Daily Archives: July 14, 2008

The Value of Diversity Among Institutions

By Frank Wu

We have confused two propositions: we have come to believe that aspiring to greater excellence as an institution of higher education means striving to become the same as other schools. In particular, in the pursuit of higher rankings, we have confused excellence with exclusivity. Thus, it would be easy to search and replace the names and the logos from the viewbooks of most universities with that of their nearest rival, and no reader would be any the wiser. We have forgotten the value of diversity among institutions, even as we celebrate diversity within institutions. Yet the rankings are only an excuse. Even without surveys, too many of us seem to share exactly the same vision for our colleges.

One of the great strengths of the American system of higher education as a whole, however, is that it boasts such a range of offerings. If every public university tries to be one of the top 10 public universities in research funding, or every liberal arts college one of the most elite, we as a society and individuals will be worse off rather than better off. We will have forgotten the value of missions and access.

There are so many schools with unique identities: they are religious, historically black, single-sex, especially strong in specific disciplines, and so on. They have served distinct populations by giving more than a credential. They have become the center of communities. Even as mainstream institutions open up to all comers who are qualified, it is still worthwhile to have places where the minority is the majority, where an individual can be intellectually challenged without the burden of being compelled to represent a group. We may not always agree with the goals of such places, but that is exactly the point of having so many options. (We might be uneasy, for example, that the argument about institutional diversity was advanced by Virginia Military Institute in its unsuccessful effort, as a state school, to remain all-male; in part, the Supreme Court was skeptical that institutional diversity was actually a goal of the state. Nonetheless, there are institutions that contribute in a constitutionally permissible manner to institutional diversity.)

There have been so many schools that have balanced the importance of generating new knowledge with the responsibility to disseminate existing knowledge, but whose leaders face demands to shift toward research and away from teaching. All faculties claim to value both research and teaching, but the allocation of resources and the distribution of rewards shows that they are not valued equally. The mix is beneficial for all of us. There is nothing wrong with a school becoming more selective in its admissions, but there is something wrong with all schools doing so. Land grant schools and urban schools, among others, were founded to serve the public more generally and that vision remains worthwhile.

As Oscar Wilde once said, the only thing worse than not getting what you want is getting it. Ironically, the would-be consumers of higher education of as product who would like to have exclusivity do not realize that most of them will be turned away if to achieve that cachet.

Frank H. Wu is the author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White; he was Dean of Wayne State University Law School and Professor at Howard University Law School.

 

A Reverend Jackson: Hi Hater

By Emmett L. Gill, Jr., PhD, MSW emmettg@ssw.rutgers.edu

 I know very little about politics, but I have realized the enormity of the pending Barack Obama presidency.  With that said, Reverend Jesse Jackson, as many others have said, needs to, in all due respect, be silent.  Not only should Jesse be totally silent, but also he should be virtually invisible.  Jesse Jackson is an icon and icons should be rarely seen and almost never heard.  Reverend Jackson has done some extraordinary things – in foreign policy, human welfare, civil rights, athletics, and a host of other areas.  Reverend Jack ran for president twice – he w-a-s the man. 

Yet as of late Reverend Jackson has come to due more harm to the public will, image, and leadership of blacks folks than good – another very public clergy member with a child out of wedlock, the mere mention of his name exacerbated extraordinary racial tensions in the Duke lacrosse case, and now this.  An iconic preacher /politician expresses a desire to castrate the man that is accomplishing what Jack could not.  That is what rapper Maino is referring to when he says “Hi hater.”

Look I have not led any marches, leveraged any boycotts, saved any hostages, walked along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or any of that, but I do know a hater when I see one.  “It’s a fact right… how they act trife…how they smile in your face then they back bite…”

Emmett Gill is an assistant professor at Rutgers, The State University, School of Social Work