Brandeis University Seeks to Increase Campus Diversity

Five years ago Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, added a diversity clause to its mission statement. The statement reads, in part, that the university “seeks to build an academic community whose members have diverse cultures, backgrounds and life experiences and believes that diverse backgrounds and ideas are crucial to academic excellence.”

The most recent demographic breakdown of the student body shows that 5 percent of all undergraduates are black and another 5 percent are Hispanic.

Unlike many of the universities, Brandeis does not use affirmative action in its admissions process. Keenyn McFarlane, vice president of students and enrollments, stated recently, “Affirmative action is specific and to my mind sounds a lot like quotas, which have so much negative history.” He went on to stipulate the Brandeis “does not take into account race, creed, color, religion — anything.”

Instead of using race-sensitive admissions to increase student diversity, Brandeis has conducted more recruiting in predominantly black areas. And it has an agreement with the Posse Foundation to provide full-tuition scholars for two groups of 10 inner-city residents. Brandeis is also looking to set up a student exchange program with one or more historically black colleges and universities. The university also offers six Martin Luther King Jr. merit scholarships. These awards, originally intended just for African-American students, are now open to any student with “outstanding community involvement.”

A recent examination of racial diversity on campus published in the Brandeis Hoot found that 1.6 percent of the full-time faculty and 1.1 percent of the part-time faculty are black. The survey also showed that all 11 of the university’s top administrators are white and there is only one African American on the 40-member board of trustees.