Enrollment numbers among African-American students have been on the rise since the University began keeping them on record in 1975, but LSU still remains primarily white.
Vice Provost of Equity, Diversity and Community Outreach Katrice Albert said there is no magic bullet to pinpoint which specific diversity initiative has helped to boost the numbers of African-Americans enrolled at the University, but the increase can be attributed to the sum of these efforts. However, while student numbers have grown, the number of African-Americans among faculty has remained stagnant.
“First, we focus on aggressive recruiting,” Albert said. “We connect with undergraduate admissions.”
Programs such as Springfest, which hosts high-achieving minority high school juniors for a weekend at the University, introduce students to LSU to demystify other options, Albert said.
Since the inception of programs like Springfest more than a decade ago, enrollment numbers of African-Americans have risen from 9.7 percent of the total student population to 10.6 percent between fall 2000 and fall 2012, according to data from the Office of Budget and Planning.
In fall 2000, more than 2,500 African-American students among 26,000 total students were enrolled at the University, and enrollment maintained an average of 9.3 percent until fall 2009, when it dropped to 8.8 percent.
Since the dip in African-American enrollment in 2009, the number has climbed beyond 10 percent as of fall 2011 for the first time since the University began keeping record in 1975, when African-American enrollment was at 3.3 percent.
African-American faculty numbers have not shown the same trend as the rising African-American student enrollment numbers, however.
According to data from the Office of Budget and Planning, from fall 1997 to fall 2011, the average number of African-American faculty has been 52 out of an average of 1,552 total faculty.
“African-American numbers have been flat over the past 10 years,” said Craig Freeman, associate professor in the Manship School of Mass Communication.
But according to Freeman, the problem with hiring more African-American faculty is an issue that exists within academia, not the University specifically.
“The academy is a closed place. For as long as the circle remains closed, we might not be diverse,” Freeman said. “Any unit that has a search and doesn’t yield a diverse candidate is flawed.”
Joyce M. Jackson, director of the African and African-American Studies program and associate professor of geography and anthropology, said she has seen some increase in African-American faculty, but there is no major progress in African-American faculty because they come to the University and leave quickly.
“To retain African-American professors, we need to see more mentoring from seasoned, tenured professors,” Jackson said.
The University has to portray itself as a place of opportunity for minority faculty, Albert said. One solution for creating a more diverse search pool is for search committees to be more explicit in wanting diversity and to become more proactive in creating diversity, according to Albert.
“Campus diversity wasn’t a major priority a decade ago like it is now,” Albert said. “But we are building relationships to highlight the importance of diversity, which is coming full circle because we understand that diversity is important.”
In terms of recruiting students, the Black Male Leadership Initiative Preview Day hosts African-American students in seventh through ninth grades to provide them with insight into the University, according to the 2011-2012 Annual Diversity Report.
“The Black Male Leadership Initiative is a program that offers the opportunity for young men to see themselves at LSU,” Albert said. “It is a chance to bond with other fellows.”
The University has made efforts to draw African-American students away from attending historically black colleges and universities by making LSU appealing as a flagship institution, a prime research institution and an institution that offers a post-college experience, Albert said.
Computer and electrical engineering sophomore Dominique Marbury came to the University because of its engineering program. Anthropology junior Kaylah Williams chose the University because it is one of the few universities in Louisiana that offers an anthropology program. It was also the most economically viable decision, Williams said.
Along with the University’s efforts to enroll African-American students, several campus programs are designed to retain them as well.
“Students should feel like they can thrive, succeed and graduate from LSU,” Albert said.
Student organizations focused on cultural interests, such as the Black Student Union and African-American Cultural Center Ambassadors, and offices such as the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Community University Partnership and Volunteer LSU focus on minority student success.
“They offer the Black Student Union and a couple of different clubs around campus, like the fraternities and sororities, but it’s not a lot at the forefront,” Williams said. “It’s understandable because we are not the majority. You have to find things. It’s an interesting dynamic, but if you want it, it’s there – you just have to find it.”
Albert announced last fall that she will be leaving LSU to take a similar position at the University of Minnesota System.