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2003
Diversifying Reed
 

 

sonya smith
Sonya K. Smith

Increased staffing dedicated to effort

Two new staff members in Reed’s admission office are dedicated to wooing minority applicants. Sonya K. Smith, who also directs the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC), and Crystal Chaw ’03, assistant dean for multicultural recruitment, are leading an effort to diversify the student body and coordinate a subsidized weekend visit for prospective students of color. “Many of our peer colleges and universities have been doing this for years,” says Marthers. “Sonya and Crystal, along with the rest of the admission staff, are giving greater attention to students of color in the prospect pool.”

Yet Marthers cautions that while his office wields significant influence over who applies and is accepted, it has less sway over who enrolls. Boosting minority enrollment requires an institution-wide commitment, he says. Students who visit campus after they have been accepted are looking to see if they will fit in and feel comfortable. He believes having a diverse population of students, staff, and faculty members makes the college accessible for a variety of students.

   
Reed’s commitment was last proclaimed during its 2001 presidential search, when the board of trustees explicitly called for increasing the diversity of students, faculty, and staff: “With inspired leadership, the college can examine recruitment strategies and features of college life that have limited its access to groups for which it has not been an attractive or realistic option. Reed can broaden its reach while preserving its distinctive character and defining principles.”

Following that charge, Reed president Colin Diver espouses the need to achieve greater diversity within those defining principles. “Reed tries hard to promote racial diversity in its student body,” Diver writes. “But Reed has not been willing to achieve greater diversity at the cost of its philosophy that every person must be judged on the basis of his or her own merits and achievements, rather than on the basis of group membership.”

Race acts as a “very light thumb on the scale” for minority applicants, Marthers says—far less weight, he adds, than at other schools. Still, Reed accepts many students of color who ultimately decide not to enroll. African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and other ethic minorities made up 23 percent of the students accepted this year, but culminated in only 18 percent of those enrolled. “The competition for the top students of color is fierce,” he says.

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2003