Admissions launches program targeting Hispanics

The Office of Admissions invited prospective Hispanic students to campus this week as it began a new program called the Hispanic Senior Experience.

The two-day program was open to all high school students who identified themselves as Hispanic on their applications.

The program is similar to the Black Senior Weekend program the university has offered to prospective black students for the past year, said admissions counselor Aaron Marez. Both programs focus on providing minority students with a more intimate look at the university than the traditional Mondays at TCU.

The visitor’s schedule included listening to speeches from Provost Nowell Donovan and Hispanic alumni, spending a night in the dorms with current Hispanic students, and watching the baseball team top Wichita State University 12-3 on Sunday.

On Monday they met with financial aid advisers and had question and answer sessions for parents and students.

Ray Brown, dean of admissions, said he understands that offering special programs only to specific ethnicities on campus may be seen to some students as racism. He also said that’s the reason his office hasn’t offered racially specific programs until now.

“It’s offensive to some and it’s absolutely appealing to others,” Brown said. “That’s a fine line we walked for many years. This is the first year we’ve had the Hispanic group, we started last year with the black student program, and I’ve wrestled with this for so long.”

Brown said he isn’t worried by those who are offended by the program.

“There are certain groups of people, particularly blacks and Hispanics, who don’t want to be identified by their race or ethnicity, and so they wouldn’t be attracted to a program like this,” Brown said. “But doggone it amazes me, I’ve had 14 messages already in the past two days from parents and kids saying what a wonderful experience this was for them.”

Proportionally, the university enrolls far fewer black and Hispanic students than make up the population of Texas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 36 percent of the Texas population was of Hispanic or Latin descent in 2007. That year, 12 percent were black. Currently about 9.5 percent of undergraduates at the university are Hispanic, while about 5.5 percent are black, Marez said.

Freshman mechanical engineering major Rodolfo Ramirez, one of the students who put his room up for lodging, said he thinks the program is a good way for many high school students, not just Hispanic ones, to evaluate the university and see if it’s a place they would be comfortable.

“The main difference is when you’re on a regular tour they just tell you the scholastic side of the school,” Ramirez said. “They tell you about some of the events but they really don’t show you where you’re going to hang out, where everybody else hangs out, what actually is going on around campus.”

About 15 prospective students and their families attended the first Hispanic Senior Experience, which is a significantly smaller number than typically attend Black Senior Weekend, Marez said. Because this was the first year such a program was offered, communication to admitted students wasn’t as thorough as it could have been, he said. Some family’s travel plans were also limited because of the current economic climate, he said.

Brown said he thought the program’s first weekend was a success.

“It’s one of those things that I think probably will grow in subsequent years,” Brown said. “Some cultures are more oral than others, and the Hispanic culture is one that is. So I think they will be more oral in their discussion and in their encouragement.”

Marez said the program will be offered at least once next year as well.