Higher education continues to lack diversity

As the nation watches the protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked by the death of Michael Brown, it is clear that the intolerance and prejudice brought to light in the civil rights movement is still present in society. 

A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania shows this prejudice is still abundant in higher education. 

In the study by UPenn professor Katherine Milkman, she and her colleagues sent identical emails to 6,500 professors at 259 different U.S. institutions requesting research opportunities before applying to doctoral programs. The names used on the emails were gender and racially distinct. The study found that the requests made by gender and racial minorities were ignored at significantly higher rates than those by white males, especially at private institutions. 

According to the U.S. Census, only 2.9 million African- Americans and 2.5 million Hispanic students were enrolled in college in 2009, as opposed to 12.7 million Caucasian students. In the same year, 11.6 million female and 8.7 million male students were enrolled. While women are quantitatively the majority, they are a social minority as a result of the prevalent gender bias. 

Women are particularly underrepresented and indirectly discriminated against in the science, engineering, technology and medicine (STEM) fields. According to the New York Times, only one-fifth of doctorates in physics in the U.S. are awarded to women, of which 50 percent are American, and the starting salary for women in science is $4,000 less than a man’s on average. 

Eastern Kentucky University sociology professor Aaron Thompson states that diversity in education promotes creativity, self-awareness and social development. Integrating diversity into higher education provides students with an opportunity to work with others who may have culturally different backgrounds. However, racial and gender minorities do not receive the same educational opportunities as the majority of students. 

The New York Times reports that racial minorities tend to be absent in STEM fields because they often have to attend secondary schools that prevent them from progressing in sciences; these students must contend with prejudices that are present throughout their education. 

Diversity in higher education gives students a realistic view of the world and prepares them for a changing workplace. The U.S. has come a long way since the civil rights movements of the 1960s, but “minority” now means more than black and white. The classroom is the portal to the world and should better promote open-mindedness. 

Brandon Shaik is a senior majoring in psychology. 

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