By Jade Peterson and Sheena Hornbaker
Black enrollment at IUP grew faster in the 2005-2006 academic year than in any of the preceding 13 years, according to the IUP Trendbook, an online university data base. In that most recent year for which data are available, the number of graduate and undergraduate African-American students reached 963, a record high during the period and 23 percent more than the 786 enrolled during the preceding 2004-2005 academic year.
The increase in black students helped boost IUP’s total minority enrollment – including native-Americans, Latinos and Asians — to a 13-year high of 9 percent of the university’s 14,000 students, according to the Trendbook.
However, minority representation on the Student Government Association – the elected body that claims to represent IUP students – has not kept pace with the campus’ increasing diversity. Until early this year, SGA members were all white.
That changed on Feb. 19 when Dianna Brown (junior, political science/pre-law) was sworn in as the SGA’s only minority member. Brown, an African-American, said she joined SGA to work on diversity issues.
“I came here from Philadelphia,” Brown said in a February issue of The Penn. “It was a real shock coming down here because Philly is so diverse, and I hope to make people more aware of how diverse society can be.”
SGA’s incoming president said one minority member on the student governing body is not enough.
“I don’t feel that the current number represents students enough,” SGA President-elect Craig Faish (senior, nursing) said during a post-election April 24 news conference in Davis Hall. “I’m looking at ways to raise numbers.”
However, Faish said the priority of the SGA is to raise student membership, not just minority membership.
SGA Vice President-elect Brendan Markham (sophomore/hospitality management), who shared the April 24 news-conference podium with Faish, did not comment on minority-representation issues.
It wasn’t the first time that Faish has pledged to increase minority representation on SGA. Following his April 2006 election as SGA vice president, Faish promised to personally reach out to such minority groups as the campus chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Latin Student Organization and the Black Emphasis Committee.
“What I would do is go personally or send delegates to minorities’ meetings, whether it is NAACP, LASO, BEC or others,” Faish was quoted in the April 20, 2006, issue of The Penn. “SGA needs those minority groups to be involved. Otherwise SGA does not mean much. It does not mean anything then.”
But an officer of the Black Emphasis Committee, a student-run organization funded with student fees through IUP’s Student Cooperative Association, said neither Faish nor any other SGA official has reached out to her organization since at least the 2005-2006 academic year.
“To my knowledge, the SGA has not contacted the BEC,” said BEC Vice President Shannon Rogers (senior/criminology) in an April 9 interview in Stewart Hall.
One Asian-American student agreed that SGA appears unconcerned about diversity issues and minority representation.
“I don’t think we’re represented at all,” Linda Mai (sophomore/pre-optometry) said in an April 23 interview in Folger Dining Hall.
In his April 24 Davis Hall news conference, Faish acknowledged that he has not contacted minority organizations.
“Currently, we don’t go to individual organizations,” Faish said.
Faish pledged to attend student groups’ meetings in the coming year. In the past year, he added, he performed SGA outreach through Facebook.com and through personal contacts.
Sidebar: Minority Outreach is SGA Duty
Article I, Section 2 of the IUP Student Government Association Bylaws lists SGA’s standing committees and their duties. One of the panels is the Outreach Committee. Paragraph C of
Section 2 reads:
OUTREACH: Shall actively meet and seek input from other student organizations. Shall, with the Public Relations Committee, increase awareness of the SGA in the University and local communities. Shall promote exposure to and education on diversity and multiculturalism. Shall explore and offer solutions to the problems that affect the University’s minority populations. Shall advocate for the rights and needs of, and strive for the mutual understanding and acceptance of, the University’s many diverse groups with respect to race, ethnicity, sex, religion, disabilities, age, and sexual orientation and identity. Shall work with the Board of Student Government Presidents Vice Chairman of Community Service. Shall be comprised of no less than two (2) Senators and a chairperson appointed by the SGA President and Vice President.