Regents to tackle minority issue

By Jennifer Amavisca

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Administrators from the three state universities will defend minority student services tomorrow when they address the Arizona Board of Regents at its monthly meeting in Phoenix.

Saundra Taylor, UA vice president of Student Affairs, will present the academic student support segment of the regents' affirmative action discussion session.

The affirmative action debate within the Arizona university system comes on the heels of the University of California Board of Regents' July decision to abolish race-based preferences in admissions, hiring and contracts.

At last month's Arizona Board of Regents meeting, President-Elect John Munger questioned university minority services, expressing his concern about discrimination against non-minority, or majority, students.

Taylor, however, said communication about how students benefit from minority student services is the main problem.

"We are following the regents' directive to diversify the university," Taylor said. "When people ask if these programs discriminate, it takes the issue out of context. Instead we need to ask, 'Do we meet the goals?'"

And, she added, all of the minority services also serve students who demonstrate financial need, which includes 69 percent of UA students enrolled in 1994, based on information obtained from the Office of Institutional Research.

Taylor said the regents have challenged the universities to reevaluate minority programs and decide when they will be successful with minority targeting.

"The ultimate goal would be when we don't need to target anyone, but we are not there yet," she said. "To throw away these programs would be premature."

Munger was unavailable for comment.

Minority Student Services was established in 1983 when administrators began to notice low retention rates among minority students, said Teresa Graham Brett, associate director of UA Minority Student Services.

In 1983, approximately half of the Native American and African American freshmen dropped out after one year, according to a Student Research Office report published in November 1994.

Ten years later, the study showed that the minority freshmen retention rate remained within a few points of the university's 75 percent return enrollment. Native American students, however, fell behind the average with only 52 percent freshmen retention.

Taylor added they will continue to concentrate on the minority groups which need extra help. Targeting minority students is not discrimination, she said.

UA minority programs recruit students from Native American reservations and high schools with a high percentage of minority students, Taylor said. But, she added, there are counterpart programs for majority student recruitment.

In the past eight years, minority recruitment has increased 89 percent, according to IPEDS fall enrollment report. In fact, about 26 percent of UA undergraduates were recorded as minorities.

In addition to recruiting minority students, minority services provides a variety of services, like the Math and Science Learning Center, to people of ethnic descent and students with financial need, Brett said.

"Because we are listed under minority services, people think that's all we serve," said Nancie Nugent, coordinator of the Math and Science Learning Center, located in the basement of the Nugent Building.

The MSL center offers free drop-in tutoring, weekly group tutoring sessions, test files, and a mini-computer lab to students who need extra help with 100 and 200 level classes, which Nugent calls "high risk classes."

"Those are the classes, like chemistry and calculus, where students are in the most danger of dropping out," she said.

Nugent said the center is not restricted to those who need help with their classes.

They are not just here for struggling students, she said. "We also have a lot of students who are making A's and B's and just want to learn more about a subject."

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