Charles R. Bantz
Archive of Prior Chancellors' Speeches
Each year on this day, IUPUI reaffirms a
solemn commitment to the Indianapolis community and the state
of Indiana. That commitment is that we will dedicate ourselves
to increasing the number of minority students who participate
in, and benefit from, the advantages of higher education.
But, in addition to making that reaffirmation,
we also pause to reflect on the progress we have made in the past
year. Much of the news is good.
Each fiscal year we have steadily increased
the number of orders placed with minority business enterprises
(MBEs) as well as the value of the contracts awarded. In the
last fiscal year, IUPUI placed more than 1,150 orders with MBEs
and awarded more than $3 million in contracts. These figures
reflect an increase of 3.5 percent in orders and 32 percent in
dollars over last year.
In the fall of 1996, we enrolled 3,464 minority
students. Of those, 2,344 are African American. Over the last
five years, the percentage of minority students on campus has
increased steadily, from 11.5 percent of the student body in the
fall of 1992 to 12.8 percent of the student body in 1996. Of
special interest is the fact that it is the number of African
American students who have engendered this increase; other minority
groups have held steady. This trend can also be seen in looking
back over the number of African American students who have entered
IUPUI each year. In 1992, we had 357 African American students
who were new matriculants to IUPUI. In 1996, we had 670, just
shy of double the number five years ago.
But another important question is how well
are minority students faring once they arrive? Are they reaching
their academic goals? Over the past five years, the number of
degrees earned by students from minority ethnic backgrounds increased
at a rate higher than that of nonminorities (4.2 percent versus
1.0 percent). For African Americans, the number of degrees earned
has increased nearly 6 percent on average over each of the last
five years. In 1995-96, they were up 17.7 percent -- just from
the year before. Much of this increase is attributable to master's
degrees awarded to African Americans in social work and law.
On the undergraduate level, some of it is owing to the emptying
out of the pipeline from the record enrollment we had in 1992.
However, IUPUI remains below national norms in the overall six-year
graduation rate and well below our aspirations as a campus.
Another measure of progress that we track
is the retention rate: How many students return from year to year
and how steady is their progress toward their degrees? Unfortunately,
here, the news is also not as good as we would like. Our overall
retention rate last year was 65.9 percent for nonminorities and
58.8 percent for African Americans. For beginning African American
students, it was only 45.7 percent. Only among Asian American
students is our retention rate near the national average of 70
What are we doing to improve these measures?
First, we continue to try to recruit and retain minority faculty
to provide role models and mentors for minority students. Of
the 1,372 tenured or tenure-track faculty teaching at IUPUI, 168
are minorities: 103 Asian Americans, 36 African Americans, 28
Hispanics, and 1 Native American, with the largest increase being
in Hispanic faculty, which increased by 13 just in the last five
years. However, year-to-year progress has been disappointingly
slow in the recruitment of African American faculty, in part because
they are often recruited away by other institutions and the net
gain for any given year may be only one or two.
Secondly, in an effort to improve retention,
we are in the process of developing a major institutional change
that we think will be our single most important effort -- perhaps
in our history -- to boost students' persistence to degree. Circulating
among various campus constituencies for discussion is a proposal
to create a University College. This is a comprehensive effort
that will provide a more cohesive learning environment for entering
students, including an increased number of faculty dedicated
to creating effective first-year learning experiences and a series
of mechanisms to provide academic advising, tutoring, and mentoring.
Finally, the campus Office of Student Affairs
continues to facilitate a number of events throughout the year
to foster a campus climate conducive to learning for all, but
I would like to mention one in particular. Last summer, two of
our IUPUI students, David Fredricks and John Travison, attended
the 1996 National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American
Higher Education. Upon their return, they organized a town hall
meeting for students to discuss issues of campus diversity. It
took place last October 10 and I participated. The reason I single
this out for mention stems from the report that John and David
sent me when they returned from the national conference. Generally,
I close this Martin Luther King Day message each year with a quote
that expresses the fervent shared hope that together we can positively
transform conceptions of race through educational opportunity.
I found inspiration in the report that John and David sent me.
In one of the personal reflections included in the report, David
Fredricks wrote (and I quote):
"Our campus has a long way to go, just as many others from what I found out. But I am positive that with students such as John and myself and others, along with the great support . . . in place from the faculty and staff, we can get to that true place of higher learning in a multicultural institution"
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