For the theme of my auto-ethnography, I decided to interview my guidance counselor from high school, Mr. Hill. I asked him about the college application process since he was once part of the admission staff for a college. The conversation went as follows:
Me: So, what college did you do admissions for?
Mr. Hill: The college that I did admissions for was Syracuse University.
Me: For how long did you do admissions for them?
Mr. Hill: I did admissions for Syracuse for two years.
Me: What was the process like? Was diversity a big push for you guys while accepting students?
Mr. Hill: Diversity was something the college strived for but it was not something that we as admissions staff were supposed to use to overshadow anything else, like actual academic achievements.
Me: Was Syracuse a fairly diverse school in your opinion, or did race play no affect in terms of admissions and the diversity of the campus?
Mr. Hill: Syracuse was a predominantly white college campus, and it still is. There are other races here or there, but the school is still mainly white, and this also applies to the campus’ staff. Professors are also predominantly white, with a smaller minority of other races.
Me: How do you feel about things like affirmative action? Do you think colleges would benefit from this and it would be an overall better change for us to make?
Mr. Hill: The idea of affirmative action is a bit of a tricky thing because of how controversial it may be viewed by opponents of the idea. Proponents of affirmative action would believe that it helps minorities when applying to college, because they are already at a disadvantage in the process so this would simply level the playing field. However, those against the idea of affirmative action believe the playing field is already fair, and that it’s unfair and unethical to give somebody an advantage over others just because of their race.
Me: I am someone who agrees that affirmative action should not be a thing, and students should only have their merits and scholarly achievements analyzed in order to admit them into an institution. Do you have any sort of stance on this and has there been any examples of race being used in your admissions process in Syracuse?
Mr. Hill: Personally, I am not someone who believes that affirmative action is necessary, and it is unfair because someone could get in over someone else just because they are the “wrong” race. During my time in Syracuse, I did not experience any instances of race being a big factor in the admission process, but I do not know if it has been used before or more recently since my departure from the school.
Overall, my counselor really helped give me some insight but it is important to note that this is only anecdotes from one person, for one school, and only over the amount of time that he was there. So, it would not make sense to jump to huge conclusions over this one person’s account. Doing some research on Syracuse, I found some statistics. I found that “Syracuse University is ranked #719 in ethnic diversity nationwide with a student body composition that is above the national average.” Additionally, Syracuse does not implement affirmative action, but they do have methods implemented to help diversity issues. From their website I found their ideas include:
- hiring a chief diversity officer (CDO) who reports to the Chancellor and provides oversight of programs and policies related to advancing the institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusion
- establishing a Diversity and Inclusion Council, made up of relevant offices, programs, committees, schools, colleges and undergraduate and graduate students, to support the work of the CDO
- offering free tutoring for all undergraduates to support marginalized and underrepresented groups
- adopting a policy on Information and Communication Technology accessibility
- increasing hiring and retention of faculty and staff of color and other underrepresented groups
- improving New Student Orientation to deepen understandings and forge relationships across racial, ethnic, religious and other lines
- requiring ongoing faculty and staff development on issues of race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, sexual harassment and religion
- developing a Physical Access Plan to remove physical barriers to access
- acknowledging at all major public events on campus that Syracuse University sits on Native land
- compiling an online inventory of diversity and inclusion programs and activities across campus
- creating a plan within the Campus Framework to house distinct cultural centers in a centralized location
My counselor from high school helped me get the perspective of someone who actually dealt with college admission, which should help improve my auto-ethnography.