Diversity on a Pedestal

Our senior physics class had a unit on race, and to wrap up the unit, our teacher Moses Rifkin told us to choose some way to highlight or address an issue with race that we think we could fix at University Prep. We decided to comment on the representation of the student body on UPrep’s media platforms.

UPrep strives to be an inclusive community, regardless of how you identify. The school advertises this goal on its website but oftentimes presents a misleading view of what diversity really looks like at UPrep. The website is crafted to show as much diversity in the community as possible. This portrayal is especially clear when looking at the website’s photos. Our senior physics class sees that, while the website and media platforms could be a push in the right direction toward diversity, in reality, they are just a misrepresentation of the student body. If someone were to look at the UPrep website, they would see a community that is rich in diversity of many different races due to the photo selections, but this perception can cause issues.

This misrepresentation of UPrep’s diversity in the student body is problematic, not only to those choosing to attend or apply to the school, but for the students themselves. 

In a survey that our class sent to the Upper School, 60% of randomly selected students believed the website to be an inaccurate representation of UPrep’s diversity. 

Over representation in the media may also make students of color feel uncomfortable. For example, they may feel as if they are being put on a pedestal to boost UPrep’s image. It is those students who are the most aware of the true state of diversity at UPrep. Being in the spotlight for a specific identity, specifically a racial identity, can create an environment where those people are the ones everyone looks to when trying to figure out what is best for their race in the community.

In a survey that our class sent to the Upper School, 60% of randomly selected students believed the website to be an inaccurate representation of UPrep’s diversity.”

As diversity at UPrep improves, more families of color will be encouraged to attend. This is a better and more direct approach that UPrep is taking in order to push for diversity in the school as opposed to the selection of photos on the website. By putting more emphasis on things like financial aid and transportation, it becomes easier for students of color, who live mostly south of Seattle, to attend and feel welcome at the school.

In a conversation with Director of Enrollment Management Shavette McGhee, we learned about how UPrep’s advertising team, in an attempt to draw in more families of color, has changed aspects of their marketing. For example, the team has started to emphasize transportation and financial aid through their community outreach in an effort to increase the diversity of each class. Next year’s incoming class of freshman is the most diverse grade yet, with approximately 45% being students of color.

We would like to make clear that we are aware of many of the efforts UPrep takes to make the school a more diverse community. But at the same time, we want to emphasize that making UPrep media platforms more accurate is one way that they can do this.