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And there were no signs of an enrollment freefall at University of California, Davis, after a campus police officer doused student protesters with pepper spray in November 2011, which was captured on video and sparked national outrage.
It’s unclear, though, how targeted acts directed at a small, underrepresented group—rather than random, unpredictable violence—translates to college choices.
The May 1970 Kent State University shootings—in which members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd killing students protesting the Vietnam War—caused a “tremendous blow to the reputation of the school,” according to an article on a student-news website, and that fall’s enrollment declined.
But more recent examples suggest that at in-demand schools such as American, enrollment rates are quite tenacious.
The incident coincided with the university’s first black woman student-government president taking office.
In a prepared statement, Teresa Flannery, AU’s vice president of communication, said the university sought to address last spring’s racist episode “directly and promptly” with current and prospective students.
Among the actions taken were a schoolwide community meeting and a webinar the first week of May for new students and families to address their worries.
With another college-application season starting and a new crop of black students finalizing their selections, an overarching question persists: To what degree will racist incidents on college campuses—and colleges' response to those incidents—affect black-student enrollment?
At risk are colleges’ and universities’ reputations as champions of diversity, as well as black students’ academic success.