Student Housing and Ethnic Segregation at Chico State

This is a rather odd post for a blog which typically addresses national and international issues.  This blog is about my own university, Chico State, in California, which has worked very hard to qualify for federal money to be a “Hispanic Serving Institution.”  This is a good thing, as California is rapidly changing ethnic composition as California has always done in the last 200 years.  The idea is that Chico State will get extra money if it can attract and serve at least 25% full time “Hispanic” students (in California this typically means students who have a family history in Mexico, or Central America who are typically referred to as Chicano or Latino).

Anyway, the administration has worked hard at the “numbers game” part of becoming a Hispanic serving institution, and it is expected that Chico State will qualify for the federal money next year.  However, the problem is that this is primarily a numbers game of “attract the student,” and then you get the big bucks in exchange.  Nothing is said about what you will do with the students once they arrive.  Which is where this blog begins.

What to do with the many new Latino students?  Will there be classes to serve them, and can they be integrated into campus life?  And where will they be housed?  This last question is the subject I want to address via some recently released statistics from the campus housing office.  You see, the answer is typically that they will be housed with the other students in the on-campus dormitories.   There are several kinds of dorms at Chico State.  There are the traditional dorms near the dining commons in the center of class (which are more expensive), and the cheaper dorms, which have kitchens and no dining services, and are located one mile away from campus.  One set of dorms is at the center of the action on-campus, and the other is a mile away, on the other side of the railroad tracks.  Guess where the newly recruited Latino students tend to end up?

Anyway, rumors have been floating around campus for several years that the more distant dorms at University Village (UV) had higher rates of Latino students living there, than in the main dorms like Whitney Hall on campus.  But hard data about how exactly this institutional bias might be was not forthcoming. Until last week.  Last week, the issue was raised by a professor at the public Academic Senate meeting.  There was a great deal of murmuring at the meeting that this should not be, and the head of Institutional Research piped up that he would find out as soon as possible.  And he did.  The statistics are below.  And, it looks like the off-campus dormitories are just 22% White, while the on-campus dorms like Whitney Hall are just over 50% White.  The good news of course is that so many of the students housed at Chico State are non-White in a state and campus that was in recent decades 80 to 85% white.  The bad news is that Chico State housing is now segregated by both race, and economic status.

The Table below gives you a rough idea of how this segregation works at Chico State.  University Village seems is where the HIspanic and Black students are most likely to end up, while Asian students are clustered in particular dorms as well. Whitney, Lassen and Shasta, Sutter Halls, and North Campus are all much “Whiter “ This can be seen most easily by comparing the percentages in the table below.  International students, most of whom at Chico State are from Asia and the Middle East, are also almost completely isolated at the off-campus dorms.

At least as important is the segregation of the economically disadvantaged students in University Village.  This can be seen by looking at the statistics for students on Pell Grants (an indicator of lower income), and students who are “first generation” college students.  Again, there is a segregation of students, with the contrasting demographic characteristics.

Anyway, that is briefly the news from Chico State.  Embedded in this data are more complex ethnographic stories of how racial segregation, and positive and negative privilege persists not only at Chico State, but in California and the United States.  Even in the case of the best intentions, institutions revert to older patterns of segregation and exclusivity.




Fall 2015 Students in Campus Residence Halls

Residence Community
Ethnicity Lassen and Shasta North Campus Sutter Hall University Village Whitney Hall
1 – American Indian 3 1 2 1
2 – Asian 11 16 11 33 14
3 – Black 9 6 7 39 12
4 – Hispanic 121 105 59 344 136
5 – Native Hawaiian 1 1 1
6 – Two or More 29 14 19 31 38
7 – White 226 147 118 154 276
8 – Nonresident Aliens 3 10 1 67 3
9 – Decline to State 26 21 19 29 30
Not Found in ERSS 1 13
Total In Community 428 321 234 700 511
1 – American Indian 0.70% 0.31% 0.00% 0.29% 0.20%
2 – Asian 2.57% 4.98% 4.70% 4.71% 2.74%
3 – Black 2.10% 1.87% 2.99% 5.57% 2.35%
4 – Hispanic 28.27% 32.71% 25.21% 49.14% 26.61%
5 – Native Hawaiian 0.00% 0.31% 0.00% 0.14% 0.20%
6 – Two or More 6.78% 4.36% 8.12% 4.43% 7.44%
7 – White 52.80% 45.79% 50.43% 22.00% 54.01%
8 – Nonresident Aliens 0.70% 3.12% 0.43% 9.57% 0.59%
9 – Decline to State 6.07% 6.54% 8.12% 4.14% 5.87%
Residence Community
First Generation Status Lassen and Shasta North Campus Sutter Hall University Village Whitney Hall
Not First Generation 268 194 174 334 327
First Generation Student 160 127 60 366 184
Total In Community 428 321 234 700 511
Residence Community
PELL Grant Status Lassen and Shasta North Campus Sutter Hall University Village Whitney Hall
No PELL Grant 314 220 179 374 401
Received PELL Grant 114 101 55 326 110
Total In Community 428 321 234 700 511
% First Generation 37.38% 39.56% 25.64% 52.29% 36.01%
% Received PELL Grant 26.64% 31.46% 23.50% 46.57% 21.53%