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Diversity efforts will expand at UD

5:00 p.m., April 16, 2003--Provost Dan Rich has announced a new “University Undergraduate Scholars” program modeled on UD’s Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which has a 100 percent success rate in helping students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds get into graduate programs of their choice and obtain funding. “We are implementing the new program to provide more opportunities for our talented and diverse undergraduates to prepare for graduate school upon the completion of their studies at UD,” Rich said.

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“UD’s biggest and best applicant pool,”

Rich made the announcement Tuesday afternoon in a meeting with a group of faculty and staff who assembled to discuss the effects of ongoing legal challenges to race-exclusionary programs at the nation’s colleges and universities.

At UD, the federally funded McNair Program has 18 current students, all of whom have been accepted for graduate school next year. This summer, 21 new McNair Scholars will begin their program at UD. Named for an African-American astronaut who died in the explosion of The Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986, the McNair Program won the University’s Louis Lorenzo Redding Diversity Award in March because of its contributions to racial and cultural diversity at UD and beyond.

Rich said that the University has already provided funding for five students under the new University Undergraduate Scholars program this year and plans to expand support in future years. “We need to see that all students get the support they need to succeed at the University,” Rich said.

Legal constraints
Last fall, as part of a periodic review of the scholarship and academic enrichment programs for minority students, the University received legal advice that programs that exclude any students because of race wouldn’t survive a legal challenge. The "Presidential Awards" program was cited as such a program.

“Based on the legal advice we have received, the University will not, on the basis of race, restrict access to any University program,” Rich told faculty and staff at the April 15 meeting.

In March, UD changed the “Presidential Awards” program to become the University Graduate Scholars program. The new program will promote diversity on campus by selecting graduate scholars to receive awards based on many criteria, including:

  • Challenging social, economic, educational, cultural or other life circumstances;

  • Academic achievements;

  • First-generation graduate student status; and

  • Financial need as determined by federal income guidelines (FAFSA).

A review of eligibility requirements for other University scholarship and academic enrichment programs is under way. “No programs will be eliminated or reduced,” Rich said. “Within the limits of the law, we will continue to be assertive in promoting all of our diversity programs.”

While eligibility requirements that could be construed by the courts as “racially exclusionary” will change, Rich said, “we will still serve minority students because diversity is part of our definition of quality for our student body and faculty.”

An increasingly diverse campus
As important as admitting more minority students, the University has won national recognition for the graduation rate of its minority students. In August 2002, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education ranked UD fourth nationwide among “flagship state universities” for successfully graduating black students within six years. At 64 percent, UD tied Penn State, ranked just above the University of California at Berkeley, and was nearly twice the national average, which stood at 35.8 percent.

“Increasing student diversity is a false measure if our students don’t succeed,” Rich said. “Since our students do succeed, we should celebrate their success, while continuing to pursue our goal of increased diversity.

“The University of Delaware is committed to creating an educational community that is intellectually, culturally and socially diverse, enriched by the contributions and full participation of persons from many different backgrounds,” Rich said.