‘We can do better’ on diversity, says University of Delaware president

UDel President Dennis Assanis says all students will have to take mandatory training as part of an effort to improve diversity and inclusion at the state’s largest university.

The campus at University of Delaware.

The campus at University of Delaware. (University of Delaware)

In 2018, a study found that the University of Delaware was among the worst in the nation at attracting Black students. A state-by-state study of flagship universities by the Hechinger Report found that just 6% of the UD freshman class was Black in 2015, even though 33% of Delaware high school graduates were Black. That gap was the fifth highest in the nation behind four flagship universities in the south.

Last August, UD posted numbers on racial demographics at the school which showed the number of Black students grew just 136 between 2014 and 2018, from 1,283 to 1,446. Over that same time, the number of Asian students increased by 379, from 2,597 to 2,976. The overall student population increased by more than 1,400 from 2014 to 2018.

In light of recent protests across the nation, including small demonstrations in Newark near the university’s campus, school president Dennis Assanis said UD “can do better” in a letter sent to the university community on Thursday.

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“I have been truly heartbroken to hear the stories of discrimination and prejudice that many of you have experienced, whether in our broader society or, unfortunately, here within our own community,” he wrote to students, faculty and staff.

In response to outrage on social media over racist remarks made by at least one student online, the university responded, “We condemn racist language…At a minimum these folks will receive education about these posts. If a student has violated our policies, they will be referred to the appropriate process.”

Assanis said all students will be required to go through online diversity, equity and inclusion education that was test piloted this past fall. “Through education for all members of our community, we can cultivate a greater appreciation of the value of diverse peoples, cultures and perspectives,” he said. “This is absolutely essential in modern society and directly supports our institutional mission to prepare our citizens to succeed.”

The university will also hold a series of forums to hear from all members of the community to inform additional ways to improve diversity and inclusion. “We are also mindful of those who have been silent, and we encourage them to come forward and share their stories, perspectives and ideas,” he said.

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