Friday, August 24, 2007

Diversity at UCLA

While reading the Race chapter of Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope recently, I came across many great ideas and quotes that inspired me to write about my stance on diversity at UCLA. (While it is directly related to the immigration issue, books can and have been written on it and I will keep my ideas local.) While you may or may not agree with me, I hope that what I have to say can at least inspire you to think about the issue.
"the challenges of immigration spark fears of an uncertain future. The demographics of America are changing inexorably and at lightning speed"

"America has nothing to fear from these newcomers, ... they have come here for the same reason that families came here 150 years ago"
UCLA's needs to be much more diverse than it is now, and we need to better represent the racial breakdown of Los Angeles, America, and the undeniable future of the world. In any profession these days, you must interact with other races, cultures, and differing levels of assimilation into "mainstream America." As an institution of higher learning, UCLA is supposed to prepare us for the world, and if we are not interacting with other races as we would in the world, UCLA is failing. Furthermore, we are doing a grave disservice to our minority applicants, whether or not they "look as good" on paper.

Only around 15% of UCLA's student population is Hispanic, and that hardly represents Los Angeles. A friend recently described this to me as a diversity crisis and at first I questioned the severity of her statement, offending her. The more I thought about it, the more I agree: UCLA has a diversity crisis. Overrepresented students are leaving unprepared for the real world, and minorities who do not get in because they do not have a 4.0 and have to work instead of volunteering (, etc... I could go on with reasons they don't work on paper) are being held back from many opportunities they would get after graduating from UCLA as well as the world-class education they would have received. Underrepresented minorities in UCLA (specifically, those of Spanish-speaking origin) are left in a microcosmic society where they are other-ed, discriminated against, and more (I can't claim to know, being of Caucasian heritage myself). This leads to higher transfer rates as well as less likelihood for admitted students to come to a place where they do not feel as welcome as they should.

So what should be done? I do not have an end-all answer to this question, but I can give a humble suggestion or two. Affirmative action is not only illegal in California (Prop 209) but is not the answer to this. What Chancellor Abrams did recently by changing up the admissions procedures to look at the whole applicant (aka, give more weight to the essay, which would probably indicate their race) is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. We need to reach out to communities, help underrepresented minorities get the help they need to have a strong application and stay motivated in school, and pay for with state or federal money, not just the sweat of volunteers. We need to help those who have promise and desire to step up in the world get into fine institutions like UCLA. As for diversifying our own campus, we need to make it easier for applicants of color to be accepted, providing they show promise. The difference here from affirmative action is that they are not being let in just because of their skin color, but because of their potential.

Conservatives worried about their Caucasian children not getting in because "a minority took their spot" are foolish and shortsighted. Those who do get in are getting into a better institution and will come out better prepared for the world. Those who do not may have had higher SAT scores and a better course load in High School, but they probably didn't have as much adversity to overcome in their life. It would be good for them to go to another college that is, as UCLA should be, better represented by all races and get a good classroom and out-of-classroom education there. Hopefully one day, UCLA will represent the racial breakdown of Los Angeles and America better, but we are not there yet and we need to fight until we get there.

PS: I know I left a LOT out, so please don't jump down my throat. As I mentioned above, this is just a little musing into the gross problem, and is not a fully outlined essay.

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