THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON ALUMNI MAGAZINE
THE ROAD AHEAD
Letters on "The Road Ahead"
Skin Color and Brain Power
Why is it that Columns consistently fails to be inclusive when it comes to counting Asian Americans as minorities? I think it is clear: When the data does not support the facts, just ignore the data. I saw this ignore-the-Asians phenomenon once again in your last issue (March 1999). It seems the goal of your article "The Road Ahead" was to lament the under representation of minorities at UW as shown by a table in the article. It showed that blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans comprise 11 percent of the state's population but only 8 percent of the UW student body. The author must have felt a twinge of guilt for leaving out the Asian-Americans since their numbers were at least mentioned in the text--albeit in a place they could be conveniently missed. The text stated that while Asian-Americans represent only 17 percent of the state's population they represent 27 percent of the student body. If we include Asian-Americans as minorities, the table shows that minorities compose 28 percent of the state's population while they compose 35 percent of the students at UW. Of course, this would not support the goal of showing how minorities cannot make it without affirmative action. With the Asian-American data included should we conclude that UW is bigoted in its favoritism towards Asian-Americans? Of course not. This is the kind of twisted logic that follows when we buy into the premise that at an institution of higher education a person's skin color matters as much as their brain power.
Social science graduates from UW today may be able to get away with ignoring inconvenient data. I hope engineering school graduates are not allowed to follow their lead--the bridge would fall down!
Scott Wallick, '78
An Old Policy of Political Correctness
"The Road Ahead" reflects a distressing and sad reality about the UW administration: Their conservative clinging to the decades-old racial constructs of group victimization runs counter to the citizen-efforts to move the University's admissions policy in line with the liberal themes of individual equality of opportunity. And this is done with a seeming racial bias that casually brushes aside the fact that 27 percent of UW students are racial minorities (in contrast to 11 percent in the state's population), doing so by conveniently dropping Asian Americans from the statistics. Are Asian Americans somehow not qualified to be considered a racial minority?
If one needs an example of how this old policy of political correctness hurts students, merely examine the article's quoted comment from student Aaron McCray: "A lot of people are losing faith in the system to look out for those of us who don't have everything." Such an attachment to some paternalistic "system" will not promote maturity, only an unnatural, prolonged, adolescent dependence.
Please, UW administrators, you will better fulfill your legitimate task of leading a great university by stressing academic standards and accomplishments than by devoting your energies to lamenting, as President McCormick does, "I doubt we will ever look back at the passage of I-200 as a good thing," or by using various complicated strategies to subvert the intent of the law initiated and overwhelmingly approved by the people of this state. The authors of the 14trh Amendment (with its equal protection guarantees) would be shocked to see such almost frantic efforts by a modern university's leaders to continue politics which are aimed at promoting racial preferences (except for Asian Americans!).
James G. Newbill, '53, '60
Colleges Are Not Social Institutions
I have just read the article in the March 1999 Columns concerning the passage of I-200. I am appalled at the negative reaction of the University authorities. In my day, all who applied had an equal chance of being admitted to the University, and the University was only interested in providing them with a good education. I agree with Scott Smith, who sponsored the initiative, that "Our colleges are not social institutions, they are academic institutions."
Wallace P. Alm, '48
Paving the Road Ahead
In " The Road Ahead" the author presents a very negative picture of future enrollment because of the approval of initiative 200. I believe that most voters supported I-200 because they felt that diversity has its place but not at the expense of others. Diverse groups can enjoy their common bonds through their ethnic, cultural, religious and fraternal groups but not by expecting special recognition and privileges in public institutions and public employment.
Immigrants during the first 200 years of our country were motivated by the desire to be assimilated into the American culture rather than being separate and special. Most of their descendants have supported that philosophy to this day.
The main purpose of the University and all institutions of higher learning is to provide the opportunities for effective training and education. The main goal of every student should be to prepare themselves to qualify for these opportunities by motivation and personal responsibility. Such a combination will "pave the road ahead."
John Johanson, '51
Ignoring I-200 Will Prompt I-201
The froth over the passage of I-200 in the last issues of Columns raises several issues in my mind. There has been several articles lately concerning the loss of quality faculty. Certainly, the UW needs to recruit and retain the finest minds. The UW is the flagship research university for the State of Washington; we need to support a quality faculty to do world class research and instruction. On the other hand, diversity does not support quality.
May I suggest several reasons why diversity should not be a paramount UW policy? When we admit students who are not academically qualified, the academic quality of the University decreases in the classroom and in research. As a retired professor, I remember with some angst, students in a graduate class (not UW) whose GMAT scores ranged from 300-700. Those students in the former group were unable to grasp qualitative and abstract concepts quickly, if at all. They blamed the course and the professor for their failure. Their self-esteem dropped. One accused the professor of being a racist in the course evaluation. The professor was able to link the student with this specific evaluation because of the grammatical and spelling errors.
There is a myth that diversity assists economically disadvantaged students. In my mind, I would invoke an image of a poor child from Yessler Terrace having the opportunity to attend a great university. However, studies at Cal-Berkeley indicate that medium family income for affirmative action students is $70,000. Also, the same studies indicate that many of these students flunk out, thus wasting taxpayer dollars and costing these students pain and time. Many also matriculate to softer (easier) majors where careers are more difficult to attain in the competitive world.
The state of Washington spends $15,000+ /student. The taxpayers have indicated with I-200 that quality intellects should not be discriminated against simply because they are Asian or Caucasian. I believe that taxpayers will support quality through increased revenues. However W.W. Washburn, the director of admissions, says "Beyond GPA and test scores we will look at students' educational disadvantages, socioeconomic status, cultural diversity, etc." He doesn't get it. This attitude will bring I-201. We already have students seeking legal remedies (law school) because lesser-qualified students were admitted in their place. What is Washburn going to do, circumvent the new law? Would he be personally liable for intentionally breaking the law?
I understand the racism of the past. In the sixties, I was registering black voters in Lee County, Georgia. We had to move from our home because of threats by the KKK. I support scholarships. We (family) are considering funding several scholarships for bright students who might make society a better place. I support outreach programs. If there are students we can assist to qualify for admission we should explore those avenues. I also support quality education. Why don't the diversity advocates complain about the plethora of Asian Ph.D.s in mathematics or the dearth of other minorities in that field?
We want a world class faculty. MIT has a world-class student body where SAT scores are in the 98-99 percentile. We should also want a world-class student body to go with a world-class faculty. It doesn't make sense to me to want both a quality faculty and intellectually disadvantaged students on the same campus.
Dr. Thomas Johnson, '56
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