Posts Tagged 'Diversity'

What is the Value of Diversity?

Mike Waters

What good is Middlebury’s pursuit of a more diverse campus? Sure, we can all agree on the various merits of diversity both in life and in the academic experience. Diversity enriches us, with its multiplicity of opinion and experience. In addition, its direct pursuit brings people together that otherwise would never have met. These are good things, and by all means, diversity is something we all should look to foster in our lives, but as for the question of what diversity contributes to Middlebury, can we all be so sure that it is valuable? How does diversity translate into a payoff on the investment we all make when we go here?

Now, I’m no economist – and quite frankly, I think that people who measure everything in dollars and cents are the cause of many of our problems these days – but to play devil’s advocate: the encouragement of diversity at Middlebury is a bad economic decision for both the college and its students, for a variety of reasons.

Let’s assume, like an economist (wrongly) that everyone’s goal in life is to make as much money as possible. Middlebury, in that sense, is an investment – one that will reap rewards via more opportunities, better jobs, and ultimately, more money. Clearly the goal of being here, then, is to secure for us that extra advantage, that leg up that will get us the corner office and the big salary. Middlebury’s name alone assures some level of success, but there is more that contributes to our future economic well-being besides the look on prospective employers’ faces when they see where we went to school.

Middlebury is all about connections. We have a terrific alumni network, and our alums have gone on to do a host of interesting things. Many are remarkably successful. They achieved success in the usual ways – intelligence, hard work, etc. – but clearly many of them also benefited from the connections they made at Middlebury. So while “Middlebury” printed in bold at the top of a resume might help in landing a job, it’s even more effective when the person across the desk went here, too. Which brings me back to diversity.

The stated goal of increasing diversity is to bring together more individuals of different social, economic, and racial backgrounds. So while we still maintain a good number of students from our core demographic – rich, white, sweet laxers – we also throw in students who are considerably less privileged. Maybe they’re poor, maybe they’re the first in their family to go to college, or maybe they’re from another country, but what we can be sure of is that none of their parents are the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Clearly this degrades the value of our education. Who is to help us get our foot in the door after graduation if we are suddenly starved for the wealthy, well-educated elites that we have attracted for years?

To this I propose a solution – a new set of recommendations to make sure that we all get the highest return on our $200,000 after graduation (because that, after all, is what it’s all about). Fuck diversity. Who needs it? I may be boring, ignorant, and spoiled, but inside the walls of my McMansion I am all that is Man. Perhaps I’ve never heard an opposing viewpoint or befriended someone of a different skin color (besides Jose, our gardener, or Fabricia, our maid) or discovered that there is something out there besides my stock portfolio and my trophy wife, but damn am I rich. I’ve won. We have won. We went to Middlebury, and it was worth it. My parents might have bought me a Toyota instead of a Mercedes to save money for college, but look at me now: who needs cars when you can just pay people to carry you around?

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well, all this and more can be ours – all we have to do is give up this tired “diversity” experiment, and go back to doing what we do best. Lets increase our recruiting in Greenwich and the rest of the tri-state area. For a little variety, let’s make sure we take a couple from just outside Boston.

The blonde lacrosse player? She’s in.
The tall, handsome prep-schooler? Give him a slot.
The son of an investment banker? He’s in, as long as he brings an extra pair of madras shorts – I lost mine.

Think of the dividends they’ll pay! Money for that Proctor renovation? Got it. Wall Street internships for all our econ majors? A done deal. Paying off the debt for the new logo that the college abandoned? It’s in the bag. And of course, the value of a Middlebury education continues to grow. With connections like these, who needs school in the first place?

In conclusion, a quick message to our friends in the admissions office: let diversity go. Let’s pursue that rosy reality I just described. No one needs the stimulation (read: challenge) of diversity. We’d be much happier if we were all the same. And Diversity never got anyone that cushy job or that house in the right neighborhood, but you can bet your hot secretary that Connections did. Diversity might be nice, in theory, but the bottom line is my bottom line. After all, as far as most Midd students are concerned, if it can’t be measured in dollars, then it doesn’t make cents.

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Making Democracy Work

Hallie Fox of the Middlebury Roosevelt Institution

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So far, the 2008 presidential hopefuls have raised unprecedented campaign funds. With over a year to go before the election, candidates are already hitting the road to rally votes, raise money, and debate our nation’s most pressing issues: immigration, health care, the war in Iraq, global warming, and homeland security, to name a few.

Yet absent from the debate is one of the most pressing issues facing our nation: voting. The very nature of our political system rests on the democratic participation of our citizens. Although we have historically precluded minorities, women, and felons from voting, one would assume that today all are given an equal opportunity to cast their ballots. Wrong.

An estimated 5 million Americans are in jail and thus have lost the fundamental right to participate in the political process. African American men make up 1.5 million of this number. As a result, 13% of black men in America have lost the right to vote. Even after Florida’s disastrous “purge” scandals in 2000 and 2004, little has been done to reform our flawed and inconsistent voting system that deprives these felons of their constitutional right to vote. Many of these citizens have been wrongly accused or “lost in the filing process,” and as a result have unjustly lost one of their most important and fundamental rights as American citizens.

