University officials are considering a change to add a Middle Eastern category on the University of California application.
Currently, students who self-identify as Middle Eastern are typically expected to categorize themselves as white on the UC application, although some opt to choose African, Asian or other.
The discussion is the result of a student movement that started at UCLA and has gained support throughout the UC system.
There is no compelling reason not to go ahead with the change. It would improve the quality of student data, and the information could be used for analytic purposes, such as targeting students who identify as Middle Eastern for specific services.
UC has expanded its ethnic categories on the application in the past. In 2007, UC approved the addition of 23 Asian American Pacific Islander groups to the application. Though it would entail costs to modify computer systems throughout the UC, considering that expansions have been made in the past, this cost can‘t be expected to be too high.
Additionally, support for a Middle Eastern category is growing across the UC system. UC Davis recently expanded its Middle East/South Asian Studies program, adding the major in fall 2008.
Furthermore, more accurate data on students‘ origins would improve the relationship between university officials and students who identify themselves as Middle Eastern. Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef has traveled to Iran twice to strengthen international ties with the country – an official recognition on an application wouldn’t hurt.
University officials could also consider expanding within the Middle Eastern category, as the Middle East includes numerous ethnic groups such as Afghan, Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Iranian, Turks and more.