An official at Minnesota’s state university system sparked controversy last week by suggesting declining enrollment is because a local campus has become “too diverse.”
While University of Minnesota Board of Regents Vice-Chair Steve Sviggum never once mentioned race, gender or sexual orientation, the intent behind his use of the words “diverse” and “diversity” seemed very apparent to at least one of his colleagues.
During a meeting Thursday, Sviggum had one question in particular for the interim chancellor at the University of Minnesota-Morris:
“Is it possible that at Morris we’ve become too diverse? Is that at all possible from a marketing standpoint?”
Sviggum claimed his “friends” told him their children wouldn’t be attending the University of Minnesota-Morris because of the aforementioned diversity.
“I have received a couple letters, two actually, from friends whose children are not going to go to Morris, because it is too diverse of a campus. They just didn’t feel comfortable there,” Sviggum said during the meeting. “Is it all possible, in the specifics of Morris, that we’ve become too diverse for a student to attend? Again, I am on thin ice. I understand that. At 71 or 72 years old I say things that I would never even thought when I was 52.”
Interim-Chancellor Schrunk Ericksen was beside himself and firmly rejected Sviggum’s notion, according to a report from local news outlet KSTP.
“I think that they would be shocked that anyone would think our campus was too diverse,” Ericksen responded to Sviggum. “They certainly feel, at times, isolated where they are located. So, the answer is from that perspective, no.”
Later, Sviggum sort of reversed his stance, but not really.
“I am not saying it’s because of diversity. I am not saying it’s not because of diversity,” Sviggum told KSTP. “I don’t know. But, somebody should be asking the question.”
Sviggum said he was sorry and not trying to be being racist.
“Very honestly, the question was not motivated on a racist basis. It’s not a racist question at all,” Sviggum insisted. “If some are taking it that direction, I am sorry and I apologize. This is a question about the numbers. The plain facts. The plain numbers.”
To be sure, the sample size at the University of Minnesota-Morris is quite small, what with its enrollment estimated at being less than 1,300 students total. Its 2021 freshman class included just 293 students, a fact that begs the question to Sviggum: What exactly would constitute “too much diversity” in such a small number of college students?