Cowl Swings and Misses at PC Diversity Plan

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Condemnation of Diversity Initiatives Reflects Misunderstanding

Nick Wallace ’14

Diversity is a hot topic here on campus. As described in a commentary article from the latest circulation of The Cowl, Providence College is taking many steps to improve the diversity of the student body. “Diversity” is now one of the five core values of PC’s Strategic Plan, and the school recently hired its first ever Chief Diversity Officer. As the Cowl article proclaims, it is indeed the truth that “diversity is more than skin color.” However, to assert that there is no need for Providence College to have a commission focused on improving diversity is ludicrous.

First, it should be noted that in the landmark Supreme Court Case Bakke v. University of California in 1978 the court ruled that affirmative action was constitutional, but also outlawed the use of all quota systems. Therefore, to suggest that Providence College’s objective to improve diversity may involve a quota system is simply misinformed.

Moreover, the author of the commentary piece explains her disillusionment in the schools affirmative action plan:

In order to assist diverse students, PC currently offers the Multicultural Scholarship Program. This program offers scholarships “designed for ethnic and cultural minorities.” These scholarships are “intended to be four-year scholarships to assist incoming students of color.” This would not be outrageous if diverse students earned the scholarships only because they are intelligent and well-rounded, not because they are colored.  A student should not receive a special award because of his or her skin color. The civil rights movement was started for reasons just like this. Again, imagine if a scholarship was given to someone merely because he or she was white.

This contention would be valid if whites and minorities received the same opportunity to succeed prior to attending college. Sadly, this is simply not the case. While us white folks may be skeptical of affirmative action because we feel credit is due where credit is earned, there is no denying that empirically speaking, minorities tend to have lower incomes and lower levels of education than many in the white majority. It follows that many minorities may not have the money to send their child to a private prep school or pay for an SAT tutor. As a result, a hierarchal social pyramid has developed here in the United States, in which (generally speaking) white people are afforded significantly more advantages than minorities. Therefore, whites are already at an advantage just by being white; they don’t need to be given any special scholarship to prove it. This type of social ordering is disgusting, and to combat these realties, more opportunities need to be given to minorities, hence the reason why scholarships strictly for “people of color” exist.

The author also alleges, “This [the giving of scholarships to students based on race] would not be outrageous if diverse students earned the scholarships only because they are intelligent and well-rounded, not because they are colored. A student should not receive a special award because of his or her skin color.” It is wrong to assume that these students did not earn these scholarships academically. Additionally, Providence College is a private school and can choose to accept students they feel will fit their ideal future model as an educational institution. If Providence College feels diversity is an important aspect (rightfully so), they have the right to accept students for reasons other than academic credentials. Moreover, students can bring other things to a college campus besides high test-scores. Extra-curricular activities, service, and leadership roles are all things that an Admissions Officer looks for in a potential student. This notion is reflected in the fact that many schools, including Providence College, are now SAT optional, showing that indicators other than standardized tests are important to holistically assess an applicant.

Furthermore, the author states, “The intentions behind these objectives are good, however, diversity should not have to be a conscious effort. In a perfect world, diversity would just happen naturally.” In reality, this is not a perfect world. Better yet, this is certainly not a perfect country. The truth is that minorities are disgracefully underrepresented in Congress, the very institution that is responsible for passing legislation designed to protect the freedoms and liberties of all American citizens. Of the 100 current US Senators, only two are African American. (One is Mo Cowan, who is temporarily holding the seat that became vacant after John Kerry’s acceptance of Secretary of State) In all, only six minorities hold Senate seats. On the contrary, according to the most recent US Census, 21.9% of respondents would self-identify as something other than Caucasian. The House of Representatives also features a disproportionate number of minorities compared to the total number that reside here in the United States. In a perfect world, the number of minorities in Congress would reflect the current demographic makeup on the United States; it clearly does not. More, in a perfect world, everybody would be treated equally despite his or her race, color, religion, or sexual orientation. The continued suppression and mistreatment of women, gays, minorities, and Muslims shows us that this world is far from perfect.

The author is right, however, about one thing. Diversity is about a lot more than skin color. It has to do with what geographic region you come from, your socioeconomic standing, your religious beliefs, and your political ideology. Providence College is one of the most homogenous schools in the country. College Prowler ranks PC as the 26th most Conservative and 1288th most Open-Minded school based on all the colleges and universities in the country. More, in the category of diversity, PC received a D+ letter grade, and rightfully so. Providence College students can be easily identified in downtown Providence or riding the RIPTA. Simply look for a white kid who hails from an upper-middle class family from the Northeast and dress like they are modeling for an Abercrombie and Fitch magazine. These facts are alarming, and are surely nothing to laugh about. Providence College will not truly be seeking to become “more diverse” until it starts accepting more students from outside of New England, from lower income families, and whom do not self-identify as Catholic.

