USF Tampa joined eight other Florida universities in receiving an “F” grade in representation equity — black students’ share of enrollment in undergraduate population compared to Florida’s general population of 18 to 24 year olds — in a study conducted by The University of Southern California’s (USC) Race and Equity Center.
The study included the ranking of 13 Florida schools in terms of representation, gender and completion equity — the extent to which black students’ graduation rates match overall six year graduation rates — as well as black-student to black-faculty ratio.
Although USF scored an “A” and “B” in gender and completion equity, the failing grade stands out to students for its inconsistency compared to grades of other categories.
Eight other state universities in Florida received an “F” grade, including UCF, Florida and USF’s St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses.
Often touting itself as one of the most diverse schools in the state, the negative ranking came as a surprise to USF students and faculty alike.
“We remain committed to building and supporting a diverse student body,” Genshaft said in Sept. 5 at her Fall Address. “This is our responsibility as a metropolitan public university — to provide not only access to higher education, but to ensure students have the tools, all the resources, and all the support services to succeed.”
Students questioned why the image of the university does not match up with the supposed facts and statistics of the report.
Ada Williams, an African-American sophomore majoring in psychology, said she doesn’t feel singled out at USF.
“I can’t speak for other people, but I’ve had no issue being black at USF,” Williams said. “The data from that report might say we’re on the books a certain way, but even if African-American students are low in numbers, I’ve never once felt the effect of that.”
According to Paul Dosal, vice president of Student Affairs and Student Student Success,
a possible explanation for the disconnect was that the survey conducted by USC did not include transfer students.
According to the USC study, “Federal graduation rates do not account for undergraduates who transferred from one institution to another, which is a limitation of our Completion Equity measure.”
Dosal says that transfer students make up a large part of the undergraduate student population.
“I think we do have a challenge in bringing in more African-American freshmen to get closer to the overall representation of college age African-Americans in the state,” Dosal said. “At the same time, that metric does not include transfer students and I’ll just point out that transfer students make up more than half of our undergraduate student population.”
According to the 2018-19 USF System Facts report, the total population of current undergraduate African-American students at USF Tampa is 4,184, which is 10.7 percent of USF Tampa’s undergraduate student body of 37,333.
Foday Jaward, president of The African Student Students Association, said he would’ve never expected USF to be graded so low, but the numbers speak for themself.
“The survey does come as a surprise because usually perception is reality and fortunately USF has been really good at projecting itself to be multicultural and diverse,” Jaward said. “It’s funny how accurate this statistic is, because if you wash the makeup off of USF’s face then you would see that we do have an F.”
Students regularly emphasized that they tend to view USF as a diverse campus.
Trevon Carter, an African-American student, agrees that the report contradicts his personal experience at USF.
“One of the reasons I wanted to come to USF was because of the diversity,” Carter said. “I wasn’t told it was diverse, I witnessed it myself. Hearing that USF was ranked an ‘F’ is pretty confusing to me.”
Marcel Thomas, another African-American student, says he feels bits of discrimination everywhere, but less when he’s at USF Tampa.
“It doesn’t really matter where you go, as a black man you’re going to feel different,” Thomas says. “To its credit, USF is definitely a better place to be than some other schools.”
Dosal says these are all steps in the right direction for raising USF’s ranking among other universities.
“We’ll continue to do what we do every year — recruit aggressively,” Dosal says. “We’ll try to bring in a talented and diverse freshman class. We’re working with communities around the state to build up access and readiness of high school graduates in the state of Florida.”