African-American enrollment falls short of matching Detroit’s racial make-up


The thriving city of Detroit is heavily populated with African-Americans who make up over 80 percent of the city’s population.

The University of Detroit Mercy is located within this city and yet the demographics of the student population does not reflect the surrounding community.

Detroit Mercy has 2,880 undergraduate students. Fifty-eight percent are white; 13 percent are African-American. 

The mission statement of Detroit Mercy states that one of its main goal is to provide students with student-oriented education within an urban context.

This statement contradicts the reality of a many African-American students and even some staff members at the university.

“I have had the great opportunity of meeting and interacting with people from different races,” said Melba Dearing, a junior. “However, I wish that there were (more) people that looked like me represented in the classrooms and on the faculty.”

Dr. Janet Joiner, a well-respected assistant professor, chairs the department of social work.

She is a woman of color.

“I do feel the student body needs to be more diverse,” she said.

Even with the lack of diversity, another issue has been reports that some African-American students do not feel comfortable here due to their personal experiences.

Zoey Oatis is a junior and an African-American student.

“There are some positive attributes that make the African-American experience on campus enjoyable,” she said. “However, I think African-American students are unhappy at this university because they feel they are sometimes marginalized. It may not be intentional, but that’s how it comes off sometimes.”

When there are an increased number of security guards during events with a black audience, this can cause students to feel marginalized and even unsafe.

Third-year African American student Temperance Baker has noticed a disconnect.

“I cannot speak for all students because everyone has their own experience here,” Baker said. “But I just feel that it’s strange that the school prides itself on the urban location and how accepting that it is, but the truth is the university has a lot to work on in the regard of acceptance.”

Detroit Mercy promotes community service work and still continues to fall short in terms of allowing the community to have a safe space to interact.

It is important to understand the relationship dynamics between the population of a college and the surrounding population.

The acceptance of African-Americans needs to improve on campus.

Once that starts improving, there will be more activities that bring many students together instead of events that are solely filled with people of that ethnicity.

“Having more campus-wide activities and social events with the surrounding community will be a great opportunity aimed at African-Americans and will help them feel more involved and not overshadowed,” said Oatis.

Detroit Mercy has a lot of improving to do especially when it comes to completing their mission of having a student-centered education, when some of the students do not even feel accepted.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected. An earlier version had old enrollment totals and percentages. As of fall semester, the university had 2,880 undergrad students (not 2,586 as was reported) and a study body comprised of 58 percent white students (not 65 percent) and 13 percent black students (not 15 percent), according to Shelley Wagnon, director of institutional research at Detroit Mercy.

Jackson is a communications major at Detroit Mercy.