Many Black students notice the lack of diversity as a part of their experience
in UA’s Honors College.
Diversity has become an increasingly big priority for universities across the country. With more news growing regarding race, gender, sexuality, and other diversity-related issues, it’s become an expectation for higher learning institutions to be more inclusive.
As of Fall 2021, UA’s student body of just under 40,000 individuals, is made up of mostly white students, according to the UA office of institutional research and assessment. Black students make up the largest racial minority of students at 11.16%. The makeup of UA’s Honors College differs, as it has fewer students. Only about 7,500 of UA students are in the Honors College, and within those students, the largest racial minority is again, Black students, at 2.99%.
These statistics affect UA’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion report and its progress, but it also affects those minority students.
An exhibit from the disability workshop, “I Know Someone…”, hosted by the Intercultural Diversity Center.
The small amount of diversity in the Honors College can be apparent in the classroom. Layla
Jones, a junior at UA and a Black student in the Honors College, said UA’s honors college is not
as diverse as she thought it would be.
“It’s way less diverse [than regular classes]. I have never been in an honors class with another
Black person. I don’t know of any other Black people in the honors college, but to be fair, I
barely know anyone here. From the Black people I have talked to, none of them have been, so it
is definitely a different atmosphere. I don’t feel un-welcomed or out of place but I wonder if it
appears that way,” Jones said.
Jones explained that she does not feel out of place in the Honors College, but wonders if she
looks out of place. She believes this should not be the case and that the Honors College should
be more diverse because there are more Black kids that are capable of succeeding within it.
Alexis Smith is a sophomore and Black student at UA. She described her Honors College
experience as rather pleasant. She has been met with helpful academic resources and
welcoming professors, despite her expectations of vigorous class work and a difficult work load.
Still, Smith believes there is a lack of diversity in her classes. “In terms of diversity, it is very
lacking. Currently in my UH200 course I am the only black person, so the representation is very
off,” Smith said.
This is an issue Smith hopes to see improved in the future. “Something I would like to see
improved in the Honors College is having more people of color accepted into the program
through outreach programs,” Smith said.
An exhibit from the disability workshop about bullying and the disability movement in the US hosted by the Intercultural Diversity Center.
Display inside BB Comer Hall about the Chinese Program at UA.
Students are not the only ones who notice the lack of diversity within the Honors College.
Honors College Dean, Tara Williams said the Honors College is lacking in diversity compared to
UA’s entire student body.
“It’s definitely the case that the honors college isn’t as diverse as UA overall, that we’re lagging
behind that, and the fact that we’re specifically lacking in students who identify as Black or
African American even more than other categories,” Williams said.
Williams noted that the Honors College needs more resources and courses that pertain to its
diverse students. She does not want to make assumptions about why there are less Black
students in the Honors College but she thinks many Black students are not aware of the Honors
College or do not know the value of being a part of it.
The Honors College is aware of these issues and is not ignoring them, according to Williams. Some of the work it is currently doing to improve diversity includes: working on recruiting by going to different high schools and informing them on the benefits of the Honors College, meeting with BFSA scholars and informing them on the Honors College, continuing to diversify faculty and courses, and more.
The Honors College has also partnered with UA’s division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in many of its efforts to promote diversity. This includes series like “Chat and Chew” that features a scholar who comes to have a conversation with attendees about topics related to Black history month, Latinx history month, Women’s history month and more. Additionally, Our Bama Program is a multicultural event for diverse students and their families hosted by the division of DEI. The Honors College is also present in this program to provide information to students who may not be aware of it.
Dean Williams is committed to improving the experience of Black and minority students within the Honors College. She wants students to know they have the option to talk to her, as she knows that is not always an option in other spaces.
“The best part of my job is to get to talk to students, so I would welcome any student reaching out to me and talking to me about their experience or their ideas or their concerns or other ways that they might address it,” Williams said.
There are more ways UA’s division of DEI works to promote creating a more diverse campus. One of the resources created to achieve this goal is the Intercultural Diversity Center (IDC). The IDC is located on the second floor of the UA Student Center and serves as an inclusive space for all students. It also holds guest lectures, teaching programs, monthly exhibits, social justice series and more.
“The main goal is to focus on cultural learning, cultural sharing, and cultural teaching,” Latoya Scott, Assistant Vice President of the division of DEI said.
The IDC holds themed teaching event series throughout the year. This includes the Women’s History Month event for all of March 2022, consisting of an exhibit, diversity coffee and conversation events, movies series, and a keynote speaker.
Students are also an important part of the IDC by working alongside the staff or volunteering to help with events.
Scott said the best way for Black and minority students to utilize the IDC is to take advantage of the space.
“Students would probably love a space where they can be themselves. Really get engaged with it because it centralizes everything for you,” Scott said.
Scott said it is important that students visit the division of DEI’s website, as it has all the information students may need including the DEI department within their college.
Black students may feel the effects of not seeing many other students that look like them within the Honors College but it is important they see the work being put in to improve diversity and know there are resources for them.