By Marcus Lavergne
The University of Nevada, Reno’s administration and Student Services Division have committed themselves to actively pursuing and promoting a more diverse campus since the start of the new millennium. UNR has witnessed a jump from over 2,600 minority students to over 7,200 in the past 10 years. Although the process seems slow, the campus has been experiencing steady growth in ethnic student populations on campus.
The white population has decreased 3 percent in the last 10 years from 69 percent. The largest ethnic population is Hispanic, with over 2,000 students at the university. That makes up more than 14 percent of the general student population, while the smallest ethnic group, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, comprises about half a percent of the general population.
These numbers may seem small when individually compared to the 66 percent majority, but when combined, the ethnic population on campus comes closer than it’s ever been to balancing things out. With that said, the university has not yet managed to earn recognition for its ethnic diversity like the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in southern Nevada.
UNLV has been given a designation as a Minority-Serving Institution for the past three years. The MSI status is given to those universities that house high numbers of minority students. Even more importantly, in the 2014 U.S. News & World Report’s ethnic diversity rankings, UNLV tied for the second most diverse campus in the nation alongside universities like St. John’s University and the University of Houston. They also surpassed Stanford University.
UNLV’s general population is 40 percent white, making the ethnic population the majority on campus. Hispanic students make up 21 percent of students, while the rest of the ethnic groups come close to tying the white population in terms of percentage. This could be one explanation for the national recognition the school has been shown.
UNR has not said it is trying to compete with UNLV when it comes to diversity, but Blane Harding, the director for the Center for Student Cultural Diversity at UNR, says that schools compete over everything but calls the competition for diversity a good thing.
“If you take a look at the demographics, and it’s a funny way to look at it, but there’s enough diversity to go around,” Harding said. “If UNLV is increasing then more power to them, and if we’re increasing then more power to us as well. The more people we can educate, the better off society will be.”
Las Vegas, a heavily populated cosmopolitan city, is home to a more diverse population than Reno. The state of Nevada is 66 percent white, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. While Las Vegas data only shows a white population of about 62 percent, Reno’s population is 74 percent white. Also, proportionally, in Las Vegas the black and Hispanic populations are greater than the state’s percentages. In Reno, those population numbers are less than the state’s.
In spite of having highly disproportionate numbers in regard to the majority population versus the ethnic minority population, Reno has shown signs of change. Harding says the demographics of society as a whole are changing drastically, and he considers the city’s growth to be important progress.
“The largest growth [in Reno] is within the Latino population,” Harding said. “You want to take a look at that and make sure the campus is not only reflective of the community, but that the campus has the ability to impact the community.”
UNR is reflective of that change, which can be seen in the consistent growth of its ethnic populations. Harding believes UNR is building a healthy relationship between the campus and the community through its ethnic diversity growth.
“That’s where we’re getting students,” Harding said. “That’s where students are going to end up.”
Marcus Lavergne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @mlavergne21.