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School task force: UNH must do more to include minorities

Sunday News Correspondent

September 09. 2017 10:12PM

DURHAM - After a turbulent end to the academic year at the University of New Hampshire last spring, officials are hoping a Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate will help to steer the college in the right direction this fall.

The task force held its first meeting Friday, which was not open to the public. Instead, members released an interim report on developing and sustaining inclusive excellence while maintaining a safe, healthy and equitable campus community.

In May, racial tensions sparked by Cinco de Mayo celebrations rocked the campus. It began when some students took exception after they saw their classmates wearing sombreros and ponchos while celebrating the holiday.

Social media helped fuel the fire when a woman took a photo of an upperclassman wearing a clay mask and posted it on Instagram without the man's consent. That was interpreted as depicting blackface.

University President Mark Huddleston and Provost Nancy Targett condemned the disrespectful language and behavior and invited students to a community conversation. That event drew hundreds of people. Students demanded that administrators hire more diverse faculty members, provide faculty training and change the student code so those found engaging in racist activities online and on campus can be expelled.

In Friday's report, officials said UNH must develop a sustainable inclusive campus climate and make diversity and inclusion an integral part of the education they provide.

"As UNH continues to move away from the mindset of diversity as 'add on,' we are developing the understanding that diversity and inclusion are critical threads woven consistently throughout the entire fabric of UNH. By doing so, we ensure that diversity/inclusive excellence and pluralism are valued and presented as institutional priorities that will be addressed in all aspects of the life of the University," the report states.

Over the years, UNH's minority population has grown, and self-identified minority students now make up 9 percent of the undergraduate population, and 8 percent of the graduate student population. According to 2016 records, there were 423 Hispanic and Latino undergraduate students, 301 Asian undergraduate students, 165 black undergraduate students, 222 undergraduate students of two or more races, 21 Native American or Alaskan Native undergraduate students and one Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander undergraduate student. When all degree and non-degree undergraduate students are accounted for, there are approximately 1,350 self-identified minority students.

The same data show that 10,111 of the undergraduate students are white.

Officials addressed that disparity in the student population, and also looked at the numbers of faculty members who are minorities in the report.

On campus during the last academic year, there were 63 Asian faculty members, seven Hispanic or Latino faculty members, six black faculty members and three Native American or Alaskan Native faculty members; 492 faculty members were white.

"UNH has some distance to go in increasing the number of students, faculty and staff from underrepresented communities and in creating an inclusive community in all of the complexity associated with diversity," the report states.

Huddleston charged the task force with identifying issues of race, inclusion and civility on campus, making recommendations for action.

"Because the issues the task force must address touch every corner of the university, extensive engagement with our community is essential. I therefore expect the task force to reach out to and involve the entire UNH community in its work," Huddleston said.

Huddleston is asking that a final report be completed by Jan. 19, 2018.

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