For a university in and of the city, NYU’s student body diversity does not accurately represent the surrounding demographics. Black and African American people make up 26 percent of New York City, while NYU’s student body is only five percent black and African American.
The Latinx student population follows a similar ratio. Latinx comprise only nine percent of the NYU demographic compared to New York City’s 29 percent. But the university says that it is trying to resolve such discrepancies through efforts such as NYU’s newly formed Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Task Force. The task force comprised of students, faculty and staff meets every month and aims to improve the university climate through open communication.
CAS sophomore Jaya Aiyer, who identifies as a student of color, appreciates these obvious diversity efforts but said there is always more to do with spreading diversity.
“I think overall NYU is definitely one of the more diverse private universities,” Aiyer said. “But as a school centered in a very progressive part of the U.S., we often hold onto that identity without necessarily looking at the systemic problems within our communities.”
Aiyer is a member of various social justice and person of color-focused organizations both in and out of NYU. She is part of the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs, Project OutReach as well as NYU Ambassadors, and she plans to join the Peer Impact Program, a student group in CMEP that creates social justice education programs for their peers.
Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication Charlton McIlwain serves as the task force co-chair, and he thinks more action is needed, such as by having more students and faculty of color.
“Traditionally underrepresented groups should be here at the university in much greater numbers than they are,” McIlwain said. “The representation of the world’s population should be here at NYU.”
McIlwain believes that NYU’s administration and president have made diversity, equity and inclusion a real priority this year, and that has encouraged deans and school leaders to start thinking about how they contribute to advancing NYU’s diversity.
In addition to creating the task force, the university also hosted a diversity talk last year, which aimed to provide an open forum between students and administrators regarding diversity and inclusion.
CAS dean Gabrielle Starr believes that the NYU faculty is sincerely dedicated to making NYU a more inclusive place, and as the co-chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Task Force, she said that people from all walks of NYU put their hearts and energy where their mouths are.
“I feel that at every moment, all of us are living our identities,” Starr said. “We don’t have any choice about that, and it’s our responsibility, as an institution, to help make that living of the identity a part of our life that is joyous and welcomed.”
Aiyer thinks that she has been fortunate through her time at NYU to find and join many diverse communities, but she said there is always room for greater diversity.
“Representation in terms of professors, advisors, and counsellors is incredibly important in making sure underrepresented and/or historically marginalized voices are heard,” Aiyer said. “I think diversity-focused education is a key to ensuring that our community continues to work on being a more inclusive and equitable place.”
Email Sayer Devlin at [email protected]