Diversity takes many forms: ability and disability, ethnicity, gender, sex, age, life experience, religion, sexual orientation. Those are just a few. The need to divide and classify society seems a part of human nature. Likewise, it seems part of institutional nature to quantify the more visible of those differences.
Diversity takes many forms: ability and disability, ethnicity, gender, sex, age, life experience, religion, sexual orientation. Those are just a few.
The need to divide and classify society seems a part of human nature. Likewise, it seems part of institutional nature to quantify the more visible of those differences.
The state of Oregon has witnessed a dramatic change in this quantifiable definition of diversity over the past 20 years, and no Oregon university embodies this change more than Portland State.
“At a first look, initially, [Portland State] is more diverse than the other two places I’ve been at,” said Wes Barclift, a sophomore English major who has studied in Michigan and in Bend, Ore.
The Oregon University System, the administrative organization that oversees the state’s seven public universities, recently released the OUS Fact Book.
The book contains statistical comparisons of ethnic diversity on the seven campuses, in addition to the number of women, underage and international students at each school.
Portland State leads the numbers for all three categories. More than 14,000 Portland State students are women, exactly 55 percent of the student body.
The university also boasts 1,122 students under the age of 18, including one graduate student. PSU is also a leader in international students, with 1,687, more than 400 more than the University of Oregon, the next closest with 1,249 students.
The university has the largest percentage in Oregon public universities—17.6 percent, or 4,679 students—of non-white students enrolled in graduate and undergraduate programs. That includes the most American Indians, the most Asians or Pacific Islanders, the most African Americans and the most Latinos.
There are also more multicultural student groups on the Portland State campus than on other Oregon campuses.
While this does represent a changing Oregon, the state is still behind Washington and California in its reported ethnic diversity.
The California State University system’s–which represents 23 CSU campuses–student population is over 56 percent non-white, and the public universities in the state of Washington are made up of nearly 35 percent non-white students.
“It’s got some diversity. I’m a women’s studies major and I’ve seen a lot of diversity and acceptance in terms of sexual orientation, but I haven’t seen a lot of ethnic diversity,” Kate Northington said.
Northington, now a senior focusing on women in literature, came to Portland from southern Arizona, where she lived in a very ethnically diverse community.
“I live in a very racially diverse neighborhood in Southeast Portland, but it’s not the same at Portland State,” she said.
Nicholas Smith, an economics major and a junior, felt diversity wasn’t present in enough aspects of life at the university.
“Socially, it’s pretty diverse, but the curriculum in some departments could be more inclusive. A lot of classes in the economics department come from one point of view, and they could offer more courses from other perspectives,” Smith said.
The university has been looking at ways of incorporating diversity into curriculum for the past few years, a topic at ASPSU’s Diversity Symposium last month, but no policy changes have been made to the curriculum.