LOS ANGELES – Officials at the University of California, Los Angeles, have announced that they are making a concerted effort to increase the number of black students on campus by introducing sports they believe will appeal to minority students. The list has so far included figure skating, fencing, bobsledding and yachting.
The university is responding to criticisms raised by student Sy Stokes, who presented a video to highlight that UCLA has double the number of NCAA championships (109) than black male freshmen (48).
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block noted that the college had work to do when it comes to increasing campus diversity, but was “confident” that the addition of these new programs would boost the number of incoming minority students. “Given that 65 percent of our black students are athletes, it stands to reason that expanding our athletic program would lead to a higher number of black students enrolling at UCLA,” Block said.
Block did acknowledge that the proposed sports weren’t traditionally associated with black people, but said that “Daryl Homer is a black guy who fenced in the Olympics, and obviously we all know the story of ‘Cool Runnings’ so I’m sure that the introduction of bobsledding will lead to a flurry of black students applying to our school.”
California’s Proposition 209 – which prevented race being used as a criteria in the admissions process in 1996 – has been considered a major reason for the relatively-low numbers of black students at UCLA, who make up 3.8 percent of the undergraduate population at UCLA.
Block argued that the addition of these sports would help avoid any problems raised by Prop 209, as it would “depend solely on a student-athlete’s ability to figure-skate, ski, swim or use a bow and arrow.” He went on to argue that equestrian would also be a potential candidate for varsity sports “because Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte rode horses in ‘Buck and the Preacher.’”