Editor’s note: Cal Poly’s ethnicity statistics from 2009 have been added at the bottom of this article.
Every university website has one — a page where prospective students can find information on the scoop, such as statistics on the student body, at the school. Information on the ratio of teachers to students classroom size, and tuition are all facts advertised to potential students.
One piece of information many schools make a point to emphasize is the ethnic make-up of the student body.
Cal Poly’s website has a link under the Prospective Students Web page that takes the reader to another page called “Quick Facts.” This Web page includes facts and statistics about Cal Poly that gives prospective students an idea of the environment they will be a part of at the university, such as the school philosophy, the number of faculty members and the number of current students in each college.
However, this “Quick Facts” page does not include any information about the ethnic breakdown of the student body.
Instead, the page offers a link under the “Student Body” heading that directs the reader to another part of the Cal Poly website — the Office of Institutional Planning & Analysis (IP & A), which compiles annual reports on the student body each fall, including ethnic origin. The reader must read through these annual Poly View reports and Fact Books to see the ethnic breakdown of the school and of each college.
Renoda Campbell, MultiCultural Center Coordinator, said she thinks Cal Poly’s ethnic breakdown is not on the “Quick Facts” page because the school’s low diversity is not very flattering.
“The school wants to portray its best qualities to prospective students and our diversity numbers are lower than most CSUs,” Campbell said. “They feel that other information is more important to feature.”
Campbell said almost all the students she speaks with said they were surprised at the lack of diversity they found at Cal Poly when they arrived.
In preparing Cal Poly’s “Quick Facts” Web page, the public affairs staff considers what information is most sought after by prospective students, who may be comparing several colleges. Stacia Momburg is the public affairs team leader, said decisions about what to put on the “Quick Facts” page depend on how much space is available and the audience who is most likely to look at the page.
Momburg said the Poly View reports and Fact Books are too long to publish on the “Quick Facts” page.
According to Momburg, the purpose of the website’s “Quick Facts” page is to act as a one-stop shop for a general overview of the school.
“Potential faculty and staff are more likely to look at the ‘Quick Facts’ page than potential students.” Momburg said. “If prospective students are interested in diversity information, they’d rather look at their specific colleges.”
In a random survey of 100 Cal Poly students, 91 said they did not look for information about the ethnic breakdown of the student body while researching Cal Poly’s website as a prospective student.
Websites for other California universities have pages similar to Cal Poly’s “Quick Facts” page with similar school information for prospective students. However, many of these pages include a graph or direct link to the university’s ethnic breakdown.
University of California, Santa Barbara’s website has a page titled “Our Campus” linked to the university’s homepage, which has a link to a page titled “UCSB Portrait” where students can find statistics on the school and view the student body’s ethnic breakdown in the “UCSB Portrait” report. This portrait includes a graph of the school’s ethnicity directly on the page alongside university statistics like the ones found on Cal Poly’s “Quick Facts” page.
Officials said the university’s ethnic breakdown is on the school’s website because the university wants to encourage diversity in the student body. Chris Van Gieson, UCSB’s director of admissions, said the information is what prospective students want to see.
“We feel that people are interested in this kind of information and the school is a public institution, so we try to respond if we hear repeatedly that some piece of information is hard to find,” Van Gieson said.
California State University, Sacramento’s homepage has a menu under “Future Students” with a link to a website titled College Portraits, which publishes “Student Characteristics” with a graph of the ethnic breakdown of the student body. The College Portraits website provides the same information on more than 500 public universities across the country, including the CSUs.
“Our primary audience is prospective students, and that drives the information we think is important,” CSU Sacramento Publications Director Ryan Chin said. “We are proud of our diversity, and it’s part of the package that we present.”
California’s other polytechnic university, Cal Poly Pomona, uses the same College Portraits website. Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo has ethnicity information listed in this system, but the university’s “Quick Facts” webpage does not include a link through to this site.
Momburg said she was not sure whether public affairs was aware of the website or if the decision was made to direct website readers to Cal Poly’s “IP&A” page instead.
Interim Cal Poly President Robert Glidden said students interested in a university like Cal Poly are probably more focused on the discipline they plan to follow, but also said that greater diversity should be just as important.
“When you compare the school to other CSUs, we don’t look so good, but many of them are in more metropolitan areas,” Glidden said. “I doubt that anyone’s trying to hide the information, but with a website you do have to think about not presenting too much information at once.”
Cal Poly’s ethnicity statistics from Fall 2009 Poly View:
White: 12,536 (64.9%)
Hispanic/Latino: 2,266 (11.7%)
Asian American: 2,040 (10.6%)
Multi-racial: 429 (2.2%)
Non-resident alien: 213 (1.1%)
African American: 177 (0.9%)
Native American: 116 (0.6%)
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 14 (0.1%)
Unknown/other: 1,534 (7.9%)