On diversity: E-mail to the provost

May 11, 2009

Dear Provost,

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction who is writing to express my concern regarding the University response--or lack of response--to a prospective student. I fear that this non-responsiveness greatly undercuts this university's stated commitment to diversity, and I believe the anecdote that I describe below speaks to institutional rather than individual issues. I am therefore writing with the hope that you will invest in improving our institution's treatment of "non-traditional" students.

I recently read through the online diversity plan recommendations. There I found the statement,"The Provost said we should help students who are willing to work hard and have talent." Someone close to me is such a person. She is 32 years old and comes from a working-class family that has instilled in her the value of hard work as well as the right to be treated with respect and dignity. I would call her an "organic intellectual" given her curiosity about the world, self-education about social and environmental issues, and voracious reading habit. Her parents did not attend college and when she graduated from high school, various factors, including her sexual orientation, influenced her decision not to pursue a higher education degree at that time.

Now she is ready to pursue an undergraduate degree and has a meaningful [academic] vision...I thus encouraged her to contact the UMCP undergraduate admissions office. She did so and did not receive a response. She also contacted the academic program in which she was interested and was told to contact admissions. Therefore, she contacted the admissions office again. She still has not heard back from this office. What is more, she discovered and contacted the Returning Students Program and never heard back from the person who was supposed to return her call. Understandably, she is now frustrated and unsure that College Park is the university for her.

Due to her experience, I am left wondering how many prospective students have received this sort of treatment from the institution in which I work? I have no doubt that she would make wonderful, significant contributions to a department and the larger campus community. Accordingly, if she decides to look elsewhere, our university loses an excellent student as well as an opportunity to walk its talk on improving campus diversity.

I am committed to improving our university's diversity plan and hope we can work together to ensure that we do not lose capable, talented students because we fail to respond to them. I would be pleased to discuss this issue with you further and look forward to seeing you tomorrow at McKeldin Library.