Julie Leopo/EdSource

Members of the California Student Journalism Corps fanned out on their college campuses to ask students their thoughts about diversity on their campuses as affirmative action cases in higher education are being scrutinized by the U.S. Supreme Court. Specifically, students were asked, “How do you think California’s colleges and universities can build more diverse student populations without considering race in the admissions process?”

Below are their responses.

Haley Gurney

Second-year student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

By Arabel Meyer

“I think that we should get rid of standardized testing,” Gurney said. “It’s a systemic thing because people who live in low-income communities don’t have the money to pay for specific standardized test-tutoring.”

This gives some students an unfair advantage over others, allowing students of higher socioeconomic status the opportunity to do better on exams, which determines the universities they can attend.
“These tests don’t feel like a measure of intelligence. It’s just a measure of how well you can study for a specific test. Anyone could pass these kinds of tests if they put in money; but some people don’t have the means to do that.”

Instead of standardized testing, Gurney proposed placing more emphasis on a college application which shows a more complete person.

“What could stand in that place to help diversify students is showing your extracurriculars and your qualities as a student,” she said. “This would help improve racial diversity. I think it could. I mean, the system is so deep and it’s really hard to change. But I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Mary Grace Violet Vargas

Fourth-year student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

By Arabel Meyer

“I think it’s really hard to expand diversity without taking race and ethnicity into account,” she said. “It would be nice if we lived in a world where different races and ethnicities didn’t impact your entrance into college. But I think the reality is that it does, based on institutionalized racism and things that build up over time.”

Continued Vargas, “It’s very naive to say that race doesn’t play a factor, because it does.”

Thinking about other ways to diversify the admissions process, Vargas mentioned writing some sort of essay that would allow for diversity of thought in the application process. She also suggested considering additional factors like socioeconomic status.

“Socioeconomic status is a good one, especially because it tends to align with racial and ethnic lines,” Vargas said. Still, she didn’t believe that these methods would be enough. “I really think (the current system is) limiting, because we should be able to take those additional factors into account.”

While the idea that race shouldn’t have to be considered in college applications may be based in the hope that our society has moved past these social constructs, American society still has some growing to do.

“Until we live in a more equitable society, we have to take things into account in order to remedy past discrimination and past injustice.”

Danielle Nelson

Third-year student studying liberaL studies at California State University, Sacramento

By Emmely Ramirez

“I believe colleges and universities can be more diverse without considering race in the admission process by students not needing to put down their race,” Nelson said.“What I mean by this is that colleges and universities should look at the student’s achievements or academics, not their race.”

Overall, Nelson said that universities should be based on merit and use other tactics to create a more diverse community.

“Instead, colleges and universities should be more inclusive when they [promote] their schools,” in their advertising materials, Nelson said.

Lilian O’Gara

Third-year student studying social work at California State University, Sacramento

By Emmely Ramirez

“Continuing to get rid of testing requirements I think is an easy place to start because they have already seen that once Covid-19 hit and testing requirements were gone, the admissions for students of color significantly rose,” O’Gara said. A Los Angeles Times article in January 2021 said that among applications received in late 2020, “Among Californians, Black freshman applicants increased by 21.8%; Latinos rose by 12.2%; and Asian Americans increased by 10.7%, whites by 18.8%, Pacific Islanders by 23.9% and American Indians by 5.5%.”

O’Gara also said that universities can and should make a larger effort to increase outreach to low-income students.

“Schools can be more welcoming to the students, provide more resources to apply and create more desire to attend that campus,” O’Gara said.

When asked about her thoughts on affirmative action, O’Gara said that she is in support of affirmative action.

“In a perfect world we would not need affirmative action, but considering the history of our country, it gives people a more equal footing and a more equitable chance,” O’Gara said.

Ethan Kita

Third-year engineering student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

By Abbie Phillips

“From an engineering standpoint, it is a traditionally cis-male white dominated field,” Kita said. “I might be a little bit of an exception,” due to being of Asian descent. Kita said there is a lack of diversity of voices in his engineering classes.

Kita also believes that the lack of diversity is impacting the student body and what schools could be missing in terms of student voice. In order to build diverse populations, he thinks schools should change how they are presenting themselves to prospective students.

“The CSUs need to evaluate what the UCs are doing differently to try and attract a more diverse student body,” Kita said.

Adam Albanese

Fifth-year architecture major at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

By Abbie Phillips

“Speaking from personal experience and partly from studies that I have seen, it is difficult to accurately predict work ethic from incoming test-scores, grades, and the quality of earlier education of the applicants,” Albanese said, explaining complicating factors in knowing which applicants to admit into a school.

Albanese thinks it might be a good idea “to be admitting people almost entirely based on chance — except for maybe some very baseline metrics like high school diplomas or such — so that the distribution of the admissions matches the applicants.”

Noting advantages and disadvantages to standardized testing, metrics and what the student has to offer at face value, Albanese said, “I believe the real-world success of students will at least be comparable, and we will have removed a need to admit based on race.”

Antonio Quintero

Studying political science at Fresno State University

By Ramon Castaños

“I think it’s too difficult of a subject to predict,” Quintero said. “If they [the Supreme Court] overrule affirmative action, we would see waves of it” in different cities and states.

Quintero is worried that it is more difficult for marginalized groups who are not Caucasian to get jobs and get into higher education. And he believes many people do not see “higher education” as anything beyond high school, due to their families’ perspectives, region and financial issues.

