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Admissions does good work to stimulate campus diversity

By Santiago Montoya

Section: Opinions

February 5, 2016

This week, the Brandeis Immigration Education Initiative (BIEI) organized an event titled, “The Immigrant Experience at Brandeis,” which aimed to stimulate learning more about the different and unique immigrant experiences in the U.S. They organized a campaign that would display different portraits and original stories of the diverse students at Brandeis—very much a la Humans of New York (HONY). The event took place in the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) on Feb. 4, 2016, and it centered on proving that the immigrant experience is not one single narrative as many would think. In fact, the photo installation tried to show that there are immigrants in the U.S. from distinct countries, races, religions, social backgrounds and personal experiences in one common place: Brandeis’ campus.

Transfer student Zoë Dickstein ’18, said that she never encountered much diversity back at the University of Pittsburgh. She added that compared to other campuses, Brandeis University is as diverse as it can be, and that she has been able to meet people from all kinds of places, such as China, Colombia, Haiti and India, among others, whom she would not have met had she remained being a student at Pitt.

Students demonstrated this yearning for an improved campus diversity in the recent protest, Ford Hall 2015. The students do not take into account that the administration has also been working hard to bring in more students from other backgrounds and ethnicities. It is not that Admissions has a penchant for overpopulating the campus with white people; the truth is that they happen to be their largest pool of applicants.

However, Brandeis attracts students from all walks of life. According to an email from Jennifer Walker, dean of admissions, “Brandeis considers all applicants equally and fairly, by focusing on the student’s academic merit and university fit, regardless of religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and citizenship.”

In fact, Brandeis accepts undocumented students every year, which can be a challenge, especially in terms of financial aid: “[Undocumented students] cannot receive federal or state financial aid, excluding them, for instance, from Pell Grants and Perkins and Stafford Loans. DACA status allows students to receive work-study appointments on campus, but it is not a factor in the admissions process.”

Brandeis is so committed to bring in students from all backgrounds that they meet “the demonstrated need of these students with a combination of institutional scholarship and loans. These are combined with work awards for those who are eligible under DACA. The loan portion of the award is in the form of a Brandeis Loan. The terms of this loan mirror those of the Federal Perkins Loan, including the waiver of the 5 percent fixed interest rate while the student is enrolled in school and a 9-month grace period for repayment.”

As a matter of fact, it is not entirely Brandeis’ fault that the campus is not as diverse as the students yearn. In fact, Walker’s email said that the university wants to “encourage all students who believe Brandeis University to be a good fit for them to apply, regardless of their immigration status.” Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel, who, prior to coming to Brandeis, had advocated admission issues for undocumented students “asked that we [Brandeis’ admissions] clarify these policies to be sure that undocumented students were in no way disadvantaged in our application process.”

The problem is attracting such minorities to consider Brandeis as their next four-year home. Admissions admits that in the last couple of years, there has been a significant increase of applications from “students who were out-of-status at the time of their application submissions. The total applications remain a tiny fraction of our more than 11,000 applications, still well below one percent.”

Nevertheless, the campus continues to be heterogeneous, with 666 non-resident undergraduate students enrolling during the Fall of 2014 and 718 graduate students, according to the Brandeis website. In addition, in 2015, College Prowler gave the institution an “A” in diversity.

Walker’s email explained that “Brandeis hopes for the inclusion of different ideas and perspectives in academic and social campus interactions, challenging our student body to expand their experiences.” That is exactly what BIEI proved on Thursday, that Brandeis students form a cohesive and culturally rich student body and that they do not have one single story. The students have a lot to learn from one another through their different social backgrounds as well as their personal experiences. And, at the end of the day, we ought to recognize that Admissions has made extraordinary efforts to diversify the campus—because after all, the journey of a student starts at Admissions.

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