By Stephanie Liakos
The rate of black college students in America has been decreasing since 2010, but at Western Michigan University the black student population is the highest it has ever been, according to the WMU Office of Institutional Research.
WMU is still catching up in regard to ethnic and racial diversity. Though the number of self-identified black students at WMU is increasing, the number does not reflect the rate of total self-identified black college students in the United States.
Over the past decade, WMU’s black student population has doubled; increasing to 2,257 students in 2015 from 1,139 students in 2006. In comparison, the total percentage of black students at colleges and universities in the United States has fluctuated between 2006-2014, and is now at about 33 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“I believe that the number of students who identify as black in America is decreasing because they feel that it may be a threat to their personal safety if they choose to identify as black,” said Tori Savage, a sophomore at WMU who identifies as black.
Another reason for the decreasing number of students who identify as black could be that students of color are more likely to identify as multi-racial than before, said Savage.
If the number of American students who identify as black is decreasing, why is the number of students at Western who identify as black increasing?
“WMU’s numbers are increasing because of the work that is being done at this university to implement more diverse policies and resources to students on this campus,” said WMU senior Danaequa Yarbrough, a social work and public relations major. Yarbrough is the president of WMU’s Black Student Union. The reason the black student population is decreasing at other universities is because they do not host as many cultural events and organizations for students as WMU, said Yarbrough.
Another member of the Black Student Union is Vice President Chasity Cooper, a junior psychology major at WMU. Progress toward diversity on campus made by WMU includes the Western Student Association’s recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the facilitation of a black student graduation, said Cooper.
However, Cooper does not feel that WMU is doing as much as it could to create a welcoming environment for black students on campus. Some schools are very progressive, while other schools are quick to punish students for protesting against racism, said Cooper. “WMU is right in the middle.”
Some students, such as senior Paige Walker, agree with Cooper. “Honestly, I haven’t seen much of a difference in the treatment of black students since I’ve been at Western,” said Walker, a journalism student. Hiring more minority professors and offering more cultural classes at WMU would help the university continue to increase its black student population, said Walker.
Paige Walker, 22, is a senior journalism major at Western Michigan University who identifies as black.