size-fits-all curriculum.
Cal Poly’s diversity level pales in comparison to other CSU campuses, and as administrators cope with cutbacks while still providing a quality education, we might ask ourselves if diversity is what we’re willing to let go.
Jessica Barba is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily guest columnist.