CUNY Maps Itself

February 19, 2015

A mapping project by the City University of New York takes a stab at figuring out how diverse its students are compared to the neighborhoods that surround the system’s two dozen campuses.

A researcher at the Futures Initiative, a new CUNY project meant to look at teaching and learning across the system, found the diversity of the student population tends to match that of neighboring communities. About 80 percent of CUNY students come from New York City. The analysis compared campus demographics to the demographics of neighborhoods within a mile of the campus.

Cathy Davidson, the director of the Futures Initiative, said the findings give her a sense of the “texture of who lives in a city” that other demographic research might not. She also suggested in an interview that the data refute “click bait” articles that suggest CUNY is turning away from enrolling a diverse student population.

The research does, however, show that several of the colleges that have received that criticism -- notably in a controversial and heavily corrected piece in The Atlantic ­-- are whiter than their surrounding neighborhoods.

CUNY’s map of itself does not measure changes over time or establish whether the students actually came from the neighborhoods surrounding their campuses.

Some researchers of diversity, including Roger Worthington, a University of Maryland professor who edits the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, note that other, more complex research looks into diversity by exploring not just demographic percentages but also how included students feel. 

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