The author ends her article by proclaiming, “There is no need for an entire diversity plan to be made, a diversity committee to be formed, and special multicultural employees be hired, as PC has done, in order to create a more diverse student body. Acceptance can be taught without choosing people based specifically on skin color. Doing so creates racism and unfair advantages.” It is ironic that the author depicts whites as the victims of racism, when in fact Europeans have been the cause of the mass genocide and enslavement of Native Americans, African Americans, and Jews. The racism the author speaks of is not a result of affirmative action, but instead of the current US political system, which does not do nearly enough to grant justice to and advance the status of minorities. Not only does Providence College need a plan, commission, and special employees to help fix the diversity issue, it needs reevaluate its definition of diversity in general and require students to take courses that open students’ eyes and promote the importance of diversity in any functional environment.

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31 thoughts on “Cowl Swings and Misses at PC Diversity Plan

  1. This is a great article, and although I don’t know the author of it, I hope they pass along a critique (whether face to face or via Guest Commentary) to the Cowl–I read the article discussed with disgust earlier this week.

  2. What’s been up with the Cowl lately? It seems more and more this year they’re writing this shortsighted, bias, and sometimes even downright untrue articles. Thanks for writing this response – it was far better than anything the Cowl has printed this year.

  3. **I am a PC student that is, in no way, affiliated with any PC publication.**
    Nicky,
    The argument that’s being made here could hardly hold up to academic scrutiny.
    “Therefore, whites are already at an advantage just by being white; they don’t need to be given any special scholarship to prove it. This type of social ordering is disgusting, and to combat these realties, more opportunities need to be given to minorities, hence the reason why scholarships strictly for “people of color” exist.”
    I don’t intend to take anything you’re saying out of context, so allow me to begin by saying I realize you’re “generally speaking” with respect to empirical research. With that being said, please point out an academic scholarship that is awarded exclusively to underprivileged whites here at Providence College. Since this is one of the most common objections to the argument you’re making, I’m rather surprised you haven’t considered it in this article. You are supporting a scholarship program that is exclusive to people of color because empirical data tells you that they are, “generally speaking”, at a disadvantage to white people. I don’t think you will find many people, including myself, that will dispute this empirical data. But that’s not where the problem lies.
    Supporting a scholarship exclusive to unprivileged people of color clearly puts many underprivileged whites at a disadvantage. It’s “disgusting” that the diversity program you’re supporting only contributes to the problem of inequality that students of BOTH color face as PC students.
    Let’s look a bit more closely at the argument you’ve made:
    —
I. There is no denying that empirically speaking, minorities tend to have lower incomes and lower levels of education than many in the white majority.
    II. Many minorities may not have the money to send their child to a private prep school or pay for an SAT tutor.
    III. A hierarchal social pyramid has developed here in the United States, in which (generally speaking) white people are afforded significantly more advantages than minorities.
    C. Whites are already at an advantage just by being white; they don’t need to be given any special scholarship to prove it.

    It should be clear, through formal structuring, why this argument is invalid and unsound. But nevertheless, let’s have a look at premise II. The exact same statement holds true for whites. Arguing in terms of the majority of whites vs. the majority of colored people may help you explain trends in empirical political science, but how can you use this logic as a basis for policy reformation at a university? An underprivileged white student who could not afford an SAT tutor, went to public school, and can hardly afford textbooks will simply be denied access to a scholarship program offered to colored people. And you are supporting this!
    Premise III appeals, once again, to the majority. Yes, white people as a majority have advantages over colored people. But this does not apply to all white people, and certainly not to all white students accepted to Providence College. You’re providing an argument that aims to give advantages to a minority while simultaneously suppressing another group of minorities – underprivileged whites (if it wasn’t clear enough…).
    The conclusion not only destroys the validity of the argument, but is also terribly problematic in itself. It implies that a “special scholarship” will prove that a group of people is advantageous over another. In this case, you’re arguing that a scholarship for whites would reinforce the notion that they are at the top of the hierarchical social pyramid. Not only is this absurd, considering the nature of a scholarship and the type of applicants that receive them, but you must then hold that a special scholarship for colored people will put them on the same playing field as whites. Do you honestly think this is the right way to go about solving the issue of diversity on campus? Building colored people up with special scholarships to make them feel as though they are equals with others? Diversity must be attacked through legitimate social and psychological means, not through this “illusion” of a scholarship. Scholarships are an incredible gift that can change a student’s life. Why make it exclusive to one group of students that your empirical research identifies as a minority while ignoring the many whites that face the same problems? By making it exclusive to colored people, the scholarship will not only fail to promote diversity, but further hinder it.
    In response to a portion of the original article, you write “It is wrong to assume that these students did not earn these scholarships academically.” The article did not imply this assumption at all, and in fact, you are the one making a false assumption. It very well may be the case that the scholarships were earned academically by the people of color, but that does not take away from the fact that they ARE receiving the award because they are colored. Take, for instance, two students (a white and a black) who, academically speaking, deserve the scholarship. Only the colored student will receive the scholarship solely because of the color of their skin. That is the point the original author is making. And this just furthers my point that, so long as a scholarship is exclusive to one group of people, you will continue to see inequality on campus.
    I recommend reevaluating the argument you’ve made. I agree that there are steps the college must take to promote diversity, but the reasoning you’ve used and the plan you support will suppress any real efforts that are being done to address this issue.
    These sorts of exchanges are a productive means of moving closer towards solutions, so I can only hope you will take my points seriously and with the understanding that this is not a personal attack but rather my attempt to foster a fruitful discussion.

