Making It in New York City A Macaulay @ Hunter "Peopling of New York" Seminar Project: Spring 2013

Diversity at Hunter College

Hunter College, situated in the heart of New York City, is the university of choice in terms of diversity. In fact, the school can be seen as a microcosm of the actual city. It holds 22,000 of the city’s most ambitious graduate and undergraduate students, and its role as a pioneering and economically feasible educational facility makes it the perfect case study for diversity throughout New York City.

Compared with other colleges across the country, Hunter College holds an extreme amount of diversity. However, what is the view from the inside? How do Hunter students define diversity? Is Hunter as diverse as its home city, as diverse as everyone claims? Surveys were issued to students of varying ethnicities within the college in order to determine the interior perspective of diversity, and what truly makes a space diverse.

Photo taken by Lauren Vicente

Photo taken by Lauren Vicente

When asked how they would define diversity, students at Hunter College always insisted diversity is based upon a vibrant society with a mixture of “many qualities.” Most named race as the biggest determinant of diversity in any space.

However, it is important to note that students made a distinction between an ethnically or socioeconomically different student population and diversity in general. True diversity, many stated, is interaction between groups of varying racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic provenance, and fostering tolerance between individuals is an essential part of this model of diversity. As one respondent stated,

“There’s this sort of broad idea of diversity, which is simply walking down the street, how many people of different shades or groups you see. And there’s a more granular approach, which is more specific. So at Hunter, a broader approach would be how many students of a certain type do you see walking down the hallway, and a more granular approach is how many people of a certain type would be in a major or a smaller subgroup.”

All students described an area that could be considered a diverse space as displaying multiple types of people from “all walks of life” and “varying socioeconomic standings.” When asked about perceptions of CUNY and Hunter in general, most students believed the college is extremely diverse, holds value in education, is professional and that it is a great place to network and meet successful people. Every student agreed that Hunter and CUNY should be considered a diverse space. They supplemented this idea by claiming that the “people of Hunter are not only different individually, but often proud about their definitions of self and its facets.”

Taken by Lauren Vicente

Photo taken by Lauren Vicente

The Official Numbers:

Hunter College Undergraduate Student Profile 2007-2012

Download (XLS, 43KB)

Based on the numbers it is apparent that the college does live up to most people’s perceptions of its diversity; Hunter is statistically diverse, with students coming from a variety of different ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

To compare, below are the official statistics for the Honors College Student Profile from the same time period.

Hunter College Honors College Student Profile 2007-2012

Download (XLS, 42KB)

Although the Honors College population maintains a certain level of diversity, it is far less so than Hunter’s profile. This shows how diversity is not always apparent at the smaller, granular level, and the issue is much more complex than just institution-wide demographics. This means that minority students have less involvement in the Honors College. However, it is noted that approximately 45% of the students at the Honors College have parents that were born outside the United States. This exceedingly high number points out the success of students who are children of immigrants. This does support the proposition that New York City, and Hunter College in particular, supplies a great deal of diversity and opportunity.

The low numbers of native born African American and Hispanic students in the Honors College compared to all of Hunter points to an overall issue within society. Native born African American and Hispanic students tend to face greater socioeconomic hurdles than their foreign-born counterparts. Part of the American dream and the fantasy of New York City encompasses the idea of the advancement of immigrants. But what happens to the local population? The lack of access to good grammar schools and high schools, poverty, and crime-ridden neighborhoods all make it difficult for native-born minority groups to break through barriers and “make it” by entering prestigious institutions of higher education such as the Honors College.

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