According to the Princeton Review's website, its college rankings come from a student survey sent out to 143,000 students at 386 schools across the U.S. In the survey, students are asked about their school's academics and administration, overall life at the school, fellow students and themselves, according to the website.
Although the No. 10 ranking is an improvement from last year, senior Kayla Corbin thinks the change is because other campuses have gotten worse, and not because UR has gotten better, she said.
"Currently, I don’t think the university is in a place administratively to make any monumental change themselves," Corbin said. "Because they'd first have to commit to that in other areas, like adequately supporting students of color, beyond throwing money at organizations, but also supporting us through an academic standpoint.
"Their diversity programs are designed where you have low-income Black students coming to a school with a lot of wealthy white students," she said. "I've been in so many classes with white students who have never been in a class with more than one Black person ever, or with a Black person at all."
Corbin is a member of the Africana Studies Student Committee, which consists of five students who published a proposal on Feb. 9 to establish an Africana studies department at UR. UR has created a faculty learning committee to look into developing an Africana studies program, and possibly eventually a department, Corbin said.
"A lot of the diversity initiatives are all student-sponsored," Corbin said. "And when they are picked up by the university, it’s usually not done with the intentions the students had in mind. Even with [the Africana studies proposal], I’m sure it’ll eventually be co-opted into something different, and then they’ll take credit as a part of diversity inclusion and equity. When, in actuality, all of the labor is being done by students of color and then we get a watered-down version, if we’re lucky."
Glyn Hughes, the previous director of Common Ground, has recently taken a new position as the Director of Institutional Equity and Inclusion. Hughes' new role was announced to the public Sept. 3 in an email titled "Inclusive Excellence Update" from President Crutcher, David Hale and Jeffrey Legro.
"The shift to that position is part of an effort to enhance and focus the student support services side of things, coming out of the spring, and to elevate and emphasize the need for campus life coordination of efforts," Hughes said.
The role was created to separate the institutional side of diversity, equity and inclusion from the offices of Common Ground and Multicultural Affairs, which will be merged, Hughes said.
"If we didn't have the pandemic, I think there would've been a lot of energy at the start of this semester to focus on building a sense of shared urgency and obligation to address the sorts of issues that came up in the spring, and were amplified by the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd," Hughes said. "But a part of what the pandemic has done is made it harder to do that kind of community building work."
"But, I think it's also true that the pandemic itself is highlighting inequities that exist," they said. "There is a way in how we address the pandemic that can't just be separated out from dealing with the issues that were raised on our campus in the spring––there's a relationship between those. I think the letter sent by Crutcher is an attempt to demonstrate that the institution hasn't drifted from that focus, and is, in fact, trying to keep it front and center."
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"From the students, you’re seeing this immense desire to have nuanced, authentic dialogues about race and class in a way that I think the university is beginning to notice," political science professor Monti Datta said. "I think the tension now, moving forward, is with these very important discussions about Greek life and how, as an institution, does the university balance between, on the one hand, listening and responding to the needs of students and faculty, but at the same time responding so as to not upset donors or corporate interests?
"And I think that doesn’t only influence UR. It’s a higher education issue in general."
Junior Zena Abro, a former member of Pi Beta Phi, has been a vocal advocate for abolishing Greek life on campus.
"I definitely think a change in campus culture depends on the way the university responds to the entire Abolish Greek Life movement," Abro said. "As of right now, being on that side of things, we’ve gotten very little interaction from the administration. The fact they're taking so long to actually make a response but were so quick to publicize that we’re the most beautiful campus really just shows where their priorities lie."
Activism and protests for the Black Lives Matter movement are occurring in the city of Richmond, but it remains to be seen how much of the movement will impact UR in the long-term.
"I would love UR to be a place for people to come and study social justice because we have this laboratory of the city that is the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement right now," Datta said.
"I know the university will shy from that direction because it might seem risky or unappealing, but I think we would go up in the rankings in every positive sense if we were looked at as a university that embraced the city," he said.
"I would love UR to be more of a social justice campus. And it can be. But I don’t know if it wants to be."
Contact news writer Meredith Moran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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