As data administrator for HSU's institutional research department, some of the numbers J. Daniel Fernandez cited in "35 Days in the Forum" (Feb. 26) are quite misleading. In 2009, the CSU changed the ethnicity and race questions asked on the university application to match new federal standards. Instead of picking a single ethnic group, applicants are now asked if they have Hispanic heritage and then given the opportunity to select up to five different races (white, black, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and Asian).
Students with any Hispanic background are grouped with Hispanics, regardless of the races they select. New students who might previously have been identified as American Indian are now often reported as Hispanic or two or more races. The effect of this change was to cause the number of American Indian students at Humboldt to appear to decline precipitously, from 176 in 2007 to just 85 in 2014. However, a closer look at the data reveals a very different story. In 2008, 2.5 percent of new students at Humboldt identified themselves as American Indian. This jumped to 4.6 percent when students were allowed to select more than one race in 2009. During the last five years, this number has grown steadily. In 2014, 8.7 percent of all new students and 12 percent of new local students claimed American Indian heritage. As of 2013, the Census Bureau estimated that 1.8 percent of Californians and 8.1 percent of Humboldt County residents had American Indian ancestry, alone or in combination with other races.
Ward Headstrom, Manila