The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


SMU: minority-less

As John Harris walks down Bishop Boulevard on his way to class, he can’t help but notice white students surrounding him.  As a black student, Harris jokes that there are so few blacks attending Southern Methodist University that they all know each other.

When people ask him about the diversity on campus, the junior accounting major replies, “What minorities?…I’m not sure what admissions is doing to recruit cause it seems like pretty much everyone I’ve met is white and from California.”

This year, the first-year class is made up of about 20 percent minorities. As a whole, the SMU student body is also made up of about 20 percent minorities, down from previous years.

Texas, on the other hand, is comprised of 50.2 percent minorities, with Hispanic or Latino being the largest group, at 35.7 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

At SMU, Hispanics make up only 7.68 of the student population. Blacks comprise of 5.77 percent, Asian and Pacific Islanders make up 6.18, and American Indian or Alaskan 0.67 percent.

“This number is actually fairly good for a private university, but we are constantly striving to increase this number,” said Pavielle Chriss, an admissions counselor who focuses on minority recruitment.

Minority enrollment has been steadily decreasing over the past five years. In 2004, minorities comprised about 21.58 percent of students. That peaked in 2005 at 21.84 percent, but has decreased each year since.

Within each individual school, the statistics are similar: around 20 percent of minorities each between Dedman College, Cox School of Business, Meadows School of the Arts and the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering. Meadows saw the lowest percentage of minorities, with only 19 percent, while minorities among Dedman II students were at 30 percent.

Harris said that minority students might not want to attend school at SMU because “they know there is a stereotypical rich white population which leads to our nickname of Southern Millionaires University.”

It is because of this reputation that the SMU admissions counselors say they have created new initiatives to improve minority recruitment and retention on campus. The Provost’s office has accepted a bid to allow the SMU campus to host the Hispanic Youth Symposium for the first time.

The symposium conducts workshops to guide high school Hispanics with their transition to college life. SMU admissions counselors will help to put on the symposium, which they expect will attract 200 Hispanic students from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

SMU student and journalism major Laura Vasquez is Hispanic and thinks this minority recruitment initiative is important to the campus.

“I think there can always be more minorities on campus,” Vasquez said. “People just need to learn to get out of their comfort zones – combine the Prada purse with the Target sweater.”

In addition to attending college fairs and visiting high schools across the nation, admissions counselors and their committee are also organizing new programs this year, including “Preview Days,” an orientation program for prospective minority students that allow them to familiarize themselves with the University before they apply. They also hold receptions in SMU President Gerald R. Turner’s home for minority students who are still making up their minds about attending the university.

Vasquez, who attended a reception, believes it was a nice gesture but was not effective in acquainting her to SMU.

“It was nice to mingle with you’re own, but it would have been better if the stereotypical SMU were present as well. I felt welcomed, but like I said, it would have been nice to see the ‘stereotypical’ SMU, to mingle and try to find something in common with them,” Vasquez said.

Though they have not settled on an ideal number of minority students on campus, the committee wants to continuously host new programs, events and opportunities to recruit minorities. SMU admissions counselor Chriss believes that while 30 percent would be a good goal, the committee would not stop recruiting at any number.

“Even if we reached that number, we would continue to actively pursue high achieving minority students,” Chriss said.

However, even if the percentage of minority students increased, minorities will still have some trouble adjusting to the school.

Antron Mahoney, a Residence Life and Student Housing staff member and chair of the Diversity Action Committee, notes that is it especially hard for minority students to cope with the SMU environment during their first year.

As an African American himself, Mahoney admits that “everyone sees rich people until you get past the surface.”

The Diversity Action Team is a component of the Residence Life and Student Housing Department of SMU. The team works to promote education among its professional and student staff which, in turn, will allow the staff to host programs that educate residents about diversity issues on campus. 

But the solution involves more than guiding minority students toward their niche, say recruiters and others. Mahoney points out that an overlooked but important aspect to accommodating minority students involves educating the non-minority population on campus.

“We need to educate the typical frat guy to be more aware. We need to show why they should care,” Mahoney said.

Travis Casey, a junior and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, believes that the problem extends to the whole campus and the fraternities are not solely to blame.

“I don’t think it is a Greek or fraternity problem, but more of a person problem,” Casey said. “The claim here is that when there is a group of seven white guys standing in a circle that you typically don’t see an Indian with them. But in a group of seven Indians, you typically don’t see a white guy either. People stick to those like them.”

As a resident assistant who deals with helping first-year students adjust to their new environment – whether a minority student or not – Harris offers advise to incoming minority students: “Everyone’s different no matter what skin color. Get involved. Don’t stereotype. Give people a chance and be yourself.”

More to Discover