Daily Californian (UC-Berkeley) (U-WIRE) BERKELEY, Calif. — Students who identify with more than one race may be officially recognized as “multiracial” for the first time under a controversial new proposal from the federal government.
After nearly nine years of study and planning, the U.S. Department of Education issued a draft guidance last Monday calling for colleges to revamp the way they collect and report data on student race, allowing students to choose multiple racial categories.
The move would overhaul a racial reporting system that many feel ignores the presence of mixed-race individuals.
Currently, college students can select only one of five racial categories: black, white, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American/Alaskan Native. If a student selects multiple ethnicities, only one is counted when the school reports racial statistics to the federal government.
Although some colleges have reworked their forms to let students check multiple boxes for their own internal records, such institutions still use the traditional system when reporting data to the government.
It is unclear how many students have marked multiple categories in past years. More than 6.8 million respondents picked more than one racial category in the 2000 U.S. Census, according to census statistics.
The new system of multiracial identity reporting would also ask students whether they are Latino or Hispanic and divide the Asian/Pacific Islander category into two distinct groups.
Though the idea of including a physical “multiracial” check box drew heavy criticism when proposed by former University of California regent Ward Connerly in 2004, some UC officials say they support allowing students to check multiple racial categories.
“I think the idea of accurately representing one’s racial heritage and identity strikes me as a good idea,” said P. David Pearson, dean of the Graduate School of Education. “Having students identify with a multiracial box would be more accurate in representing our students’ races.”
A UC spokesperson declined to comment on the new proposal.
But Yvette Felarca, director of the local chapter of civil rights group By Any Means Necessary, said the new proposal sounded constructive.
“We support students being able to self-identify with their race as long as it’s specific and it can make campuses accountable for the demographic makeup of their student body,” Felarca said.