One of the many initiatives Uni has been working on is equity – equity in the admissions process, making sure that Uni is representative of the makeup of the CU community, and making sure that Uni doesn’t provide any barriers to students who want to come but may not have the resources. To understand these initiatives and new changes/additions that are being made at Uni, I talked to Dr. O’Brien and Dr. Majerus who are involved with initiatives to make Uni more welcoming and accessible to everyone.
Dr. O’Brien is the new equity coordinator and has been pretty busy working on planning many initiatives, although there are many others that other faculty members are involved with. One of these is starting a program for hot lunches to be provided at Uni. Most public schools in the CU area are part of the National Free and Reduced Lunch Program, which provides students who fit in a certain income range with free and reduced lunch through the school so sustenance does not come in their way and they can focus on school. However, Uni doesn’t have this program, which means that students who might need this program in order to not be hungry during the school day are hindered from applying and coming to Uni. The Equity Committee is currently working with the Kitchen renovation committee to make a way for Uni’s new kitchen to have a system when all students can participate in a grab-and-go lunch program. At the moment, plans are for meals to be catered by Hendrick House and for there to be halal, kosher, and vegan options, so anyone who wants a lunch can get one.
Another big project that the equity committee has been working on is making admissions more accessible to people in the CU community, so that anyone can apply. Starting this year, students who want to apply to Uni won’t have to take the SSAT, a test that tends to favor applicants from higher socioeconomic status. This was due to the fact that the test is extremely expensive (it now costs $149) and students with families who can afford the fees and are dead set on getting their kids into Uni, are willing to make their kids take the tests multiple times if they don’t get a satisfactory score the first time. Also, some schools, especially private schools, have SSAT prep classes for their students, which gives those students an advantage that public school students might not have. Despite this, the problem that needs to be tackled is that the applicant pool is not very diverse itself – families who are motivated to send their kids to Uni tend to have more privilege, time, and resources to put into crafting the best application for their kids. The equity committee is trying to make sure that families from all backgrounds in the CU community know that Uni exists and their kids have the opportunity to apply and possibly attend. They’ve been doing this by putting up signs at places like bus stops, where people from a diverse range of backgrounds can access this information.
Dr. Majerus said that one of the things that they’ve been able to get out of trying to solve these equity problems is that it not only makes the experience at Uni for the group of people who the changes were intended at – for example, the free and reduced lunch program was originally aimed at students who take part in the program at their old school – but it makes it easier for students who might not be directly affected. It also encourages students to reach out for their needs as they see that administration is willing to accommodate and make changes for those who need it. In the case of the school lunch program, it wouldn’t be good to only have hot lunches available for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch as it would set them apart visibly from the rest of the school. Instead, there will be lunch available at Uni for anyone who wants it, no matter what their economic situation is, giving students and families more options.
Uni’s Equity Committee has been doing a lot of really great work to make Uni accessible to everyone and it will be really great to see these new changes in place once we come back in person.