VALPARAISO | The city's Advisory Human Relations Council is discussing how the community can welcome Valparaiso University's growing population of diverse students.
Michael Joseph, vice president for enrollment management at VU, presented statistics on the diversity at the council's regular monthly meeting Tuesday at City Hall.
Joseph said in 2000, domestic minorities and international students at VU numbered about 400. The figure is expected to be nearly 1,200 this fall, he said.
In the next five years, the university plans to grow from 4,300 to 6,000 students, and about 700 of the new students are expected to be domestic minorities or from foreign countries, Joseph said.
Council members asked Joseph if he had received any feedback from students about being treated poorly in the community.
“I don't get a whole lot,” he said. “It's not an unusually large number of complaints. But that doesn't mean we don't have some issues.”
Some of the students say they must go to Merrillville or Chicago to buy the foods they want, and council members discussed how the Valparaiso business community and Chamber of Commerce could be tapped to provide better services for minorities.
Getting more VU students to volunteer with projects in the city also was discussed as a way to break down barriers between the university and city.
Joseph said VU's retention rates for international students are above 90 percent. Black males from the United States have the lowest retention rate, at about 65 percent.
“We still have some work to do with retention for domestic minorities,” Joseph said.
The university also is looking to increase the number of minority faculty and staff members, which does not mirror the growing number of minority students, he said.
In other news, the council finalized a “welcome statement” in response to incidents of racially derogatory comments aimed at minorities in the community.
Valparaiso residents who sign the statement pledge their opposition to discrimination, including harassment based on race, color, national origin, gender, disability, religion, age, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.
The document will be signed by Mayor Jon Costas, Valparaiso Community Schools Superintendent Michael Berta and the presidents of Valparaiso University and Ivy Tech Community College before being made available for the public to sign.
The council's next meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. June 25 at City Hall.