Community paves the way for diversity and equity at the University – University of Virginia The Cavalier Daily – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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As a Predominantly White Institution, the University has had a student population that consists of over 50% White students since the very first days of its founding in 1819 — which welcomed White numbers well over the 50% base. Although a lot has changed since then, including the gradual and oftentimes contested admittance of historically underrepresented students into the school’s many programs, this fact remains the same.

Keeping these statistics in mind, the importance of diversity should be pushed to the forefront of discussion amongst admission leaders, administrators, professors and students alike. It is integral that the University learns how to and finds a passion to further increase and welcome diversity into our community. Diversity and equity are ongoing topics that are about more than just rising percentages. They are more so about the feeling of community and inclusion that all students hope to find on Grounds as well as the establishment of support systems for all students — especially those who might not have received any in the past. 

A brief history of integration at U.Va.

It wasn’t until 1889 and 1897 that records of  the first Japanese student and the first Chinese international student respectively emerged at the University. Following these admissions, it took decades for the University’s graduate programs to begin to enroll a few Black students each year after a Black Law student, Gregory Swanson, gained enrollment in 1950. Two other Black students were enrolled later that same year following Swanson’s admission.

Other examples of racial minorities attending the University throughout this time period are few and far between.

Seen as momentous admission decisions at the time, this handful of historically underrepresented students did not immediately usher in a diverse University nor community demographic. Furthermore, the treatment of these few minority students proves that “community” and “inclusion” were not terms that might encapsulate their time spent studying at the school. 

In a 2017 interview with Virginia Magazine, Wesley Harris, a Black Engineering student who graduated in 1964, recounted how hostile the environment was during his time at the University, despite supposed federal changes to collegiate school systems at this time, which ultimately promoted the idea of “separate but equal.” When Harris was a student, the only restaurant who would offer him service on the Corner was the University Cafeteria.

By the year 1991, the University had enrolled 1,366 Black students, 914 Asian students, 143 Hispanic students and just 16 Native American students in its undergraduate programs for the fall. In 2001 — exactly one decade later — the University enrolled 1,368 Asian students, 1,168 Black students, 324 Hispanic students and 48 Native American studen

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