Where Are All The Black Students: On The Lack Of Diversity In Academia


Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who attends UC Berkeley. The both of us, not being politically correct in most of our talks, were joking about how UC Berkeley is basically a second Asia. If you’ve ever been to UC Berkeley then you know what I’m talking about. I didn’t expect a good answer, but I asked, “Where are the black people?”

In case you’re curious, the answer is not, “They’re just hiding.” I’m sorry to disappoint you with that revelation. However, we would make good ninjas, but that’s beside the point. The more I thought about the question, the more I wanted a legitimate answer. I no longer wanted racial humor to account for my ignorance. I wanted to account for the entire UC school system, and not solely Berkeley. I decided to do some research, and what I found was startling. Take a look at this.

“Taylor, what the hell am I looking at?”

You tell me what you’re looking at. It’s not obvious? Let me provide some clarity.

The image (go ahead, click on it if you haven’t already; I’ll wait) is a chart of the entire UC school system (all 9 schools) in the context of potential freshman during the application, admission, and enrollment process for the fall quarter from 1989-2013. Note that these are just CA residents being accounted for, and not out-of-state and international students.

If you don’t like math and numbers, then this won’t get any easier. However, it’s important to put all of this in perspective. A few things to note:

1) These numbers correspond to only freshman at the various universities. I will provide the link to where I found the chart, and other statistics.

2) I’m combining certain ethnicities together for the sake of simplicity. For example, Chicanos and Latinos will be part of the same statistic. Filipinos and East Indian/Pakistani will be part of the Asian ethnicity as well. If you don’t get why, and it’s making you cringe, then I can’t help you.

3) All of these numbers are non-duplicated (at least from what I can deduct). This means that the UC System took into account an applicant who may have applied for more than one UC. Therefore, the total number you are seeing in the chart I provided accounts for those students.

African Americans for the 2013 fall semester for all UC schools:

5,978 applied out of 99,447 total applications
2,705 were admitted out of 62,683 admissions
1,333 attended out of 33,135 total enrollments
(Refer to chart)

African Americans only account for roughly 4% of the entire UC systems enrolled freshman applicants. Whites: ~24%, Asians: ~40%, Latino/Chicano: ~28%, and others makes up the rest of the system.

African Americans are second lowest to Native Americans in terms of the total process for admissions to a UC school. I found that quite disturbing. However, when you look at the numbers between the application and admissions steps, the numbers become even more worrisome. Only 45% of African Americans were admitted from the total number of African American applicants. If you compare this to the number of Native American applicants, that number is almost 55%. When you consider African Americans outnumbered Native Americans by a little over 5200 applications, Native Americans still yielded a 10% better acceptance rate. That is ridiculous. Whites, Asians, and Latinos/Chicanos still have a number well above 50% for that same statistic. These are big numbers though, and it’s hard to wrap your head around an ENTIRE school system.

Let’s go back to UC Berkeley:

African Americans for the 2013 fall semester at UC Berkeley:

2,559 applied out of 43,255 total applications
280 were admitted out of 7,073 admissions
117 attended out of 3,091 total enrollments
(Refer to chart)

I’m sure I don’t have to do the math to tell you the severity of this situation. At Berkeley, the last time African American enrollment was above 4% was in 1997, in which that number was almost 8%. From 1998 until the present, it has been consistently 4% or less. To be clear, I did not pull these numbers out of my ass. All of this information is in the public domain, and can be accessed at any time. Here’s something to think about; how many of these admitted students do you think are athletes and not attending on academics alone?

California public universities cannot discriminate based on race, sex, gender or ethnicity due to proposition 209. This proposition has been in effect since 1996. Despite being under scrutiny up until the present, schools nonetheless have enforced this policy. It is interesting to note while schools have this policy, you can clearly see the disparity between races/ethnicities in enrollment at these universities. Is it a coincidence that after this proposition was implemented that enrollment dropped for African Americans? Correlation does not necessarily equal causation. However, the data of low African American enrollment at UCs is consistent with the timeline of adoption of the proposition. UC Los Angeles follows this trend as enrollment of African Americans dropped significantly after 1997. Every other UC (Merced not included) either followed the same exact trend, or already had low enrollment for African Americans. I found it interesting that enrollment had suffered for African Americans post-proposition 209 by almost 50% from 1997-1998.

What does this all mean? We live in America at a time where education has been the most available out of any previous generation. Getting an “education” nowadays is as simple as turning on your computer and logging onto a website. The UC system is just one of many systems that provide education to anybody willing to learn. The problem with this system, and many others, is that diversity has become more of an image, and less of an implementation. How many schools do you see that promote diversity on their website, but statistically put up the same abysmal numbers? How many pictures do you see with a “diverse” group of people studying or enjoying themselves at that university/college trying to promote diversity? A black person is in the picture, so the school must be “diverse,” right?

