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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Admission shouldn?t consider race

By Zack Oakey

One of the U’s graduate school procedures requires “department efforts to recruit minority students and to achieve appropriate diversity among (colleges’) student body.” A graduate council review of the School of Music found that such efforts were not being made. Whether the School of Music is making any effort, we ought to recognize that college deans and directors at the U are not, or shouldn’t be, responsible for the recruitment of students on the basis of race or any other factor other than objective or neutral measures of academic proficiency.

Robert Walzel, director of the School of Music, was recently caught in a technicality. He said his college didn’t report its efforts, which are in fact many, to increase minority attendance in his school. Previous reviews didn’t require racial data. But this misfortune and misunderstanding on the part of the graduate council has brought to light rather acrid questions we need to ask ourselves about race relations on campus.

The first of these ought to be: What resources and energies should we sacrifice to achieve the technical ideals the graduate school wants?

“So many times students from (minority) groups have not had the opportunity to develop skills” that are necessary to meet the School of Music’s standards, which are “100 percent talent-based,” Walzel said.

The fact that the School of Music is using objective, nonracial measures to accept students is evident. The review reported that Walzel and his fellow faculty have brought about “very high levels of artistic and academic achievement and standards.” The council found that the school “maintains a high level of…artistic rigor.”

The School of Music faculty, including Walzel, should not be forced to sacrifice its excellent reputation to meet some external requirement put forth by administration. The school is clear about what it expects from its applicants: Perform, and you’ll be accepted. Race isn’t even discussed except to say that it has no bearing on the acceptance of students. To paraphrase, students are being judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their ability.

There are other questions that ought to be asked. What is the graduate school expecting when it sets a goal to obtain “appropriate diversity”? The term diversity, used as it is in racial discourse, is elastic and can easily lose its meaning.

What one administrative body considers “appropriate,” many of us might find inappropriate. Rather than create artificial arguments through the manufacture of what shouldn’t be issues, we ought to let free adults act as they like in this respect and let them seek their own objectives.

If the School of Music is flooded with applicants of excellent caliber, we ought to be glad to accept them, regardless of whether they constitute 90 percent of the applicant pool. We can’t claim to be a moral people while we ignore those students who have made efforts to improve their personal abilities in music in exchange for a goal as ambiguous and lofty as “appropriate diversity.”

For those of us who hold a consequentialist philosophy, another darker reality is created. When colleges have given minority representation priority over academic excellence, disaster has followed, regardless of the happy, moral names and intentions we assign to such programs.

Stanford economist Thomas Sowell has written prolifically on the fact that when minority students, whom we intend to benefit by lowering admission standards, are accepted to programs they wouldn’t normally be eligible for, they usually fail disproportionately. Sowell reports that of the black students admitted to UC Berkeley as a result of affirmative action in the 1980s, 70 percent failed to graduate, despite the rising number of students at that university. At MIT, where affirmative action has been practiced, “the average black student’s math SAT score was in the top 10 percent nationwide8212;and in the bottom 10 percent at MIT. Nearly one-fourth of these extraordinary high-ranking black students failed to graduate,” according to Sowell.

The efforts of Walzel and his fellow School of Music administrators to protect performance-based measures as an indicator of worthiness to the school is exactly what will solve racial problems on campus, the majority of which are artificial and would not have been a matter of discussion without the U administration’s insistence. Indeed, those who feel especially noble and wise about policies that seek to actively increase minority admission have no interest in maintaining academic quality, as the School of Music’s situation demonstrates, or the actual academic health and success of those minorities they intend to benefit, as the Berkley and MIT cases demonstrate. No evidence is asked for, and none is given.

We shouldn’t be subject to the whims of those who should be taking care of means and not ends, management and not intervention. We and our teachers will jointly decide which ends we will pursue and which goals we have.

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