  4. Really well done. I encourage you to condense this to 800-1000 words and to subit it to The Cowl (by their Monday night deadline). I think such a well thought-out response deserves more eyes.

  5. I’d highly suggest that you submit this to The Cowl as a response; people need to understand this topic within the context of this article, since it’s been so widely distributed and read.

  6. Rumor has it that the Cowl refused to publish this as a Guest piece. Something needs to be done to stop the censorship!

    • “Rumor has it” that if it was condensed down to the word limit it would be allowed no problem, the cowl doesn’t censor anyone, it is probably looking forward to the amount of feedback it will get back for the article

  7. This is a great article and should be included in the next issue of the Cowl to provide an opposing viewpoint for its readers. People can fight over whether or not they agree with this response but I think it is important not to miss the main point of the piece. The long response above was well thought out and made several important points too. The author wrote, “Yes, white people as a majority have advantages over colored people. But this does not apply to all white people, and certainly not to all white students accepted to Providence College.” The first half of this statement is closer to what “Nicky” was trying to get at in the heart of the argument. More has to be done to help people of all races, backgrounds and incomes to have equal opportunities. This article is simply trying to point out that white people, in general, are more privileged than people of color. This is a trend that has started since the founding of the Americas by Columbus. As we know, Columbus brought back slaves with him on his first return trip to Spain. He did this because he viewed himself as superior to the indigenous peoples he encountered. When the white Europeans later settled in the Americas, they enslaved, killed, and spread diseases among these indigenous peoples. It is this mind set that is still present in society today. We see people and we notice each other’s differences, rather than celebrating them. Providence College has recognized in the Diversity Component of their Strategic Plan that minorities have been undermined more then any other group and they are working to help them with their scholarship program. Yes, there are white people who do attend Providence College that are not as well off as those in the upper-classes. These people need attention too. The author addresses this. “Diversity is about a lot more than skin color. It has to do with what geographic region you come from, your socioeconomic standing, your religious beliefs, and your political ideology.” The definition of diversity needs to be expanded at Providence College. We need to accept people for who they are and celebrate things that are important to them. There are people at the top and at the bottom and income across people of different races. The response from Nick commends Providence College for their efforts to help minorities who may not have the same resources as others. There is work to be done to help people of all races, but this is just a step in the right direction in one area.

  8. Very well written however I must disagree. “If Providence College feels diversity is an important aspect (rightfully so), they have the right to accept students for reasons other than academic credentials.” PC had and still has an acceptance rate of somewhere around 60+ %. I hope that academics are the prime reason people are getting into this school. Granted there are plenty other reasons, I just personally feel that obviously PC is not very diverse but the diversity is there. BMSA has I think the most members on campus! I think the original article was also well -written and makes valid points. I feel you fell short refuting her claims.

    • Just to respond about your use of BMSA as an example for PC’s diversity:

      1. BMSA is not an organization whose members are exclusively “diverse” students or “students of color”. Any Providence College student may apply to be in a BMSA committee, or join by being elected onto the executive board of one of the many clubs that are under BMSA’s umbrella. BMSA has many members who identify as white.

      2. Therefore, while BMSA may indeed have a large number of members, not all represent the diversity of skin color, ethnicity, nationality, etc. that I believe the author is referring to.

      3. Even if all of BMSA’s members were students of color, and BMSA was named the biggest organization on campus, that does not translate into PC having a diverse student body. Not every white student and non-white student is active in student clubs/organizations, so to say that diversity is present on campus just by pointing to BMSA as having many members, does not prove anything.

  9. Thank you for a well-written response to the completely misinformed article published in the Cowl. Not only was the article wrong with its information, it presented this as fact and came across as hostile.

  10. People need to look at issues like these from the systemic level, not from a myopic, and misinformed viewpoint. Thanks for providing this analysis and critique, very well done.

