Universities Are Still Struggling to Provide for Mixed-Race Students
Coming from a multiracial background can leave some students feeling isolated
“As a person of color…” Phoebe Vlahoplus, 20, a history major at Wesleyan University pauses.
“Or… half a person of color.”
“It depends,” she says carefully when I ask if she’s uncomfortable using the phrase. She is East Indian and Greek, but her parents were born in the United States. “I can’t speak for immigrants.” She weighs the considerations, then adds, “But my skin color is Brown.”
Meiko Flynn-Do is Japanese, Vietnamese, and White but before attending Stanford University, where mixed-race students made up 11% of undergraduates in 2012, she never saw herself as a “person of color. That wasn’t on my radar.” It wasn’t until college that she started “wrestling with those things. Ethnic studies classes kind of opened up those questions for me.”
Mariko Rooks attended Yale University’s Cultural Connections, a pre-orientation program for minorities, prior to starting her first year on campus. “It was so unapologetically Black and Brown,” she recalls. “So overwhelming and enlightening.” The experience “revolutionized her thinking,” says Rooks. Her friend Adia Klein, a junior at Yale agrees. “Going to college opened me up. I saw that being multiracial was a global thing… It was eye-opening.”
Like many college students, Vlahoplus, Flynn-Do, Rooks, and Klein all found that in college, questions of racial identity moved to the front and center of their consciousness for the first time.
But multiracial students have only recently begun to be counted as a separate category by most universities, and as they begin to grapple more openly with their mixed-race identities, they’re often isolated in college settings—without the support of university administrators and without specific structures to guide them through these murky waters. Most institutions of higher education still lack frameworks and systems to categorize their increasingly mixed-race student populations accurately, much less to support them.
For example, there is almost no research on what it means to have parents from two different minority groups, says…