April 23, 2002

Faculty Senate Puts Focus On Minority Issues

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On April 10, the Faculty Senate approved a resolution presented by the Minority Education Committee concerning recruitment practices, retention and addressing concerns of underrepresented minority students.

The Minority Education Committee completed a two-year study of minority education issues.

The Committee had three panels consisting of students from underrepresented minority groups, admission officers and staff in charge of minority programs. They found information on existing effective programs and how the faculty could assist with these programs. The Committee complied the information and made recommendations for the best practices on the issues.

In order to improve the recruitment of underrepresented minority students, the Committee recommended an increase in hosting programs, follow-up contacting of prospective students and outreach programs.

In order to retain students, the Committee recommended that colleges improve mentoring programs, student associations, early intervention by faculty and staff, and the involvement of minority students in undergraduate research.

The Committee also recommended that the colleges implement a program in which students can voice individual concerns and grievances and discuss possible actions that may solve the situation.

According to Prof. Tony Ingraffea, civil and environmental engineering and chair of the Minority Education Committee, it is the first time the Committee, at the level of the Faculty Senate, has made a statement to the staff and the administration that the faculty would like to be more involved with minority education issues.

“To a large degree, Cornell has institutionalized and compartmentalized the faculty away from these issues. The minority education staff are given all the responsibility but they do not have all the power and means. The staff has the perception that the faculty is too busy with teaching or research but we want to participate. We should and would contribute to solve the problem. Are we willing to do more? Absolutely,” Ingraffea said.

“If we can get the faculty behind the people committed to working on these issues, we will be taking a step in the right direction,” said Raymond Dalton, executive director of the Office of Minority Educational Affairs.

Funa Maduka ’04, minority liaison of the student assembly and undergraduate representative of the Minority Education Committee added, “The faculty involvement is very important because they play a huge role in retention and recruitment. The outcome of the proposal will be as strong as the faculty participation.”

According to Ingraffea, minority education is still a major issue.

“We are not recruiting underrepresented minority students in a reasonable academic pool. It is not near what we think it could be. There is also a higher rate of underrepresented minority students who do not succeed than the majority group. These are problems,” said Ingraffea.

Kandis Gibson ’02, co-chair of Black Students United, added, “If students are not comfortable in their settings, they are not going to learn well and more importantly, they are not going to want to stay here.”

The Faculty Senate also approved the committee’s request that it review the responses to these recommendations in three years. According to Ingraffea, the committee also volunteered to assess costs for implementing certain programs in different colleges.

“In the end, we put out something doable and not confrontational. But this is only the first step. The job is not over,” Ingraffea said.

“The Provost has indicated that she will follow through with the recommendations and she also accepts the kind offer of the Minority Education Committee to provide additional information and assistance with the follow-through efforts,” said J. Robert Cooke, dean of the University faculty.

“Overall, I feel that the committee has been successful and very merited. We are going in right direction,” Maduka said.

Ingraffea added, “if the colleges do everything recommended in the proposal, then it is a major step toward a short-term solution to a long-term problem. In the best of situations, we don’t need to have minority programs. When we don’t need them anymore, that’s success.”

Archived article by Joann Kang