Equal opportunity can only be discussed when everyone has equal opportunity. Sure, it looks good when you promote this rhetoric at your institution. However, minorities still have to deal with the same inconsistencies they have been used to their whole lives. Are African Americans seriously unqualified to the point where only 45% of us are being admitted? Are we just not putting up the same numbers like our fellow classmates? Are we less intelligent? Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions. Maybe I should be asking; do we have the same education system that makes us qualified for these schools? WHY aren’t we putting up the same numbers as our fellow classmates? How is our intelligence measured? I don’t have answers to these questions, but I want them answered.

The reality is that African Americans at these universities (UC system) and other schools only serve as exceptions to the race. It’s a shame that black students are more likely to see each other on the sports field, than they do in the classroom. I mentioned it above, but if you consider how many blacks are in these schools just academically, then the numbers probably decrease even more. I don’t know what needs to be done to see an increase in black enrollment at these universities. If young black kids aren’t seeing people who look like them at these universities, then what is motivating them to want to go, let alone apply? We have to start being the motivation and pride for schools in the classroom, and stop being just entertainment in a gymnasium or on a field. This problem goes beyond just getting accepted into college. Proper and effective education in the black community has to be improved in order for us to even have a chance of competing with other minorities.

Up until this point, I have only focused on a subset of public universities in California. As a California native, I wanted to know more about the schools in my state that I grew up looking at. Public and private universities exist in California, as well as other states. While conducting this research, I found that private universities (such as Stanford, Yale, Harvard, etc.) tend to have a higher percentage of African Americans that attend, as well as other minorities. However, it is important to note that private universities are smaller in size. Percentages for incoming minorities are higher because results are spread over a smaller data set. For example, in 2013, Stanford accepted 97 African Americans into their freshman class for the fall quarter. If you compare this to Berkeley’s number, 117, the numbers do not seem that far apart. However, the Stanford freshman class only accepted 1,674 students total. Berkeley accepted 3,091 students. Therefore, the percentage of African Americans for Stanford is higher than at Berkeley. It is also important to note that private universities tend to have lower acceptance rates across the board due to the exclusivity of the school. Despite having a smaller amount of students, and a low acceptance rate, you can clearly see the disproportions in race/ethnicity at these schools. Interestingly enough, I could not find the same data representing applications, admissions, and enrollment based on race/ethnicity for various private universities. This information is either extremely hard to find, or not publicly available (but you can view it here, here, here, and here if you’d like. Note that these schools provide different kinds of data. Some links may be more useful than others.)

I did not attend a UC school in California. I attended the University of Virginia. For the sake of diversification of public schools in this country, here is what I found for my school:

African Americans for the 2013 fall semester at UVA:

1,612 applied out of 28,984 applications
554 were admitted out of 8,691 admissions
204 attended out of 3,540 total enrollments

My school had ~6% of African Americans enrolled for the first year class. While attending UVA, I often found myself in many classes were I was the only African American. Walking around grounds, I would see other black people, but not nearly as much in abundance as other races/ethnicities.

Going back to the UCs, maybe I’m overthinking this entirely. Maybe race has nothing to do with this. Perhaps blacks just aren’t applying to UCs for reasons that are beyond simply numbers on paper. However, with many of the UCs being decent if not top schools in the country, it’s interesting to think about why we wouldn’t be applying. From a statistical standpoint, it doesn’t seem advantageous as a black person to apply to these schools. If only less than half of us are going to be accepted, then why even bother to apply? Remember, schools can’t discriminate based on race/ethnicity, sex or gender, but the data suggests otherwise. Statistically, you are 10-20% more likely to be accepted into a UC if you are White, Asian, or Latino/Chicano. Why is this the case?

I do not believe that these universities are intentionally discriminating against African Americans and favoring other races. That would be an absurd statement to make, and that is not the point of this article. However, these universities do represent educational opportunities among this country’s citizens. Because of this, they fall under the same disproportionate and institutionalized constructs that present themselves in the education system. I think we can all agree that we don’t all have the same opportunity in this country when it comes to education, but I’m only presenting these numbers and figures as potential starting points for discussions about inequality. Whether it’s truly because of race, I don’t have a definitive yes or no. In my opinion, it is definitely something to think and talk about. However, I only offer you the data and let you form your own opinion. What do you think?

So I’ll ask this one last time, “Where are the black people?”

featured image – Dear White People