CSUB ranks among most diverse in state university system

By Steven Barker
Managing Editor

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Casey Webb/The Runner

California State University, Bakersfield, has become one of the most diverse schools in the California State University system. According to a report released in February, CSUB’s Hispanic and black attendances have risen to among the highest in the state system. While 35.6 percent of CSUB’s 2004 student body was Hispanic, the percentage has since risen to 45.1 percent, the fourth highest rate in the CSU system.

Additionally, while the percentage of black students has dropped from 7.8 percent in 2004 to 6.9 percent in 2012, CSUB’s rate also ranks as fourth among the state system. Director of Student Outreach Steve Watkin attributes CSUB’s increase in diversity to the quality of the university’s academic programs and friendly atmosphere.

“Our education programs, I think, are second to none,” Watkin said. “I think our campus is like a private school atmosphere … people know their names, they feel like they’re wanted and we care about our students.”

Housing Director Crystal Becks points to CSUB’s safety as a key tool in recruitment.

“The strength that CSUB will always be able to promote is that it is a safe campus due to the size
and the fact that we have a fully sworn police department on campus,” Becks said in an email.

Other contributing factors include CSUB’s areas of recruitment. According to Watkin, 80 percent of CSUB’s student body comes from the university’s service region – Mono, Kern, Southern Tulare, Kings and Inyo counties – while 10 percent come from the greater Los Angeles region. The other 10 percent is composed of out-of-state students.

Campus recruiters face significant obstacles in encouraging students to apply to the university. Factors listed by Becks and Watkin included CSUB’s lack of a beach, general publicity and social outlets for students.

“In the last few years, our name has gotten out more, but there is still a perception that Bakersfield is sort of a campus that has no beach or very many programs,” Watkin said.

Becks thinks students need places in which they feel comfortable.

“The challenge is making sure that students have positive social outlets, in which they feel a sense of investment and belonging,” Becks said.

In response to this challenge, Becks suggested that the students have a role in fostering diversity. Since students come into frequent contact with others of different ethnic backgrounds, Becks said that the attitudes of students toward diversity are integral in shaping the experience of minority students, especially in how they view themselves and their relationships with others.

Casey Webb /The Runner
Casey Webb /The Runner

“It becomes very critical that we get students connected in areas where they find support for their experience … as they search to explore and support themselves,” Becks said. “This not only includes their ethnic and racial identities, but many students need support as it applies to their spiritual development, exploration of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and all other aspects of how they come to define and identify themselves as people.”

She later added that she thought ASI and the Student Union were doing a good job of being positive outlets for students. While many students agree that on-campus events are helpful in feeling connected to the university, others believe that CSUB’s events are poorly marketed, leading to a lack of knowledge regarding campus events.

“While I do know there are events on campus, they aren’t as promoted or as public—they feel like they’re just underground or a subcategory of what’s going on at CSUB,” said Cebron Kyle Bradford III, a business marketing major, who is black.

“I know that clubs do their best to promote their events, but I just don’t feel that CSUB has a way of really promoting events that they have yet. And it’s not just with ethnic-specific groups; it’s just, in general, we don’t have a direct system to market events.”

Jesus Gutierrez, a junior geology major, agrees. “They advertise a lot of upcoming events with signs
and emails, but at school, it’s a mediocre job,” said Gutierrez, who is a Hispanic student.

Nevertheless, Watkin expects CSUB’s recruiting appeal to grow in the near future. Specifically, he referenced CSUB’s jump into Division I athletics and the construction of a new dorm complex east of
Lot K. “I think Division I athletics is really stepping up the game, and as soon as the new housing developments is done in winter 2015, it’ll be an appeal as well,” Watkin said.