Anna Lee/Nubian Message

Keilah Davis | Editor-in-Chief

The University of Southern California Race and Equity Center recently published a report card that in which NC State received an “F” in representation equity and a “B” in completion equity.

The study analyzed 506 public four-year institutions across 50 states and used black student demographics to assign a letter grade based on relative performance in four areas: representation equity, gender equity, completion equity, and black student-to-black faculty ratio. The letter grades were converted to an “Equity Index Score,” or grade point average on a 4-point scale.

NC State earned an overall 2.75 equity index, UNC-Chapel Hill earned a 2.00, and the state of North Carolina earned a 2.23 statewide score.

According to the study, “no campus earned above 3.50. Two hundred colleges and universities earned scores below 2.00.” Additionally, 44 percent had 10 or fewer full-time black faculty and 40 institutions had none.

“These kind of efforts help us collect information and see it in it’s reality,” said Sheri Schwab, interim vice provost for institutional equity and diversity. “It’s startling. It’s certainly not where we want to be but it gives a chance to reevaluate, recommit.”

Student Recruitment

According to Mike Mullen, vice chancellor and dean of academic and student affairs, “NC State is more diverse than it has ever been.  Approximately 30% of our students are non-white or international, and most groups of underrepresented students have been increasing over the past few years.”


Black Student Population at NC State


Black 18-24 Year Olds in NC

While this is true for most underrepresented racial groups, it is not true for black students. Between Fall 2006 and Fall 2016, the percentage of black undergraduates at NC State decreased from 9.3 percent to 6 percent.

“Most, if not all, of our recruitment activities are done in the hopes of increasing the diversity of the student body on campus,” said Jon Westover, associate vice provost and director of admissions. He also emphasized that diversity is defined broadly at NC State to include culture, ethnicity, geography, socioeconomic status and first generation college students.

Programs like TRIO, Emerging Scholars Program, Native Education Forum, Gear Up NC and Juntos connect with pre-college students to inform them about preparing for college and encourage them to consider NC State.

Student Retention

NC State’s black undergraduate graduation rate—or the average percent of black undergraduates that graduate within 6 years—is 69.1 percent while NC State’s overall graduation rate is 75.9 percent. That 6.8 percent difference gave NC State a “B” in completion equity.

This means the majority of black students who enter NC State stay and graduate. Yet, these numbers may not tell the whole story.

Erin Elliot is a second-year graduate student in educational psychology and a graduate assistant for Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) and Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences.

“Representation doesn’t mean that those students feel like they belong,” Elliot said. “Just because you’re creating the space for students doesn’t necessarily mean they are welcomed there. Just because they’re not not-graduating doesn’t mean they feel welcome there. People are persisting and graduating for other factors besides the fact of feeling welcome in their classes. They have other motivators.”

The graduation rate for black students is 69.1% while the overall graduation rate at NC State is 75.9%.

MSA hosts many retention programs, including the annual Symposium for Multicultural Scholars, which is held during the week before classes start to build community, and Freshman Honors Convocation, which is held at the end of every spring semester to recognize academic performance.

According to Elliot, “MSA specifically is trying to target those underserved populations through programs [held throughout the year].”

Faculty Diversity

NC State earned an “A” in black student-to-black faculty ratio, but as the report explains, an “A” or “B” is not necessarily a sign of performing well.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, NC State had 67 full-time black instructional faculty and 1,732 total full-time instructional faculty in 2016—that’s 3.9 percent.

“NC State is committed to hiring exceptional faculty and staff from all backgrounds,” Mullen said. “We actively work during our search processes to identify candidates from underrepresented populations.”

The Recruiting Diverse Faculty Program offers workshops and a semester-long process for deans, search committees and department heads to create plans for developing a more diverse faculty. The Building Future Faculty Program is a workshop that assists graduate and postdoctoral students in pursuing academic careers.

Moving Forward

The authors of the study hope that college administrators will “respond by swiftly engaging in rigorous, strategic, and collaborative work to improve the status of Black undergraduates at their institution.”

However, as Governors State University President Elaine Maimon states in a message published with the report card, “it is necessary to remember that real, long-term change is often recursive, even messy. Transformation requires investment, strategy, patience, accountability, consistency measurement, determination, and courage.”

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, NC State had 67 full-time black instructional faculty and 1,732 total full-time instructional faculty in 2016—that’s 3.9 percent.

At NC State, institutional change can occur at a pace that seems instant or infinitely slow.

“When certain people want change to occur it, happens very quickly, but when things may not be in everyone’s best interest, things tend to happen very slowly,” said Elliot. “Because I think there’s a lack of transparency between administration and the students, when things do take longer and there’s not an explanation why, students feel like they’re not cared about and what’s happening to them or around them is not important.”

“We need to do a better job of chronicling the actions we are taking,” Schwab said.

The report notes that colleges often return to the same few high schools to recruit black undergraduates, which is “unlikely to produce different results from one year to the next. Admission officers must substantively engage a wider array of high schools to find talented prospective Black students.”

Moreover, solutions must not “rest mostly on a chief diversity officer, black culture center staff, or a few Black faculty members.” Instead, the report recommends establishing partnerships across campus units and collaborations between faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and black undergraduates.

The report also states it would be a “waste of institutional resources” to recruit black full-time faculty “without addressing racial climate and workload imbalance issues and ensuring that White faculty colleagues respect their scholarship.”

How does NC State plan to move forward in light of these findings?

According to Schwab, NC State’s shortcomings are likely a combination of recruitment, yield, and student experience.

“We have a culture to work on, what it’s like to be at NC State, how people experience NC State,” Schwab said. “There’s certainly a culture aspect to it—what’s it like to experience your college years on this campus as a person of color and how do we continue to make this a much more inclusive and welcoming place?”