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Feds Require BU to Gather Race, Ethnicity Data

Information, previously collected, part of new reporting format


Faculty, students, and staff will all be included in the latest survey on race and ethnicity. Photo by Vernon Doucette

BU has a homework assignment from Uncle Sam: report the race and ethnicity of all faculty, staff, and students. People are being asked to provide the information via a University survey by next Wednesday, September 8.

As homework goes, this is a do-over. The government has collected the information before, but in a format that allowed people to select one race to describe themselves. That information is no longer sufficient for describing the BU community under new reporting standards, according to the University’s Office of Institutional Research (OIR). Now, race and ethnicity must be reported as parts of a two-part question.

The first question asks respondents if they are Hispanic or Latino. The second asks them to categorize themselves as one or more of the following groups: African American; Native American or Alaskan Native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; or White.

The federal Office of Management and Budget has mandated the new reporting standards, which will make race and ethnicity reporting uniform, both between all American universities and between universities and other data sets, such as the U.S. Census. According to the OIR, the Census Bureau has used the Hispanic/Latino question for almost 10 years.

Among other uses, the racial and ethnic information helps the feds allocate government money, said a recent email to the BU community from University President Robert A. Brown: “Last year, the University received over $547 million in federal funds (in the form of research grants, student financial aid, and federal student work-study contributions). For these reasons, it is very important that the University adhere to these guidelines in order to continue to be eligible to receive federal funding for student financial aid and research grants.”

The information is reported in aggregate, leaving individuals’ information confidential. This is a one-time survey, says OIR; only new students and employees will be given the survey in the future.

And perhaps best of all, the survey takes only moments to complete.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.


12 Comments on Feds Require BU to Gather Race, Ethnicity Data

  • Anonymous on 09.02.2010 at 7:25 am

    What if the Latino is black but not from the US – say a black Dominican? Such a person is not African American. What category would that person be?

  • Anonymous on 09.02.2010 at 9:03 am

    the COST of affirmative action

    I believe that affirmative action encourages racism for two reasons:
    First, because it makes many individuals from majority ethnic groups resent individuals from minority groups when they are offered money or positions simply because of their race. For example, although there are many African Americans who validly deserve to be accepted to Yale or Harvard, fiscal policies based on race certainly encourage the universities to accept some African American students that don’t deserve to be accepted.

    This is bad, because many white students who are rejected, point to African Americans as the reasons why; even if this resentment is usually invalid, it DOES happen frequently. And even though it is the policy and not African Americans that are at fault, people often don’t discern the two.
    The second reason Affirmative Action encourages racism involves the perception of minorities receiving prestigious degrees and positions: many people (especially white people) attribute their success to their color, and not their ability. The African American doctor from John Hopkins is not considered as good as the white doctor from John Hopkins because "he only got in because he’s black." I have heard this sentiment many times, and it is completely invalid and stereotyping! But in the end it doesn’t matter: the emotional response is there and is prominent and it is caused by affirmative action.
    On the other hand, affirmative action isn’t all bad. It has helped many minorities justly achieve their dreams and harness their strong abilities through hard work. I don’t deny this. I do think we as a country need to reassess the costs of the policy next to its benefits.

  • Anonymous on 09.02.2010 at 10:41 am

    affirmative action?

    Thank you for the lecture on affirmative action even though the phrase is never mentioned in the article. God forbid a minority become successful and do well for him/herself. No one questions the child gets into a prestigious school because they have rich parents, are a celebrity, or have a last name like Kennedy or Bush. In my experience the minority doctor from Johns Hopkins is usually better than a majority since they are more likely to have faced adversity to get where they are. As long as people still think our president is a foreign Muslim, race will continue to matter in this country.

  • Anonymous on 09.02.2010 at 10:44 am

    It's not perfect ... but necessary

    The form is simple–three questions. Less than one minute to complete.

    It’s not perfect. We all don’t fit into a category. (But it is an approximation that the feds are looking for.)

    This is not targeting you as an individual. Don’t take it personally. BU needs to supply this information to OMB to preserve government grants.

  • Anonymous on 09.02.2010 at 10:48 am

    White is a color, not a race. It’s Caucasian people.

  • Anonymous on 09.02.2010 at 11:24 am

    What "cost"?

    First off, no one get accepted into universities that they don’t deserve to be in. Whether a student is admitted to a school because he can compose music better than Mozart, is an amazing athlete or has amazing academic success does matter. All of those abilities contribute to a university hence why all are valued. Sure, most people associate college with higher education, BUT that does not mean universities aren’t also corporations. Every school has minimum standards. Some higher and others are lower. No athlete would be admitted without meeting those standards at the least. Additionally, athletes are often some of the best students. They get less time to do work and yet can produce some of the best work in a class.