These numbers do not even take into account the number of American citizens who have not lost their right to vote but do not know how, have not been contacted to register, or believe they are not eligible to vote. As Americans, it is our civic responsibility to make democracy work.

Despite the Help America Vote Act of 2002, little has been done to insure accountability of election officials, purge lists, and notification of individuals on their voting status. For example, in a 15-state study conducted by the ACLU, Demos, and Right to Vote, not one state has codified any specific set of criteria for its officials to use in ensuring that an individual with a felony conviction is the same individual being purged from the voter rolls. Two thirds of the states surveyed do not even require that election officials notify voters when they are purged from voter rolls.

I ask you, Middlebury, how many of you accurately filled out your absentee ballot, sent in your votes, and tracked the results last election cycle? A friend of mine even reported submitting her information to Middlebury’s own ”Get Out the Vote” campaign with hopes of receiving an absentee ballot. She was met with an empty mailbox.

It is our duty to hold our government accountable. So before it is too late, I challenge you to make democracy work. Make our voting system fair, educate our fellow citizens on the importance of voting, and most importantly, don’t forget to exercise your own right to vote.

The Dangerous Crusade Against “Hate” Speech

George Heinrichs

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I am entirely against what was written on the walls of Ross last year, and I am proud to be a member of a community that speaks out against hate speech. What concerns me are some of the posters that MOQA (Middlebury Open Queer Alliance) put up around campus, bearing the slogan “Stop Hate Speech.” Something about those words resonated with me. Is it possible to “stop” hate speech? Is the purpose of stopping hate speech to ensure that everyone at Middlebury feels comfortable? Who decides what is hateful? The posters raise a serious issue—not just about hate speech, but free speech in general.

Stopping speech of any kind, no matter how obnoxious, risks stopping ideas. The opinions that make us most uncomfortable are the ones that need the most protection. That is why there is constitutional protection for free speech. If all speech were innocuous there would be no need to protect it. Scribbling a homophobic remark on a dean’s door is not the declaration of an idea. Make no mistake, whoever did this is no brave advocate of a repressed idea. Let’s agree that a foul attack on gays written on a dean’s door constitutes hate speech, and we should find ways, if there are ways, to prevent it from happening again. Yet let’s also distinguish the act from the dissemination of an offensive idea.

What if, instead of writing foul language at night, the student tried to publish an argument in The Campus claiming that homosexuality is a sin? What if he argued against gay marriage—a position held by 58% of Americans and most of the current presidential candidates? Is that hate speech? Though I would personally condemn the notion, I’d fight to give the homophobe the right to declare that phobia. Isn’t this the best way to battle speech that offends us— by meeting it head on, and addressing it?

Balancing Red and Blue Views: Paint the College Purple

Nathan Ackerly

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Middlebury College is a school that touts its commitment to campus diversity and tolerance as one of its greatest strengths. However, the real make-up of our student body and the one-sided bias of our campus media is a glaring contradiction to what is said openly. Our student body and its political views are essentially homogeneous. This is mostly due to Middlebury’s flawed recruitment strategy, which ignores at least half of the nation and discriminates against the vast majority of American citizens through economic means.

The recent debate surrounding some offensive graffiti aimed towards the LGBT community brought out a nasty side to Middlebury’s usually complacent and apathetic student body. The first reaction was one of disbelief: “how could anybody on our campus hate gay people?” The second reaction was one of righteous anger. The weeks following the incident were full of accusations about which group of Middlebury’s students was responsible and therefore should be “re-educated.” The whole thing smacked of McCarthy’s communist witch-hunt, with those groups considered to be “homophobic” forced to vehemently pledge their innocence in the event or be forever socially blacklisted as homophobes.

On our primarily liberal campus, the person that expresses the “unsafe” view is usually ostracized. The majority of Middlebury’s hyper-liberal student body is simply intolerant of anything that does not jive with their point of view.
Just because somebody expresses misgivings about something like gay-marriage or the adoption of children by members of the LGBT community does not mean that they think members of the LGBT community are evil. However, should a person express this view in Middlebury, they will deal with a thirty minute sociology lecture from the nearest student activist during which other students glare at him or her with righteous anger.

It is this suppression of conservative views in Middlebury that causes tempers to explode and paint to be sprayed. My guess is that the perpetrator was sick and tired of not being able to have his opinions taken seriously, and thus resorted to shock value, probably writing something that he or she might not have really meant. While the crime is inexcusable and hurtful, its motive may not have been as sinister as we all think.

The lack of a healthy dialogue is caused by Middlebury’s biased recruitment policy. The majority of our student body is comprised of students from either New England or the Mid-Atlantic States. How many of these states have swung republican in the past few elections? Very few have. Middlebury recruits heavily in this region and almost not at all in others. The South, Southwest, and Midwest (made up of predominantly red states) are underrepresented at Middlebury.