But Quintero thinks the government can create more programs for K-12 to help prepare minorities to go to college, and he wishes there was more of an understanding about offerings like private student aid, Pell Grants and Cal Grants.

“A lot of them don’t understand how to fill out the FAFSA and don’t understand what scholarships are also available,” Quintero said. He believes that we should instruct students entering high school about programs like FAFSA or available grants so they understand the process from an early stage in their education.

In addition, Quintero wants more clubs and program organizations that can help push students to be in college. He remembers in high school that he had joined Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) – Future Health Professionals, which informs students about health sciences.

For Quintero, it helped him realize he could go to college because he learned how to apply and to move through the processes.

And Quintero believes colleges should focus their money on current programs to increase diversity, like funding women’s graduate studies, Black Student Union, Asian Student Union, and other affinity programs on campuses.

Allen Nope

First-year political science student at San Jose State University

By Titus Wilkinson

“Diverse is a pretty broad term,” Nope said, taking some time before sharing his answer. “Colleges that want to build a more diverse student population and don’t want to put race into it could base more of admissions criteria off of test scores,” he said.

“I feel like by just basing admissions off of grades it takes race out of the admission criteria,” Nope continued. “So the admissions officers wouldn’t be able to know if this was a Black student, if this was a Latino student, if this was an Asian student or a white student,” he said.

Pierce Barnett

Third-year aerospace engineering student at San Jose State University

By Titus Wilkinson

“It’s not the best policy if you’re trying to consider it based off of test scores and the highest GPAs getting in,” Barnett said. “But It’s a way to make colleges more influenced, I believe, by many aspects of life,” he said.

“People come from many different areas, some better off than others,” he said elaborating on the policy aspect. “Some people have a lot of struggles growing up, and if you’re trying to build a more diverse population, you’re going to need to look at affirmative action as well as race, and take those into consideration.”

Sean Erkin

First-year political science student at Cal State LA

By Erik Adams

“For what it’s worth, it was only Hispanic people and white people,” Erkin said of Bakersfield College. “Not a lot of Black people, not a lot of Asian people. … I think that’s more so just because of demographics.”

Coming from Bakersfield College, the diversity at Cal State LA is much more expansive than what Erkin was used to.

Erkin is involved with the Democratic Socialists of America’s “campus-oriented” wing of the organization Young Democratic Socialists of America. DSA is a nationwide political organization that pushes for progressive social policies and left-wing political candidates.

YDSA was tabling on Cal State LA’s campus on Nov. 10. While helping, Erkin mentioned talking to professors who approached the tent talking about the different courses they taught, like Asian American studies. “That wasn’t something I think Bakersfield College really offered,” Erkin said. “For CSULA, [it’s] an amazing step in the right direction, and I think we should see more of it.”

“I think affirmative action is very good,” Erkin continued. “I think it’s important that we have it now because there’s not many opportunities for people of minority backgrounds or minority communities. But as we move forward I think it’s important to increase leadership of people in these minority communities [and] to widen our range of education into categories that appeal more to minority communities.”

Cristal Flores

First-year student studying aviation at El Camino College

By Annais Garcia

“California colleges can build a better and more diverse population by hosting festivals and thematic events,” said Flores, who is a first-generation college student.

Flores, who comes from a Mexican family, thinks that although today’s California colleges are already diverse, some schools have a noticeable dominant race.

As a Latina, Flores feels that those schools that are not diverse could incorporate activities and classes to invite those students from different races to get to know new ones.

“I feel like in less-diverse schools, teachers might need to help students to explore cultures they have no experience with,” Flores said.

At her community college campus, Flores has had the opportunity to meet classmates and friends with diverse backgrounds and cultures.

“All around campus you see different skin colors and different ethnicities,” Flores said. “My college friends group is actually very diverse. I have a Moroccan friend, and friends from Congo, Japan, Argentina and Australia.”

Flores explained how in her English class she has seen that the majority of the students are Asians who are learning the language. In this particular class, Flores said that the school helps these students by providing them a translator to help them during the lessons.

In the next two years, Flores is planning to transfer to Indiana State University, where she hopes to have the opportunity to meet diverse cultures as well.

Abril Bribiesca

Engineering student at El Camino Community College

By Annais Garcia

“Making colleges more affordable and giving more extensive institutional aid would make colleges more diverse,” Bribiesca said.

She believes that the lack of diversity in California colleges is due to financial problems that limit access to education. For her, a solution would be to economically help those people with diverse backgrounds to find ways to attend college.

To Bribiesca, the lack of diversity in colleges also happens because in California there are different cultures living in different areas of the state, and there are different universities known for having a predominant race.

For her, a diverse college not only includes different races, cultures and backgrounds, but also students with different beliefs.

“I think that a diverse college also includes diversity of thought, which obviously goes in hand with different people from different races and ethnicities,” Flores said.

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  1. Jim 6 months ago6 months ago

    Given that none of the students have to consider the logistical, legal, or financial implications of their opinions, I’m not sure what the value is here.

  2. Paul Muench 6 months ago6 months ago

    Expand access so all universities can offer open enrollment. Do it gradually so that our three systems can adapt as a whole to peoples’ preferences. People would be livid if we started controlling access to our public roads by an admissions process. We need to see selective admissions at public universities as just a ridiculous approach.