Many students come to Gonzaga following the recipe for success they have long known to be effective while others choose to immerse themselves in the unfamiliar, but all students come to college in the hopes of being surrounded by and learning from other students who are from very different backgrounds. However, Gonzaga, Spokane and the Inland Northwest have always looked a little pale — and not for lack of sunshine. This region is simply not very diverse when it comes to race and ethnicity.
Students come to GU seeking the diverse experience and education that the university aims to provide, but they observe campus demographics for themselves.
Current students will not be surprised to learn that slightly fewer than 16 percent of undergraduates identify as minorities, or nonwhite students. On the other hand, GU’s website, admissions brochures and other publications paint a somewhat different picture. While the number of minority students on campus is not disputed, photographs in brochures and online depict an inflated percentage of nonwhite students.
In pictures from brochures and online with 10 or fewer students who can clearly be identified as either white or nonwhite, between 20 and 33 percent of students are minorities. The Admissions brochure from 2011 most accurately illustrates GU’s campus climate, with just under 20 percent of students depicted being minorities. Brochures from 2012 and the Prospective Student Portal online display over 30 percent nonwhite students, almost double the true proportion.
This occurrence is not an accident. Dean of Admissions Julie McCulloh explained that connecting with a variety of students is extremely important, especially in the West where more than half of the population identifies as nonwhite.
“Absolutely we strive for diversity in our pictures so that prospective students might identify with students in the pictures,” McCulloh said.
Megan Maile, a mixed race senior at GU, explained her opinion of the brochures.
“In a way, pictures on campus aren’t a true representation of the student population, but it shows that Gonzaga is proud of the number of minorities on campus,” Maile said. “Also, by representing more minorities in brochures they may make it more appealing to non-white students. Then maybe, in time, the brochures will no longer be a misrepresentation.”
Photos of sophomore Mike Andersen are easy to spot, especially the one in this year’s Admissions brochure. Andersen believes the representation of minority students in brochures to be fair but calls GU to action.
“If the university does wish to represent minorities in its publications, then it needs to do a better job recruiting more students of color to come to Gonzaga,” Anderson said.
GU’s Office of Marketing and Communications oversees the university’s publications, and this office is working toward what Maile and Andersen described. Mary Joan Hahn, the director of community and public relations, describes MarCom’s work as an integral part of reaching the goals outlined in GU’s Strategic Plan: Vision 2012. Goal No. 4 of seven is “to increase diversity and affirm the value of human difference.”
“Because it is essential for all students who attend Gonzaga to have a sense of the diverse world in which we live, the university aspires to create a university environment that is welcoming and accessible to all students, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability or sexual orientation,” Hahn explained.
Shireen Khinda, an Indian American senior, recognizes and appreciates the university’s efforts to promote diversity.
“I think it shows students that all backgrounds are accepted here. It goes along well with the part of Gonzaga’s mission that seeks to be drawn closer to ‘the human family’ by being able to experience and be aware of all different cultures . . . I truly feel that I am welcome here as a minority,” Khinda explained.
GUs publications illustrate the level of diversity the university hopes to attain rather than current proportions, but they still manage to accurately reflect GUs mission and campus climate.