LAC addresses lack of diversity in university honors programs

Emily O'Toole

Liberal Arts Council convened Thursday night for students to discuss problems concerning diversity in the University’s honors programs.

Siji Deleawe, Plan II and business sophomore, said she immediately noticed the lack of diversity in the 2020 Business Honors program class.

“In the class of 2020, we have five black students,” Deleawe said. “The class of 2019 has one, and they came in with three. This whole problem is really magnified in the business honors program.”

Osman Yasin, philosophy and English honors junior in Liberal Arts Honors, said levels of diversity vary by major.

“English and philosophy are both very (predominately white) majors to begin with,” Yasin said. “With the honors program, it gets even worse (in terms of diversity). Sometimes I’m one of the only people of color in my class.  All of the professors are white for the most part too.”

Alexis Allen, Plan II and government junior, said in the two-year period in which she visited UT to attend honors information sessions, she noticed the homogeneity of those in attendance. 

“I think I saw one black family the whole time,” Allen said. “How do you change that?”

One reason for the lack of diversity in Plan II and other honors programs is failure to reach out to students who don’t come from Austin, Dallas, Houston or large Texas suburbs, said Jay Anand, a Plan II, history and accounting sophomore.

“I knew about Plan II because I heard about it from people at my high school,” Anand said. “From what I understand, there’s only one recruitment advisor … who goes to Houston, Dallas, Austin and those suburbs.”

One way to make sure recruitment efforts reach all parts of Texas and place no undue burden on the recruitment advisor is through hometown high school recruitment, said Carolina Sarria, Plan II and international relations sophomore.

“We want to bring this diversity issue to light,” Sarria said. “People who are at UT could return to their own high schools to talk to younger students and reach out to their communities that might now be unrepresented (in Plan II).”

Allen said within UT, making sure undergraduates have access to support systems and providing spaces for students of color to convene is important for maintaining diversity.   

“It’s nice to talk about your experiences with other people who relate to you,” Allen said.