Thursday, August 23, 2007

At the Crux of College Diversity

Vocal critique against bureaucratically sponsored diversity initiatives that come from most college campuses finds its motivation from events such as this linked by Andrew Sullivan, and further questioned by Ben Casnocha. In this instance, the college bureaucracy has lead to an organization taking three years to change its name to be more “inclusive.” Bureaucracy of this sort, and the amount of time wasted on a matter that most people consider trivial is what motivates George Will to continue his op-ed writing. The more government bureaucracy, the more reason George Will - and any person who believes in less government - has to write.

At the crux of college diversity, and whether diversity should be forced upon us with mandatory acceptance quotas, is the gap between achievements of blacks and whites (which I have discussed previously). Essentially, the idea is that the gap comes from a cyclical problem within children’s beginnings and the resources that they may or may not have at a young age. Of course, those circumstances are provided by the parents who most likely had the same, if not less, resources. Therefore, in order to fix the gap, the admission departments of institutions subsidize how many blacks go to college, thereby hoping they will be better off, as well as their children.

But the long road of college diversity does not end at admissions. Once we are in the door, trying to find a social/peer group is another story. For those thinking of fraternities and sororities for answers, Stephen Dubner, from Freakonomics, asked Sudhir Venkatesh, “How do you define a gang?” His response:

Great question. There are a few important legal cases where prosecutors tried to prosecute college fraternities as “gangs.” They suggested that the fraternity was an organization that existed to promote criminal behavior, such as the abuse of women and underage drinking. Most judges threw these cases out because they thought that fraternities were not, by definition, “gangs.” But judges rarely gave a logical reason for excluding (typically white) fraternities from the “gang category.”

Indeed, by any valid social scientific definition of a gang — “an established organization whose members come together for solidarity reasons and who engage in delinquent and/or criminal activities” — a fraternity most certainly qualifies. But race, as we know, can be a factor in shaping judicial outcomes.

What Vankatesh implies in the last sentence is that even in college (and assumingly all throughout life); race places a huge role, which certainly no one would dare argue. The recent studies that have gone on in the black-white achievement gap have important implications. By researching the gap, the goal is to start eliminating the gap early on in children’s educations, thereby eliminating the need in the future for blacks to “need” subsidies in order to receive admission into institutions of higher learning.

Even if the achievement gap is narrowed in the future, it’s unfortunately unknown if racial barriers will be completely eliminated. Nevertheless, showing that, all variables equal, blacks are just as capable as whites - without the kinds of subsidies that are provided by affirmative actions admissions - is crucial. As well, it seems that the mass public’s recognition of this may come in the same time that predominantly white fraternities will also finally be seen as gangs.
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