By Ann Daramola
In an ongoing study of diversity in the University of California, social psychology graduate student John Johnson compiled data that puts UC Santa Cruz near the bottom of the list when it comes to the graduation rates of undergraduate black males.
According to the numbers Johnson synthesized, UCSC graduated 54 percent of its black male students, as opposed to 80 percent of Asian female students.
“When I first came across the data, it was shocking,” Johnson said. “It was shocking because I didn’t know.”
The study stemmed from Johnson’s interest in researching the resources available to ethnic student organizations at UCSC. When he came across the need for comparison groups, he turned to other UCs for data.
However, undergraduate graduation rates, which are considered adequate measures of a campus’s retention abilities, are difficult to find on any campus website.
“In general people regard [graduation rates] as how well the university is responding for particular students,” Martin Chemers, chair of the psychology department, said. “If a minority group is graduating at a much less normal rate than the dominant students, then that is a signal that there is a problem.”
The data used in the UCSC study is a subset of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) report documenting graduation rates for schools from the 1999-2000 class of incoming freshmen. The report followed those who graduated within six years and is the most comprehensive report of its type to date.
Chemers noted that there are several reasons six-year graduation rates were used versus four-year rates, including the difficulty of getting into certain classes or a student’s decision to double major. He said that not all the reasons are necessarily bad reasons.
The study included all of the UC campuses except two: UC Merced, because it was only recently built, and UC San Francisco, because it is comprised of only graduate students.
UC students generally graduate at rates above the national average, but UC Santa Cruz ranks number four among the UCs in overall graduation rates.
At this point in the study, the results show that “UCSC is one of the worst campuses in terms of the retention of African-American students,” Johnson said.
Yet the study has already seen favorable responses from administrators and students. In a recent meeting of the African/Black Student Alliance, Dean of Student Affairs Alma Sifuentes expressed her interest in getting to know the African-American community.
“It’s taken me a while to get here,” she said. “But I am here as a resource for you and I hope to be more visible in the future.”
While Sifuentes contends that efforts are being made to reach out to African-American students, one African-American male student, who does not wish not be named, does not think that the efforts are sufficient.
“We don’t have enough resources just as African/Black students. The AARCC (African American Resource and Cultural Center) doesn’t really reach out to the black males.”
Paula Powell, founding director of the African-American Research and Cultural Center at UCSC, said that the center’s University Brothers program helps in the retention of black males on campus.
“We have one of the highest retention rates of black males in the state,” she said.
However, Johnson thinks that study shows that in the University of California, UC Santa Cruz is not doing so well.
“The results are post-[Proposition] 209 evidence of institutional racism,” Johnson said. “The disparities should be alarming.”
Proposition 209, a resolution that ended affirmative action in the state of California, passed in 1996.
While he has some ideas for ways to aid the retention of black males and other underrepresented communities at UCSC, Johnson hopes to continue the study by looking at comparable campuses that are doing well in terms of retention and graduation of minorities.
“I am not equipped to answer [the question of retention solutions],” he said. “So I hope to look to other UCs, such as UC Irvine, which graduates upwards of 80 percent of its black males. They’ve gotta be doing something right.”