Orval Buck, a 67-year-old CSUN graduate, said he remembered what most students at CSUN looked like 40 years ago – most of them were white.
“The Valley was mostly a middle-class white area, as was most of the college,” said Buck, who graduated in 1966. “The whole Valley was full of new suburban areas, but you could tell things were beginning to change.”
The ethnic makeup of CSUN students has changed drastically since Buck attended CSUN, or San Fernando Valley State College, as it was called in the 1960s.
“The school was mostly white with a small but growing amount of Latinos,” Buck said. “There were very few blacks.”
By Fall 2004 just 32.4 percent of CSUN students called themselves white, with 25.9 percent Latinos and 7.5 percent African-Americans, according to an Institutional Research survey. 16.8 percent of CSUN students declined to state their ethnic background.
These shifts in the racial makeup of CSUN students are due mostly to demographic changes that occurred in the areas surrounding CSUN and university efforts to reach out to local high schools, according to university officials.
Since the campus first opened in 1956, the San Fernando Valley’s ethnic demographics have changed dramatically.
The changing ethnic composition of the university has mirrored the San Fernando Valley’s, according to Eugene Turner, CSUN professor of geography, who has studied the demographics of the area.
“This area used to be mostly white as the population of Los Angeles expanded into the Valley,” Turner said. “Now the white population has declined and the Latino and Asian population numbers are growing, with the black population holding steady.”
These changes mirror the growth in the amount of minority students at CSUN, which has increased the number of Latinos from 7.1 percent of the student population in 1985 to 25.9 percent in the fall of 2004, according to Institutional Research. The black student population has increased from 5.1 percent to 7.5 percent in the same period. The Asian student population has remained steady at around 8 percent.
Terry Piper, vice president for Student Affairs, said that as the area that CSUN serves has changed, so has the ethnic makeup of the university.
“We have a historic relationship with the area,” said Piper. “We are committed to serving the community, whatever the ethnic makeup.”
The university recruits students from high schools and community colleges that have majority student body populations from low-income areas. Because of Proposition 209, which eliminated race-based considerations in admissions, California public universities cannot directly target minority groups for recruitment.
The Equal Opportunity Program helps low-income, first-generation college students successfully attend CSUN. Most EOP students are from ethnic minority groups.
Doris Clark, director of EOP admissions, said that EOP recruits students who meet the criteria for the program without any racial preference.
“Now it is true that the many of the EOP students are from ethnic minority groups,” Clark said. “But that’s just the makeup of many of the schools we recruit from in the area.”
The Student Outreach and Recruitment Services office sends representatives to high schools and community colleges, where they spread the word about the university to students who may not be aware that they are eligible to come to CSUN.
Javier Hernandez, director of Student Outreach, said most of the schools that feed students into CSUN have large minority populations, which accounts for the large amount of minority students at CSUN.
Danielle Jackson, junior psychology major, said the large diversity of the campus is one of the things she likes most about CSUN.
“Parking is so hard, and classes are hard to get,” Jackson said. “But it’s cool that we get to meet all kinds of people.”
Buck remembers fondly the way CSUN used to be: small, with less than half the students that it has today. But he is glad for some of the big changes that have happened.
“I knew back then that there would be a day when the school would have a lot more people of color. I think it’s a lot better this way,” Buck said.
Robert McDonald can be reached at Robert Mcdonald.firstname.lastname@example.org.