New York City, New York
Stuyvesant High School receives a steady drone of criticism for its appalling lack of diversity. The criticism is well deserved—last year, of the 3,381 total enrolled students, only 28 were Black and only 117 were Hispanic or Latinx. That is 1% and 3%, respectively. As a Hunter College High School student, however, I feel obligated to publicize the situation at my school, which is just as, if not more, outrageous. I am not the only one speaking out, nor am I the most knowledgeable of Hunter’s shortcomings. I am actually part of the Asian-American plurality, though technically I am half-Asian, half-white. Nonetheless, I will share my experience thus far.
I came to Hunter in seventh grade, along with over 150 others who passed the “Hunter test” the year before. The admissions test is open to state-test takers that scored in the top 10% of all students citywide in both the English and math fifth grade state tests. Tens of thousands qualify to take the test every year, a few thousand actually take it, and 230 spots are offered—I was given one of them. My fellow admitted students and I joined about 50 others from Hunter’s elementary school to form the class of 2023.
Of my 200 or so peers, I am familiar with (to the best of my knowledge) four Black students, one of whom left the school last year. Maybe there are more. But I cannot be far off, considering there were a total of 31 Black students in the entire high school—seventh through twelfth grade—last year. That’s an average of 5 Black students per grade.
In my four years here, I’ve had at least 40 teachers. One was Black, and he was hired in the middle of my ninth grade year in order to replace a Spanish teacher who was going on maternity leave. He did not return the following year.
I know several Latinx students—too many to count on just my fingers, which is a pleasant surprise. Nonetheless, a quick glance at the data brings me back down to Earth: there are 79 Latinx students in the high school, an average of 13 per grade. The racial breakdown of Hunter is astoundingly far off from the City’s student body as a whole.
Then there’s income diversity. I have always assumed that Hunter is just as unrepresentative of the City’s students in this category as it is in race, though before now, I’ve never actually done my research on the topic. My peers seem to reflect the lives of wealthier city-dwellers—that is all I’ve known. I’ve not been able to speak for the rest of my grade. After doing my research, however, I now know that my assumption is correct.
Hunter erroneously thinks it can hide in New York City’s segregated school system behind giants like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science. The administration claims that diversifying the school has been a priority for years, and this year they had a golden opportunity to prove it.
Due to the pandemic, the state tests were not administered in 2020, therefore Hunter had no way to differentiate between students who could take the admissions test and students who could not. The test is meant to be given in January. January 2021 came, and still there was no admissions plan. Months passed without a peep from the administration. Students, parents, alumni and faculty alike amplified their calls for major reform to the admissions process—students even united to form HCHS4Diversity, a group dedicated to “advocating for diversity and integration.” While I do not agree with all of their ideas, I appreciate their passion and relentless efforts, as they have published several op-eds in various newspapers, including the NY Daily News.
The administration ignored everything. Instead, they opted to hit the panic button in May and take the easy way out: fourth grade state test scores are being used as qualification for Hunter admissions as opposed to fifth grade. No progress towards diversity of any kind will result from this decision. Now was the time to make a change for the better, to capitalize on an unprecedented situation, but alas, we remain frozen in deeply entrenched segregation.
A school with a population that is 90% Hispanic or Latinx is just as segregated as Hunter; somehow, we must find a way to blur the borders that separate races. It is an overwhelmingly intricate task, one that involves all facets of city life, so we take it in baby steps: hire a diverse faculty, modify the admissions process, listen to the requests of students. This school system is broken and in dire need of help—Hunter, you are no exception.