When it comes to its minority population, Binghamton University hasn’t grown as much as other SUNY campuses have over the last decade.
Of the four-year SUNY institutions, BU saw the third-lowest growth in percent of underrepresented minority students over a 10-year period, according to a diversity brief published in 2017. SUNY defines these students as black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska native, native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and those who identify as two or more races.
Between fall 2006 and fall 2016, the underrepresented minority population at BU grew by 4.4 percent. At most of the other 17 four-year schools, this population grew by at least 10 percent. Currently, BU trails only the University at Buffalo and Stony Brook University in lowest growth of underrepresented minority population.
The brief, published last June, is the third of its kind that reports on progress toward SUNY’s diversity and inclusion objectives, which include being “the most inclusive State university system in the country.”
SUNY’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy has a stated goal of “striving to ensure that the student population we serve and the administrative staff and faculty we employ are representative of the diversity of our state.”
In New York, which consistently ranks in the top 10 most diverse states, 21.2 percent of residents qualified as underrepresented minorities, according to SUNY’s definition. The underrepresented minority population across all SUNY institutions reached 26 percent last year, meaning the system is at least as representative as the state.
As a whole, SUNY, which includes 64 campuses, experienced a 10.2 percent increase in underrepresented minority population between 2006 and 2016. The institutions that saw the largest increases in underrepresented minority population are SUNY Buffalo State, with an increase of 27.9 percent, and SUNY Potsdam with an increase of 22.6 percent.
At BU, the percentage of black first-year students decreased from 6 percent in fall 2006 to 4 percent this past fall, according to data from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
Nicole Sirju-Johnson, the interim chief diversity officer of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the director of the Multicultural Resource Center, said she thinks students’ experiences would be different if there were more students of color on campus.
“Absolutely, I think it would be different no matter who was different,” Sirju-Johnson said. “There are a variety of variables that feed into that. Binghamton University has a different quality standard — we are the highest, most selective of the SUNYs. It may be that we have to look at the different ways on how we recruit students.”
Sirju-Johnson said the Office of Undergraduate Admissions could speak more to BU’s diversity statistics and any initiatives to increase them. The office turned down an interview and requested that Pipe Dream email questions on the matter.