This Thursday, University of South Florida Tampa students will host yet another rally as part of a years-long effort to push university leadership to increase Black enrollment.
The Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) will hold the protest on the USF Tampa campus outside of the Marshall Student Center by the bull fountain at 1:45 p.m.
According to USF's 2021-2022 "Pocket Fact Book," Black enrollment is at 9.5% in the current academic year. For the past few years, the number of Black students has fluctuated, but remains around 9%. In the 2008-2009 academic year, enrollment was at 12%.
These enrollment percentages are in contrast to the percentage of Black people who live in Tampa, which latest Census Bureau numbers say is 23.6%.
"USF administration have failed to fully acknowledge this issue and have made ill attempts at addressing it," SDS wrote in a press release. "It’s important for a college setting to reflect the community it sits in."
SDS went on to say that the group has heard from Black students on campus that it’s hard for them to connect with counselors who don’t understand what it’s like being in a minority group in college. As part of the protest, they're also demanding that USF hire more Black counselors for Black students to relate to and more Black professors.
Creative Loafing Tampa Bay reached out to the communications team at the university for a response, but has not yet received one. This story will be updated if it comes in.
In February of 2020, when CL published a feature story about a similar protest at the campus, leadership at USF said that it was aware of the issue.
“We share the concern of the SDS students, and would love to further increase undergraduate Black student enrollment at the college,” USF Vice President of Student Success Paul Dosal told CL. “My interest is maintaining the type of campus that looks like the diverse competitive global market that students are going to enter.”
SDS held meetings with the university and presented ideas to address the issue. Yet, nearly two years later, Black enrollment at the university has remained stagnant.
Issues with Black student enrollment exist across the country.
In 2017, the New York Times published an analysis which described that, “The share of black freshman at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6% of freshmen but 15% of college age Americans.”
While students of color saw an increase in college enrollment overall, very few saw enrollment in top-rated and Ivy League Universities. Graduation rates of Black students show a downward trend.
In 2019, the Chronicle of Higher Education released a report stating, “Black students who began college in the fall of 2011 had higher dropout rates and lower six-year completion rates—46% at public institutions, 57% at private institutions—than any other racial group.” Black students also faced a higher debt than other students upon graduation, 15% more than any other racial group.
On Thursday, SDS will continue its effort to address enrollment issues in Tampa.
"It is crucial for a college campus to kinder everyone’s identity and culture, the lack of this environment makes USF uninviting and unwelcoming to many," SDS wrote.