Tulane: Geographic diversity is no excuse for a lack of true diversity

There are less African American students in the undergraduate School of Public Health than there are cats on this campus

Tulane admissions and PR love to advertise Tulane’s “geographic diversity,” prominently displaying the fact that Tulane educates students from 58 countries and all 50 states.

I experience this first hand every day: my close friend group alone comes from New Jersey, North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, New York, Maine, Virginia, South Korea, and Massachusetts. I know kids from Germany and Singapore, the Bahamas and Paris. I love this. I love that I have people to visit all over the country and world. I enjoy that my friends don’t all hail from the American South like I do – that we all had different upbringings and different experiences in education, geography, and political climate. We didn’t, however, have particularly different upbringings when it comes to privilege and economic stability.

The issue comes when we focus on the prevalence of geographic diversity, and ignore the lack of ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. In the fall of 2016, 74.64 percent of Tulane’s undergraduate population was made up of caucasian people. 19.93 percent hailed from the New Orleans Metro Area, while 29.7 percent came down from the Northeast. 69 percent of Tulane students come from the the top 20 percent of the income scale, while only 3.9 percent come from the bottom 20 percentile of the income scale.

There are less African American students in the undergraduate School of Public Health than there are cats on this campus.

In order to understand how we can be so diverse in one aspect and so homogeneous in others, we must first delve into what it meant to be “geographically diverse.” Geographically diverse means most of the students who go here have enough money to get here from far away. Most of us fly back and forth for breaks – that isn’t something that you can get a scholarship for – and the price of flights alone, without factoring in the exorbitant tuition and board costs of a school like Tulane, is inhibitory for so many Americans students. Except those aren’t the students Tulane is looking for.

Tulane actively recruits in places like Westchester, Manhattan, The Bay Area, and the more affluent areas of Chicago – the places in the United States that hold the greatest pockets of wealth. Tulane has one admissions counselor that serves all of Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, and Connecticut. There are three admissions counselors who serve the state of New York.

A Tulane representative never came to one school in my entire city, the second largest in Kentucky. There are many students in Louisiana who meet admissions requirements, and are unable to attend a school a mere hour from their houses, because of the outrageous cost of Tulane, and the lack of support the university provides them with.

Tulane is not seeking geographic diversity, it’s seeking socioeconomic homogeneity. It just so happens that in order to achieve that, they need to recruit from pockets of wealth that span the globe. That is not diversity, and it cannot be disguised as such.