DePaul – diversity in the midst of segregation?

Despite it’s diverse composition, Chicago is known to be one of the most segregated cities in America. The neighborhoods are divided by both class and race. There are many neighborhood community areas with overwhelming racial majorities. Minority ethnicities and races in particular seem to be limited to particular regions in the city, like the west and south sides. In the midst of this segregated and divided city, stands the nations largest, most diverse Catholic university, DePaul.

DePaul University has received many awards and commendations for their diverse programs and high number of multicultural students and graduates.

Such awards include being listed several years in a row in Higher Education magazine’s “Top 100 Colleges for Hispanics,” and the College of Law being recognized by U.S. News & Word Report 2011 guidebook as having one of the most diverse student bodies.  The Princeton Review’s 2011 survey ranked DePaul 15th nationally for having a lot of interaction between students and professors of all classes and races.

Though minority students may still face issues on campus, these commendations and awards come from the hard facts: 34 percent of the 24,414 students enrolled this year at DePaul are students of color, which is the highest in DePaul’s history. More than half of the student body is female, at 53 percent.

“Not only is DePaul ethnically diverse, we are also religiously and sexually diverse and tolerant,” says Teagan Bowie, a logistics intern at the Office of Multicultural Student Success.

This diversity comes at a jolting contrast to the rest of the city of Chicago. Some of the most segregated community areas have shocking statistics: Norwood Park and Edison Park are both over 80 percent white and both have 0 percent black people living in those areas. Auburn Gresham is 98% black and 0% white. As DePaul’s largely white student body seek a more affordable rent space, they are indirectly integrating communities by moving outside of these majorly white neighborhoods to areas such as Pilsen and Logan Square.

Burnside, Washington Heights, Englewood: these are names Chicagoans hear in the newspapers every day talking about crime and violence. 

“Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a completely different city than the one I hear about on the news,” says Vasily Andreev, a sophomore in DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business. “I feel safe in the neighborhoods that I live and go to school in, but I also know I’m an ethnic majority there by being white.”

Red Line trip in Chicago

Madeline Bourque, a sophomore in the College of Communication, finds it ironic that this diverse university is “located in Lincoln Park,” a town with an 83 percent majority of white citizens. “But DePaul is much more than just its campus or its Lincoln Park location,” says Bourque, “if anything we can promote diversity in Chicago by increasing DePaul’s diversity.

“However, it is important to remember that diverse does not mean integrated. Chicago may be diverse in the huge array of people living here, but that doesn’t mean that integration is a priority for the city or the school,” says Bourque.

“DePaul being located in Lincoln Park has a lot to do with the safety of the students who visit campus. Lincoln Park and the Loop are both safe neighborhoods, and that’s probably why the school is located where it is,” says Bowie.

While Bowie does not think that DePaul promotes integration and diversity throughout the rest of Chicago on a grand scale, she does think that her own impact plays a role in community diversity, especially working with multicultural students and being a tour guide for DePaul.

“Everyone has an impact: I have an impact too by being a student of color working in admissions and having a position of rank there – it shows students of color are able to get jobs and progress just as much as other students,” says Bowie.

“We talk this big game at DePaul about diversity – how do we embody that?,” she asks, before replying: “I myself am a visual representation of diversity at our school.”

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