About 20 students demonstrated by the Rock on Monday to protest the number of black freshmen on campus in what organizers called the “prelude” to new student initiatives to drive up minority enrollment.
The protesters, coordinated by the African American Student Affairs office, greeted passerbys with poetry, speeches and a rendition of the Black National Anthem. They surrounded a large “81″ on the Rock, representing the number of black freshmen in the 2,025-student class of 2012. The speakers encouraged students to take an active role in attracting a greater African American community to Northwestern and discussed plans for several new programs to increase black attendance.
“This is an issue that should fill up an area far greater than the 200 square feet that surround the Rock,” said Weinberg senior Mark Crain, the former head of the black student action group For Members Only (FMO), which co-organized the demonstration with African American Student Affairs.
The Freshman Advisory Board, a subsidiary of AASA, plans to keep drawing attention to the cause. Board President Tyris Jones said the demonstration would be the first of many programs if the group perceives a lack of response from the university community.
“We want to make this not just the problem of the Freshman Advisory Board or FMO, but of the whole community,” Jones said.
The activism won’t stop until group members feel an adequate level of diversity has been reached, Jones said. “If the world is 13 percent African American,” Jones said in his closing remarks at the demonstration, “Northwestern should reflect that.”
The African American Student Association has partnered with the admissions office to spearhead their new programs, and the club is sponsoring a phone-a-thon to reach out to prospective black students. It also hopes to send members of Northwestern’s black community back to their high schools to promote the university.
Meanwhile, a few student initiatives are working to promote Northwestern to potential African American applicants. ASG Vice President Michael McGee has organized an ad hoc committee working with the Northwestern administration and student groups on campus.
One of the committee’s ideas is to bring 75 students from Chicago Public Schools for overnight campus visits in late November. Another is to create an online guide and tip sheets for prospective black students looking to apply to Northwestern.
“Whenever we have student panels, we give these students important advice about NU, but it stops there. Creating this guide will be able to give the same info to a lot more students,” McGee, a Communication junior, wrote in an e-mail to others working on the initiative.
McGee said in an interview Monday that he’s been working on the issue since his freshman year, but is looking to better coordinate recruitment efforts this time around. “Our main goal is to get communication together,” he said. “We’re trying to meet more regularly to get more goals in line.”
Some of the new initiatives are based on the success of Promote 360, a group of SESP students that is working with minority students. Volunteers have partnered with schools in the Chicago area to mentor minority pupils, most of whom are first-generation students. They have also taken pupils to campus tours and explained to them the process of applying and paying for college.
The group will head to Riverside Brookfield High School at the end of the month, for example, as part of a collaborative project to get students interested in Northwestern, said Erin Cunningham, a mentoring chair of Promote 360.
“The purpose is to get them to know someone in college,” Cunningham said. “And maintaining that connection with younger students is a really nice feeling.”
Related story: “Despite efforts, NU’s black enrollment continues to fall” (Sept. 23, 2008)