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Chancellor Charles R. Bantz

Charles R. Bantz

Archive of Prior Chancellors' Speeches



Statement by Chancellor Gerald L. Bepko

for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

January 20, 1997

Each year on this day, IUPUI reaffirms a solemn commitment to the Indianapolis community and the state of Indiana. That commitment is that we will dedicate ourselves to increasing the number of minority students who participate in, and benefit from, the advantages of higher education.

But, in addition to making that reaffirmation, we also pause to reflect on the progress we have made in the past year. Much of the news is good.

Each fiscal year we have steadily increased the number of orders placed with minority business enterprises (MBEs) as well as the value of the contracts awarded. In the last fiscal year, IUPUI placed more than 1,150 orders with MBEs and awarded more than $3 million in contracts. These figures reflect an increase of 3.5 percent in orders and 32 percent in dollars over last year.

In the fall of 1996, we enrolled 3,464 minority students. Of those, 2,344 are African American. Over the last five years, the percentage of minority students on campus has increased steadily, from 11.5 percent of the student body in the fall of 1992 to 12.8 percent of the student body in 1996. Of special interest is the fact that it is the number of African American students who have engendered this increase; other minority groups have held steady. This trend can also be seen in looking back over the number of African American students who have entered IUPUI each year. In 1992, we had 357 African American students who were new matriculants to IUPUI. In 1996, we had 670, just shy of double the number five years ago.

But another important question is how well are minority students faring once they arrive? Are they reaching their academic goals? Over the past five years, the number of degrees earned by students from minority ethnic backgrounds increased at a rate higher than that of nonminorities (4.2 percent versus 1.0 percent). For African Americans, the number of degrees earned has increased nearly 6 percent on average over each of the last five years. In 1995-96, they were up 17.7 percent -- just from the year before. Much of this increase is attributable to master's degrees awarded to African Americans in social work and law. On the undergraduate level, some of it is owing to the emptying out of the pipeline from the record enrollment we had in 1992. However, IUPUI remains below national norms in the overall six-year graduation rate and well below our aspirations as a campus.

Another measure of progress that we track is the retention rate: How many students return from year to year and how steady is their progress toward their degrees? Unfortunately, here, the news is also not as good as we would like. Our overall retention rate last year was 65.9 percent for nonminorities and 58.8 percent for African Americans. For beginning African American students, it was only 45.7 percent. Only among Asian American students is our retention rate near the national average of 70 percent.

What are we doing to improve these measures? First, we continue to try to recruit and retain minority faculty to provide role models and mentors for minority students. Of the 1,372 tenured or tenure-track faculty teaching at IUPUI, 168 are minorities: 103 Asian Americans, 36 African Americans, 28 Hispanics, and 1 Native American, with the largest increase being in Hispanic faculty, which increased by 13 just in the last five years. However, year-to-year progress has been disappointingly slow in the recruitment of African American faculty, in part because they are often recruited away by other institutions and the net gain for any given year may be only one or two.

Secondly, in an effort to improve retention, we are in the process of developing a major institutional change that we think will be our single most important effort -- perhaps in our history -- to boost students' persistence to degree. Circulating among various campus constituencies for discussion is a proposal to create a University College. This is a comprehensive effort that will provide a more cohesive learning environment for entering students, including an increased number of faculty dedicated to creating effective first-year learning experiences and a series of mechanisms to provide academic advising, tutoring, and mentoring.

Finally, the campus Office of Student Affairs continues to facilitate a number of events throughout the year to foster a campus climate conducive to learning for all, but I would like to mention one in particular. Last summer, two of our IUPUI students, David Fredricks and John Travison, attended the 1996 National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education. Upon their return, they organized a town hall meeting for students to discuss issues of campus diversity. It took place last October 10 and I participated. The reason I single this out for mention stems from the report that John and David sent me when they returned from the national conference. Generally, I close this Martin Luther King Day message each year with a quote that expresses the fervent shared hope that together we can positively transform conceptions of race through educational opportunity. I found inspiration in the report that John and David sent me. In one of the personal reflections included in the report, David Fredricks wrote (and I quote):

"Our campus has a long way to go, just as many others from what I found out. But I am positive that with students such as John and myself and others, along with the great support . . . in place from the faculty and staff, we can get to that true place of higher learning in a multicultural institution"


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