    As far as african american and other minority students, the arguement is the same. If you dont meet the standards, you won’t be accepted. Minority students also enrich the education of others. Were this not the case, BU specifically would not have such a diverse mix. Sure, prestigeous schools could continue to admit the same middle to upper class caucasian students with great academic performance, with testscores that were bought, and opportunities that were handed to them. Or, the school could also admit hardworking students who have managed to succeed against so many harsh odds and obstacles, few opportunities, and repressive cultures.

    Hardwork, unique perspectives and experience, in addition to the will power to succeed will trump anything else. And anyone who has to nerve and ignorance to assume that another student is there because of race might not deserve his spot as much as he thinks.

    And finally, affirmative action applies to many different people. People with disabilities, women, ethnic minorities, and even small business. If merit is the priority, affirmative action is one of the best policies ever implemented.

  • Melanie on 09.03.2010 at 6:53 am

    RE: Black Latino Question

    The category is actually “African American or Black”, so the respondent would check that race.

  • Anonymous on 09.04.2010 at 7:01 pm

    Re: What "cost"?

    You said “anyone who has to nerve and ignorance to assume that another student is there because of race might not deserve his spot as much as he thinks”… and yet apparently whites are only at BU because of “testscores that were bought, and opportunities that were handed to them”… Your whole view is contradictory and completely prejudiced against whites. Well, although I may be white I always worked hard to get to BU, and I somehow “managed to succeed against so many harsh odds and obstacles, few opportunities” even though according to you that’s something only minorities can do. You need to rethink your beliefs because you’re the most racist of anyone here.

  • Anonymous on 09.06.2010 at 1:56 pm

    Re: re what cost

    So you basically missed the entire point of my post and misconstrued what I stated to fit your rant. Perhaps you wanted to make this another Shirley Sherrod incident? I never once said that caucasian students weren’t hard working. I never said that caucasian students didn’t face obstacles or difficulties. The points of my post were as follows: any student who is admitted to a college deserves to be there, colleges are corporations so they pick what they need to benefit most, minority students often do not get the same opportunities that caucasian students have, that success is not delegated by race, and finally, that many people benefit from affirmative action, which is not just about race. Believe it or not, colleges were not initially designed to simply further ones education. Instead, they were supposed to eliminate competition by seperating the haves from the have nots. They were meant to give many in the upper class another edge. That is why initially, a college degree was so hard to attain for ‘every day’ people.

    Now if you reread my original post without intentionally looking to nit pick or find fault, you will see that absolutely nothing that I wrote is racist. No one can say that many middle- to upperclass caucasian students don’t get prep courses for standardized test. And it is also quite hard to deny that there exists a defnite culture that dictates that if you know the right people, skill or acheivement means less and less. Not once did I state that caucasian students don’t work hard. Not once did I say that caucasian students never have obstacles. In fact, i simply said hard working students, I never assigned a race. ” Or, the school could also admit hardworking students who have managed to succeed against so many harsh odds and obstacles, few opportunities, and repressive cultures. Hardwork, unique perspectives and experience, in addition to the will power to succeed will trump anything else. ” So again, don’t just take peices. Instead, see the whole picture

  • Anonymous on 09.10.2010 at 11:39 am


    What specifically are the grants for?

  • Anonymous on 09.23.2010 at 4:47 pm

    Minority students have nothing to prove.

    I do not resent the fact that my race is taken in a survey does not bother me at all. However, the consideration that I may be taking someone else’s place at BU because I am black frustrates me the most. Because of affirmative action many students persuade themselves that otherwise minority students would not be able to go to college. I worked to be here just like any other student.

    “Fiscal policies based on race certainly encourage the universities to accept some African American students that don’t deserve to be accepted.” I did not know that I did not deserve to be accepted. Many students have this assertion that they are entitled to anything that they pursue. The only term that comes to mind is white privilege.

    As a first generation college student I do not take my education lightly. Most of my friends are in college because of those same fiscal policies. It’s insulting to see my peers opinions of minority students furthering their education as a part of fulfilling a quota. I cannot even explain how hurtful comments like that are. Furthermore, it also makes me uncomfortable to know that anyone I sit next to in a class may doubt my credibility. The biggest mistake is to underestimate my performance as a student solely because of my race.

  • Anonymous on 04.26.2011 at 11:50 am

    my race

    what % of my racial composition defines me? Three of my grandparents are from England. My forth is from Spain. So am I Hispanic according to this survey… or not???

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