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Minority graduate enrollment is up, but falls short of goal

STANFORD -- While enrollment of targeted minority graduate students at Stanford has fallen short of ambitious goals set five years ago, it has increased more than 60 percent since 1988, according to a new report.

Despite this progress, most departments still lack a critical mass of minority graduate students or minority faculty. For many, this results in personal loneliness and lack of intellectual fellowship and stimulation. Many minority graduate students say they continue to experience insensitive behavior and isolation at Stanford.

These are some of the findings of a seven-month study by the Provost's Committee on the Recruitment, Retention and Graduation of Targeted Minority Graduate Students, chaired by English Professor George Dekker, who also serves as associate dean of graduate policy.

At the request of Provost Condoleezza Rice, Dekker's committee reviewed the university's performance during the past 10 years of recruiting targeted minority students - African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans and Puerto Ricans. She also asked the committee to "identify the steps we need to take to improve that performance over the next five to 10 years."

The faculty, student and staff committee developed seven recommendations:

Student surveys

During its deliberations, the committee held open forums with members of minority communities and sent out a questionnaire to 590 minority graduate students and 300 nonminority graduate students.

The 45 survey questions asked students how they were recruited, inquired about the role of a mentor during their graduate study and sought feedback on the nature of their personal experiences at Stanford.

Turnout at the forums was "modest," according to the report. The questionnaire generated a 22-percent return from targeted minority students, while 36 percent of the control group (whites, Asian Americans and foreigners) sent back answers.

"These figures make us reluctant to generalize too boldly about 'the minority experience at Stanford,' ” the committee said.

Yet the committee said it believed that some disturbing conclusions could be drawn from the students' answers and comments.

Students repeatedly referred to a "lack of respect by nonminority graduate students, and occasionally by faculty, for them as scholars, for their research interests and for minority faculty," the report said.

"Demeaning racial stereotypes, subtle and not so subtle, are still a distressing fact of life for many students of color at Stanford."

The committee also noted a "widespread assumption" that minority students and women in male-dominated fields "are inferior in ability and would not be here except for the extra weight put in the scales by affirmative action policies."

Overly ambitious goals

In 1989, the University Committee on Minority Issues set as a goal doubling the number of targeted minority graduate students within five years.

Dekker's committee said that that goal "was a more ambitious task than UCMI anticipated and one that probably could have been achieved only with the increased investment of resources that the present report recommends."

Data show that the results are "substantially better than has sometimes been suggested at the Faculty Senate and in the press," with total minority graduate enrollment up by 62 percent since 1988, and doctoral enrollment up by 60 percent, the report said.

Overall, "Stanford can be fairly said to have a distinctly better record than peer institutions in the recruitment of targeted minority graduate students," the committee said.

In the face of a "dismal national record," Stanford is the only major private university that recruits and graduates "relatively large numbers" of Native American students. A total of 59 Native Americans were enrolled in Stanford graduate programs in fall 1993.

The university's "large financial and moral investment" in both undergraduate and graduate student affirmative action has had a large payoff, the committee said, noting that "we have been remarkably successful in attracting financial support" from foundations and individual donors for students and for initiatives aimed at increasing the minority applicant pool.

The committee said its report is a "challenge to make the extra effort needed to grasp what is within reach rather than an occasion for collective hand-wringing."

Committee members

In addition to Dekker, members of the committee included Clayton Bates, professor of materials science and engineering; Victoria Bomberry, graduate student in modern thought and literature; Sally Dickson, director of multicultural development; Elizabeth Fitting, assistant director, doctoral program, Graduate School of Business; Ronald Garcia, senior lecturer, medicine/family medicine; Patti Hiramoto, director of student services, Education; Roni Holeton, associate director of graduate studies, Humanities and Sciences; Colleen Larimore, assistant director of graduate studies and director of minority graduate student services, Humanities and Sciences; Geneva Lopez, assistant registrar for graduate services; Noé Lozano, associate dean of student affairs, Engineering; Richard Navarro, visiting fellow, Michigan State; Jacqueline Olvera, graduate student in sociology; Renya Ramirez, graduate student in education; Carol Vonder Linden, assistant dean of research and graduate policy; Robert Warrior, assistant professor of English; and Lori White, graduate student in education.

Copies of the report are available online through Portfolio.



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