HAVERFORD AND BRYN MAWR STUDENTS GO TO D.C. TO ADVOCATE FOR MIXED-RACE COLLEGE STUDENTS
Last month, members of Haverford's Under One Sky and Bryn Mawr's Mixed Company organizationsâ€”both committed to providing a welcoming environment for multiracial and multiethnic studentsâ€”delivered over 3,200 comment cards to the Department of Education as the culmination of the“One Box Isn't Enough” (OBIE) effort. A partnership of the Association of MultiEthnic Americans, Hapa Issues Forum, Level Playing Field Institute, and MAVIN Foundation, the OBIE campaign aims to persuade the department to apply federal guidelines that allow multiracial students to check more than one box on information forms.
In 1997, the Federal Office of Management and Budget released mandates to allow individuals to check more than one box on forms requesting racial identification. However, despite a January 2003 deadline, the Department of Education has not yet implemented these guidelines, and until it does, many schools will not change their data collection methods. As a result, 2.5 million students of mixed race must identify themselves inaccurately; therefore, colleges and universities do not have a clear sense of their student bodies' racial diversity, and cannot meet the needs of all students, especially those of mixed race.
Multiracial identification on college forms is not a new concern for Under One Sky. Representatives from the group had previously met with the Office of Admission to encourage a change in policy regarding multiracial statistics:“There is no official record of multiracial students on campus at this time,” says Evan LeFlore '06, co-president of Under One Sky and a member since its inception four years ago. Although all present at the meeting agreed that this issue needed to be addressed, no changes have been enforced as of yet.
Last semester, LeFlore was contacted by Alfredo Padilla of CACI (Campus Awareness + Compliance Initiative), whom he had met at a mixed-race conference in California. Padilla wanted Under One Sky and Mixed Company to partner with CACI in OBIE and join other colleges nationwide in collecting comment cards to bring to Washington.
Members of Under One Sky distributed comment cards this fall at Haverford's UnityFest (where, says LeFlore,“people were already in the mood to think about issues of diversity,”) and tabled in the Dining Center for a week. In the end, they collected 372 cards, which ended up accounting for over 10 percent of the total comment cards collected nationwide. On Nov. 14, LeFlore and six other Haverford students, as well as the head of Bryn Mawr's Mixed Company, drove to Washington, D.C., and met with an assistant to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. (Security, much tighter since Sept. 11, prevented them from getting in to meet with Spellings herself.) The assistant, says LeFlore,“thanked us on her behalf and told us he was very happy with what we've done.”
“The day was an absolute success,” says LeFlore.“It was an honor to be chosen to represent all the schools who participated in this effort and the entire mixed-race community, as well as the Mavin Foundation, in presenting the cards to the Department of Education.”
Primarily created to facilitate discussion on issues of race and the interaction of different cultures, Under One Sky has expanded to include active initiatives such as the comment card collection and last year's successful marrow drive, which will be repeated this spring.“It's difficult for mixed-race individuals to find marrow matches,” explains LeFlore,“so these drives are necessary to ensure that mixed-race people are able to draw from a large pool of potential matches. This way, their chances of finding a match are better.”
The group plans to meet with Director of Admission Jess Lord to revisit the inclusion of multiracial students in the office's statistics, and will continue to brainstorm future activities and provide a forum for discussion every Monday at 7 p.m. in the Multicultural Center.
“In the last few years, we've grown from five people to a mailing list of over 100 students,” says LeFlore.“It's hard not to be optimistic about the future of the group. I think we bring a lot of value to campus. But now that we've grown, it is good to be able to give back to the mixed-race community nationwide.”
â€” Brenna McBride