Monday, September 25, 2006

Halfway House

Sometimes I think I am too hard on the IDS. True, their commentary is often (usually?) infantile, silly. But if they chew on an issue long enough, they do sometimes start to - well, I was going to say "cut through the fog," but maybe "nick at the fog a bit" would be a better way to put it.

Today's staff editorial is a case in point. The subject has to do with IU's current top non-issue: whether or not we should admit more black people. I call this a non-issue because the concern is unwarranted: any honest look at the numbers makes it clear that IU is doing all it can (which is more than it should, really) to get black students here. And the opinion? Well, that's what's interesting.

I wouldn't exactly call it deep or insightful. They repeat, unsurprisingly, the mantra that "diversity" (whatever that means) is a worthy goal in and of itself, and this without any reference to any concrete benefits from it. They buy into the idea that a drop in black students raises questions of devotion to "diversity," as though any cogent definition of "diversity" could center on the representation of a single group. They fail to mention that enrollment for other minority groups is sharply up this year, which would seem to make the case that "diversity" at IU increased rather than decreased (assuming you think diversity is only about race - which, given most of its proponents, is a fair assumption). In short, a typical chump's accolade.

Except for one point - and this is what I was surprised to see:

And, yet, something that doesn't get as much emphasis is this: The burden of cultivating a diverse campus lies just as much with the students as it does on the administration, perhaps more so.

Wow. Not that the authors probably fully appreciate the significance of this remark, mind you, but that's a pretty clear acknowledgement of the idea that numbers don't matter. Which is an elementary and obvious truth about "diversity," when you think about it. I mean, if the purpose of "diversity" is indeed to prepare students for work in the global economy, or what have you, then all that is actually required is some kind of threshold of exposure. It doesn't actually matter that the various "minority" groups are represented to any specific quantity - just so long as there are enough of them to present themselves as a viable part of the community - so that IU's future business leaders can hear some rap slang or eat lo mein or whatever is required to prepare them for the global economy. Really, 13% of IU could be black, just like the general population, but if no one interacted, then it wouldn't matter a whit to "diversity," right? Contrarywise, a highly active 2% black representation might be better exposure than an insular 13%.

But I don't want too make to much out of this. The rest of the editorial was the usual tripe.

Is IU turning into just another white-dominated institution? A Sept. 15 Indiana Daily Student story concerning a lower amount of black student enrollment this year has people asking whether IU is becoming less diverse.

Leaving aside those pesky increases in representation by other minorities (remember the other minorities? They're not white either, FYI) - IU is a white-dominated institution. It doesn't "become" one because 3.4% of the student body is black this year as opposed to 3.8% last year.

First, statistics require precision and care. Becoming overtly alarmed by a one-time enrollment drop is probably an overreaction. As Dean of Students Richard McKaig pointed out in last Wednesday's IDS, a trend of several years must be examined.

This one had me in stitches. Yes, kids, statistics require precision and care. But remembering to look for a long-term trend rather than just examining the current and previous years does not. All that needs is any kind of knowlege of statistics at all - intro-level stuff, really.

And so on and so on. It really is like Beavis and Butthead where the lightbulb kinda fizzles and pops on rather than snapping on with a *DING*! But at least today I got some kind of indication that there's a mild current in the wire...


At 1:58 PM, Blogger noahpoah said...

I'm glad you blogged about this editorial. I read it the other day and meant to email you to make sure you read it, but I forgot to, so it's nice to see that your IDS habit is still going strong.


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