The Arizona Desert Lamp

Quotas Without Solace

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 7 January 2009

Via UANews (which started its daily updates a full week and a half before school started), it appears that identity politics continue through the doctoral level:

A new report says that The University of Arizona is one of the leading universities in the country when it comes to granting doctoral degrees to Hispanic and Native American students.

. . .

From 2003-2007, the UA granted 121 doctoral degrees to Hispanic students, tied with the University of Michigan. During that time, they granted 18 doctoral degrees to Native American students, two more than the University of Michigan and the Fielding Graduate Institute.

Is this actually great news? Michigan, of course, has a historical reputation for its diversity; however, Arizona not only is entrenched in one of the most Hispanic areas in the country, but also offers superior programs in fields such as Bilingual Education, Indigenous Law, Mexican American Studies — fields that minority students are far more likely to be interested in. The fact that we’re merely tied with the UM isn’t exactly rousing.

Of course, the real story for the university isn’t about the success of minorities:

The Survey of Earned Doctorates is conducted for the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of the Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA by the National Opinion Research Center.

Translation: It’s all about the federal benjamins, baby.

Velez credits several recruitment initiatives by the UA Graduate College, increased Hispanic and Native American undergraduate enrollment and retention of undergraduate students from Arizona to record doctoral degree production at the UA.

While Velez is pleased that the UA ranks among the nation’s leading universities in granting advanced degrees to minority students, she is “saddened that the numbers nationwide don’t reflect the numbers of minorities in this country.”

This is that “fairness by demographics” approach which goes without question in many circles. Furthermore, focusing on race demographics ignores the real problem — economic demographics. The reason that blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans are “underrepresented minorities” on campus is mostly a result of their disproportionate representation among lower-income groups. The issue is poverty, not melatonin concentration. The praised diversity programs for underrepresented minorities on the graduate school website are far more necessary for a poor white student than they are for an upper-middle-class, legacy Hispanic student.

It is the effect of poverty on early education that is so destructive. Focusing on remedying these effects are not only fairer, but will prove to be more effective as well.

Secondly, going back to Velez’s statement, there’s also the dubious assertion that these students should be going to college. Oftentimes, it really doesn’t make sense for a student coming from an impoverished background to rack up debt in college, when they could go to a field without such requirements. Here, they can build a financial base, establish a family, and then perhaps later go on to school as a personal goal. You can be quite successful in this world without a college degree in your 20s; but of course, it’s not in the UA’s best interest to let these truths come out.

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