The chief reason for the under-representation of the red states at Middlebury is our school’s abysmal financial aid policy. Don’t forget that the red States are also some of the poorest states in the union. There must be thousands of kids from rural towns that could make the cut for Middlebury academically, but would not be able to attend because they could not afford it and might not qualify for financial aid.

Since our overseas recruitment and financial aid are outstanding, our inability to adequately recruit within our own borders is inexcusable. We have an endowment of over 900 million dollars, and for some reason our administration have upped tuition, making it even harder for the working poor (of any race or ethnicity) to afford a decent education. As a direct consequence, our campus suffers from the lack of dialogue that a more conservative point of view would provide.

 

Racism Still Alive

Josh Wessler

In a discussion about presidential candidate Barack Obama, the question of race will inevitably come up. Pundits dissect his family tree: his mother is from Kansas, his father is Kenyan. Is he African-American? American? African? Black? White? His middle name is Hussein!

Take a recent article in the Washington Post, for example. The issue on everyone’s mind (mainly because the pollsters dwell on it), is about whether Obama can transcend the racial divide. How come these questions are never asked about the other candidates?

Is Edwards too white?

Gosh, I think Mitt Romney needs to lighten up on the race card. He doesn’t want to seem too pale…

Instead, the media remarks on how well Obama speaks to both races. Yet, Clinton won’t lose the white vote if she neglects blacks. And John McCain isn’t worried about appearing too much like an everyman. He (like the rest of the presidential candidates) is white, and unlike Obama, he doesn’t have to clarify his race.

Some say we’re in a new era of race relations. But we’re still asking the same old questions. And that’s a real shame.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Jessie Woodwell Bush, Middlebury Class of 1945

I call attention to the misguided “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy.  It has caused a critical loss of language experts in the military.

Alan Simpson, a professor at the University of Wyoming, has called a change in military policy “long overdue.” He echoes the disturbing news reported by Nathaniel Frank in 2004 regarding 88 language specialists (many of them Arabic-language translators and interrogators) booted out of the Army since 1998 because they were gay. That is a shocking loss, since Arabic language skills are desperately needed.

I feel that Middlebury College, a leader in the study of languages, should be concerned about the loss of language experts in our military.

Redefining Diversity

Aki Ito

I’m not white, I’m not American, and I grew up in two very different cultures. What does that make me? My friend, who recently told me that he considers himself a “diverse person,” would tell me that I’m a diverse person, too. But what does that mean?

Maybe diversity could be, or perhaps even should be, used for something other than a population— i.e. the individual. Darwin thought that the diversity of species allowed for natural selection, and many companies bend over backwards to recruit a diverse workforce. Of this year’s incoming class at Middlebury, 62% is White/Non-Hispanic, 12% is a non-resident alien, 10% is Asian/Pacific Islander, 7% is Hispanic, 4% is Black/Non-Hispanic and 1% is American Indian/Alaskan Native. But the population breakdown doesn’t say anything in and of itself: What really counts is the school climate.

Therefore, do students at Middlebury feel comfortable and safe regardless of their backgrounds? What is Middlebury, as an educational institution, doing to promote an understanding of others? Is Middlebury an environment in which individual students can face, embrace, and take pride in their differences?

Most of us are different from the idealized norm. I mean, who’s white, male, rich, straight, fit, smart, mentally stable, and funny, all at the same time? Most people, I would hope, don’t fit into all of those categories, and that means that we share a common ground of having strayed from our culture’s definition of perfection. It’s easy to ignore the parts of us that don’t fit into this myth, but that means that we have to suppress, silence, and erase ourselves.

Passivity is just another euphemism for intolerance. Much in the same way that those who aren’t actively antiracist are racist, it’s not enough for the college to not discriminate against applicants of color, or of low-income backgrounds, or of an LGBT sexual orientation. The school must actively recruit and retain many different kinds of students, because exposure is the first step to acceptance. Then, the school needs to actively encourage people from different backgrounds to interact with each other. All kinds of prejudice exist in our society, and our own prejudices don’t magically disappear when we get to Middlebury. Since we all like to stay in our comfortable little bubbles that isolate us from the rest of the world, it’s unlikely that we’ll step outside of our own homogenous groups. That’s where college policy should come in and give us a little push.

By forming connections with those who are different from ourselves and from the cultural norm, we come to accept these “different” aspects of them. That’s when we can begin to uncover the “different” aspects of ourselves that we have buried for so long.

Diversity is, at its endpoint, about the individual. That’s why it makes more sense to say, “I consider myself to be a diverse person,” meaning that you tolerate difference in yourself and others, than it does to apply the word to a population and generate statistics from it. The high percentage of international students on campus doesn’t mean anything if that doesn’t help us reevaluate the preconceptions we have about other cultures, and in turn, reevaluate the way we see differences in others and ourselves.

So, are you a diverse person?