  11. Kelly Sullivan, the author of the Cowl article, did not imply a quota system. Her quote was taken directly from the strategic plan, which says: “Establish a target goal for students of color to represent a minimum of 18 percent of the student body in five years and 25 percent in ten years. These numbers are not meant as a quota, but rather a target based on changing demographics.” http://www.providence.edu/about/mission/Documents/draftstratplandiv4611.pdf
    Any implied quota system is the fault of the strategic plan, and not Ms. Sullivan.

    Also, as bodybuilder69 aptly pointed out above, your view discriminates against disadvantaged whites (they do exist, believe it or not). Are they just supposed to be screwed when it comes to a college education? I am a white American who is only able to attend Providence College because of a full merit scholarship, which I worked hard to earn. My two younger sisters are living at home and paying their own way through State University. What makes them less deserving to receive a full scholarship to Providence College? The color of their skin?

    The problem with your article is that you are suggesting we correct one injustice (discrimination against colored people) with another injustice (discrimination against whites). It is a travesty that minorities have been mistreated in the United States, and that many of them still are today. But suggesting that we give minorities more of an advantage is hypocritical, and it leaves disadvantaged whites out in the cold.

    • “Reverse-discrimination” can be frustrating, but I don’t think it’s fair to use that argument in the context of Providence College’s current homogenous population (seeing as how the majority of our school’s students are white and NOT disadvantaged). There are scholarships open to students regardless of ethnicity. By offering scholarships for non-white students, PC does not prevent white students from earning scholarships as well if they are academically qualified.

      Additionally, Nick makes an important point that PC needs to expand its definition of diversity to include not just ethnicity but also socioeconomic background (as well as geographic region, religion, sexual orientation/gender expression, etc).

      • PC does not prevent white students from earning scholarships that are available regardless of ethnicity. But neither does it prevent multicultural students from earning those scholarships. The problem is that there are scholarships made available ONLY to multicultural students. How is it fair that there are certain scholarships available only to people who just happened to be born into a minority family? People should not be barred from an opportunity due to something out of their control (duh). This is the issue that I have a problem with. Maybe I am misinformed about the qualifications for the MLK scholarship but it is my understanding that it is usually given out to those of non-white ethnic background. This argument IS relevant in the context of Providence College, because it affects which people are able to attend PC in the first place.

        And Nick is completely right in saying that diversity is more than just ethnicity. Every single person comes from a unique background and has something different to contribute to our community. I think we are all in agreement there, including the author of the original Cowl article.

  12. It is frankly mystifying how many people are quick to jump on diversity initiatives as ‘discrimination’ and ‘injustice’ against whites. It is equally perplexing to see so many defenders of this idea constantly cutting at potential students of colour who ‘don’t get by for any reason other than their skin’. I wonder why people are so up at arms when the playing field is leveled even a little bit for people of colour, but nobody seems to mind that there are a lot of white people at our school who absolutely did not get in on the mythical merit. You know what ‘shuts out’ disadvantaged whites? Advantaged whites. Not people of colour. But time and again it will be people of colour who are accused of ‘stealing spots’, as if enrollment at an institution is a parking space game. So really, the pathological need to cry foul over minorities getting a chance to be educated here at PC (especially when the demographics are what they are) leaves me in awe at the lengths people will go to snub the bigger picture.

  13. Privilege goes a lot further back than your own individual merit. You can work as hard as you like as an individual, but for some groups of people, achieving certain goals or “getting ahead” is that much more difficult when systems are in place to prevent you from improving. This brief article outlines some of the historical bills and laws that systematically put people of color behind…systematically UN-leveled the playing field.
    http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0504-14.htm

  14. Great article. The arguments against need to look at some of our scholarships offered. For example the Martin Luther king scholarship states for minority students OR others who contribute to the diversity of Providence College. The others referred to in the scholarship should include lower income whites because that adds to the diversity of Providence.

  15. Everyone who commented on this should come and see Tim Wise (Prominent Anti-Racist Author and Educator) next Weds. February 20th in ’64 Hall (Upper Slavin) at 7pm. His lecture is titled Beyond Diversity: Challenging Racism in an Age of Backlash follwed by a Q&A and refreshments will be served. Hope to see all of you there!

    http://www.timwise.org/

  16. Pingback: “Tangents & Tirades” … Maybe Just A Tirade | Friarside Chats

  17. In response to the students who are bashing this article for not addressing the issue of “reverse discrimination” and that “enough isn’t being done” to help underprivileged whites; I need to say that PC is in fact giving scholarship to that area. I received a scholarship for being a first generation student (neither of my parents went to college). I’m 100% Caucasian. This scholarship in conjunction with an academic scholarship I received as well makes the college afforable for my family.

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