IMAGE:  February 2003 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
APRIL 2003
Volume 95, Issue 4
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…getting pleasure from reading the obituaries…

Minority Views
Amy Braverman’s article on the status of minorities on campus (“Minority Report,” February/03) rightly draws attention to several promising advances, but it also seems to recapitulate many of the University’s blindnesses and presuppositions in the recruitment of minorities, both in the content of the piece and its visual representation in the Magazine.

Although the article attempts to address the condition of the Latino student population in abstract admissions statistics, Latinos are otherwise a disembodied presence. The faculty featured and the students interviewed are all African American, which is not necessarily bad but unwittingly equates “minority” with “black.” While Braverman did mention the Office of Minority Student Affairs and the new multicultural center, there was little offered about attempts to open up channels of communication between different racialized groups on campus as well as between those groups, individually and collectively, and the University community at large (one of the aims of the comparative race-studies program at Stanford that you mentioned). Many alumni teach or hold administrative posts at other colleges and universities. At other universities, Asian Americans, certainly a vital component of any vision of campus multiculturalism, are regarded as minorities. The article does not address the University’s position of not regarding Asian Americans as an underrepresented group, despite strong arguments that can be made for Asian American underrepresentation in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.

The article also seems to draw a connection between faculty research on race and ethnicity and student recruitment. Certainly, for some students, the presence of minority faculty is one factor among many for selecting a school. There is much to celebrate in the important work being done by scholars like Kenneth Warren, Cathy Cohen, Jacqueline Stewart, AM’93, PhD’99, Jacqueline Goldsby, and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, but linking student recruitment with the recruitment and retention of faculty of color seems inconsistent with the national surveys cited earlier in the essay—surveys that suggest minority students tend to prefer pre-professional tracks over liberal-arts ones. The other danger in connecting these two things is that it implicitly locates the value of faculty research in how it ostensibly creates an inviting environment for students of color and not in the importance of the work that these impressive scholars are doing. Still, one hopes that their work and presence will help cultivate a fertile ground for further work on race beyond and within African American studies at the University.

William Orchard, AM’02

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