October 22, 2001

Trustees Discuss Enrollment, Diversity

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While the percentage of minority students at Cornell has remained relatively stable, the University continues to struggle with multi-cultural recruitment, especially for African-American students, officials said Friday.

Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment, focused on this problem in a presentation about Cornell’s recent enrollment trends to 64 members of Cornell’s Board of Trustees during an open session on Friday at the North Campus Community Commons.

Cornell has implemented an “aggressive, strategic plan” aimed to attract more minority students to campus, she said.

Through community outreach, paid fly-ins and scholarship programs, the University is working to increase the number of minority students who apply and the rate at which they are accepted, she added.

Ellen Adelson, a trustee from Tulsa, OK, asked if the University ever considered religious diversity recruitment, especially after the Sept. 11 tragedy, which has caused some Islamic students to leave other universities across the country.

The University does not maintain religious statistics, according to Davis.

“That has not been our practice, and it’s unlikely that we would start,” she said.

President Hunter R. Rawlings III added that he had not heard of any reports of religious discrimination or students leaving Cornell for religious reasons.

“As far as I know, our students feel very supported here,” he said.

Davis also praised the University for successfully hitting its enrollment goal for the freshman class of 2005.

The target of 3,000 freshman students was only 12 below the mark, with 2,988 first-time freshmen enrolling for Fall 2001, according to a report prepared by Institutional Research and Planning.

The need for disciplined enrollment targets was even greater this year due to the new North Campus residential initiative and the University’s past over-enrollment history.

Cornell admitted approximately 300 fewer freshmen applicants this year than last, which increased the University’s selectivity and yield, she said.

After the 20 minute open meeting, Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin led the Board of Trustees into executive session.

Minority recruiting is an important focus of the University, Rawlings later emphasized at a press meeting.

“We haven’t made as much progress as we’d like, but we haven’t lost any ground,” he said.

The percentage of minority students has stayed relatively constant at about 30 percent for the past few years, he added.

Despite Cornell’s difficulty in recruiting African-American students, the Board of Trustees boosted the country’s highest percentage of African-American members last year, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported.

“We like to have balance in the board,” said Harold Tanner, chair of the Board of Trustees, at a press meeting. “In the past, we’ve had an unusually high percentage of African-Americans. We try to make sure all groups are represented appropriately.”

Archived article by Jennifer Roberts