Yale ranks seventh among top colleges nationwide in its proportion of black freshmen enrolled this year, tying with Princeton but falling behind Columbia and Harvard, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.
About 9.1 percent of students in Yale’s class of 2010 are black, reflecting an increase of 13.8 percent over 15 years, according to the survey. Columbia leads the Ivy League with a freshman class that is 9.4 percent black, and Harvard came in second in the Ivies with 9.3 percent. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill came in first overall, with black students comprising 12.3 percent of its freshmen class.
University officials said rising black student enrollment at Yale reflects a concerted effort to increase diversity on campus, but several students said that numbers alone do not necessarily imply true diversity.
Yale College Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said the gradual increase has been the result of an attempt to target students of diverse backgrounds in the admission process.
“We make extensive efforts … to recruit the top underrepresented minority students in the country, including African-Americans,” Brenzel said. “I expect Yale to continue to be one of the most racially diverse private universities in the country.”
Brenzel said the proportion of black student enrollment varies each year because the admissions office does not set racial quotas. Of the 1,386 applicants who identified themselves as black when applying for spots in the class of 2010, 120 ended up enrolling as freshmen this year.
Pamela George, director of the Afro-American Cultural Center, said the University as a whole is “profoundly committed to diversity.” But George — who works with the admissions office and other cultural center directors to recruit minority students — said she thinks Yale can still improve the methods it uses to attract black applicants. She said she hopes to involve more black alumni in the recruitment process and to focus on attracting international students from Africa and the West Indies.
“The process is strong now, but it could still be better,” George said.
While most students said they have been impressed by the University’s efforts to recruit minority students over the past few years, many said a bigger push can be made on campus to create a more receptive environment for underrepresented groups.
Christina White ’07, a co-coordinator of the Black Student Alliance at Yale, said racism in student publications and racial profiling by campus police are problems that need to be resolved. But she also said the University has shown a commitment to diversifying the student body.
“Yale recognizes that diversity is an important part of our community,” she said. “Other schools just sweep under the rug the problems that Yale tries to address.”
White said the University needs to make an effort to publicize cultural house events to all students on campus, not just to the minorities that the houses represent.
“Diversity is not just about having several different groups on campus,” she said. “It happens when people are commingling so they can understand each others’ differences and similarities.”
But Helen Rittelmeyer ’08 said the cultural groups themselves contribute to the difficulty of fostering perceptible diversity on campus. Despite the increasing enrollment of black students, Rittelmeyer said, the campus does not feel more racially diverse because certain minority groups choose to isolate themselves.
“Simply bumping up the number of black students at Yale isn’t going to increase campus diversity in a meaningful way if the new black students that we accept just segregate themselves,” she said. “All of the black students tend to be concentrated in groups like BSAY and don’t contribute to the general diversity of the campus.”
Black Enterprise Magazine recently named Yale the 20th best school for black students based on a survey of African-American professionals in higher education, who rated institutions on academic strength and social environment.
Adedana Ashebir ’09, who worked with the Afro-American Cultural Center to recruit prospective students last year, said historically black institutions have better relationships with the black community and thus enroll more students.
“History makes it more difficult for Yale to have a stronger representation [of black students],” Ashebir said.
She also said economic status and lack of available financial aid are reasons why some black students are less likely to come to Yale.
The University of Pennsylvania and Brown ranked eighth and 13th, respectively, in the nationwide survey. Dartmouth and Cornell earned the 14th and 19th spots.