Notre Dame shares trustee task force report on diversity, equity, inclusion; offers strategic framework
Observer Staff Report | Monday, August 16, 2021
In an email to the Notre Dame community on Monday morning, University President Fr. John Jenkins announced the release of a report conducted by the Trustee Task Force on diversity, equity and inclusion.
The report, which was presented to the board of trustees in June, was focused on assessing the Notre Dame community and recommending improvements in order to make the University more inclusive, especially for underrepresented minority groups, first-generation students and students from low-resource backgrounds, according to the email.
Chair of the board Jack Brennan appointed the task force last fall, which consisted of nine leaders from various fields. The task force met over 25 times since its formation in August 2020 and engaged in dialogue with various members of the community, ranging from students to alumni to senior University leaders, according to the report.
The results of the report include data relating to undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, faculty and staff.
Diversity demographics among undergraduates
According to the report, representation of minorities in the undergraduate student body has increased from 10% percent in 1990 to 15.3% today, and 21.4% of the class of 2025 is from underrepresented minorities.
Per the report, 5% of the undergraduate population was Hispanic or Latino in 1990, a number that is 11.5% today. This means Notre Dame is at the median of 27 private institutions in the Association of American Universities (AAU) — the peer group the University often refers to for benchmarking. “While the fact that these numbers have increased over the past decade is good news,” the report read, “there is obviously more work to be done.”
In 2020, 6.6% of undergraduate students were reportedly Black or African American, considering those who identify as two or more races. Only 3.4% of the undergraduate student body identified only as Black or African American. This places Notre Dame in the bottom quartile of the private institutions in the AAU, according to the report.
From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of Asian Americans in the undergraduate student body reportedly increased from 3.1% to 7.3%. As of 2020, this percentage had declined to 5%, according to the report.
The report indicates some growth in the percentage of international undergraduate students, which has “almost tripled” from 2.1% in 1990 to 5.7% in 2020. “Although not a primary focus of this Task Force, the presence of our international students clearly contributes to the diversity of campus life and culture,” the report said.
In regards to socioeconomic diversity, the percentage of undergraduate students receiving pell grants is reportedly 10% — lower than it is at peer institutions —, which places Notre Dame in the bottom quartile of the AAU private institutions.
In the incoming class, 52.5% of Black students and 31.2% of Hispanic or Latino students are reportedly from a low socio-economic background — as compared with 5% of white students —, “often making it even more difficult for these students to feel at home at Notre Dame.” Furthermore, Asian American undergraduates are 17.1% more likely to come from low socio-economic households.
Campus culture, community among undergraduates
The report said the sense of community at Notre Dame has consistently been rated “meaningfully higher” by minority undergraduate students in the senior survey than have other minority students at peer institutions: 86% minority seniors said they were “very” or “generally satisfied” with the sense of community on campus as opposed to 71% in other peer institutions.
The percentage of minority students at Notre Dame who would recommend it to others decreased from previous years in 2018, meaning that 72% of undergraduate minority students at Notre Dame and peer institutions reportedly said they would recommend their school. The question was omitted from Notre Dame’s 2020 senior survey, according to the report.
Furthermore, 53% of minority seniors at Notre Dame reportedly said in the 2020 survey that they felt dissatisfied with the climate for ethnic and racial minorities on campus compared with 64% of their peers at private universities.
The goals of the report, as outlined in its five-part strategic framework, include increasing representation, strengthening a culture of inclusion and belonging, holding community members accountable, being a force for good in the world and committing adequate resources.
“These elements and the report’s observations and suggestions will enhance and invigorate the work already underway so that we can make substantive progress in becoming more the community we want to be,” Jenkins said in the email.
Jenkins said he hopes the report will help the University make sustainable, long-term progress.
“The commitment and effort I have seen so far give me confidence that we can respond vigorously to the recommendations and aspirations contained in the report,” Jenkins said in the email. “There is, however, much more to be done. There can be no doubt that the real and lasting change we seek is not the work of a month or a year, but of a longer period in the life of the University.”