Demographics Out of Joint

The December 2010 magazine reported that the entering Class of 2014 includes just 8 African American and 21 Hispanic students, out of 373. To a recent graduate, Reed’s racial homogeneity is no secret. Nonetheless, these are dismally low figures, and they deserve the attention of everyone who cares for the future of the College.

Blacks and Latinos now comprise more than one-quarter of the U.S. population. They are under-represented at Reed by a factor of six and three, respectively. Even by the standards of other elite liberal arts colleges, Reed’s demographics are radically out of joint with the country’s.

For too long, I didn’t see this as a problem that had particular relevance for me, lately a part of Reed’s white supermajority. But it does. The academy and the nation cry out for creative minds trained to confront the full breadth of our world with clear vision. It is more important than ever for Reed’s students to encompass the experience of our society as a whole, not just of certain privileged strata. When some perspectives are missing, all of us are left blind.

Institutional cultures die hard, and they rarely die harder than they do at Reed. The College has often proclaimed that it is ‘not for everyone.’ As a mandate for intellectual rigor, that exclusivity is honorable. Too often, however, Reed has also been less than welcoming for students of color, and in the school’s second century, this dishonorable tradition must change. I hope that students, faculty, and staff may all come to sense the urgency of making the College accessible for all thinkers, regardless of race.

—Joel Batterman ’10

Ann Arbor, MI

Editor's Note: Response from Keith Todd, dean of admission: Thanks for raising this issue. Over the past decade, minority enrollment has increased at Reed, but we were disappointed in this past year’s numbers. About 22 percent of the entering class are students of color, with additional diversity coming from our international students. We are working to increase our recruitment toward students of color; this spring, we increased the number of admitted students of color we flew to campus to visit, and we also have increased the number of underrepresented students in our outreach mailings for the next cycle. Events such as our Minority Student Preview Days have been positive in affecting enrollment, and we are looking to create new avenues to attract the broadest, most diverse pool of intellectually motivated students possible.