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Letters to the Editor

Arizona Summer Wildcat
Wednesday July 10, 2002

Diversity editorial shows ignorance

The poorly written critique of campus diversity efforts offered by the Arizona Summer Wildcat editorial board is, I think, ample demonstration that we are not educating our students as well as we might like. The article is rife with errors, inconsistencies, empty rhetoric and logical fallacies. Any newspaper that prides itself on journalistic excellence should be embarrassed to publish such shoddy work. There were, in fact, three studies done at UA that reflect the extremely hostile climate for virtually every group on campus except straight, white males. These are serious, respectable studies that sampled a statistically significant percentage of the campus community. The Grace and Millennium studies are widely mentioned, so Iād like to take just a moment to discuss the results of the Campus Climate Assessment undertaken by the Presidentās Council on Diversity. The assessment contains some extremely disturbing figures.

Twenty-five percent of gay respondents claim that they fear for their physical safety at UA. Almost 60 percent conceal their sexual orientation to avoid intimidation. Thirty-four percent indicate that they have actually been harassed at UA. Of the general campus population, over 27 percent (more than 1 in 4) of our community claim to have been harassed seriously enough to interfere with their learning or work on campus.

Of those harassed, approximately half claim to have been harassed on the basis of gender, and 36 percent on the basis of race. Forty-three percent of African Americans on campus directly experienced harassment. Forty-one percent of all respondents claim that they have observed harassment. Most of the incidents they observed were verbal, but 51 persons (over 2 percent of the total respondents) actually witnessed someone being physically assaulted or injured. This indicates that one out of every fifty UA students has seen such an assault ÷ too high a percentage to be called comfortable, by far. The Wildcat editorial took none of the above data into account. The authors of the editorial voice the opinion of the majority on the UA campus, but not a very large majority. The bottom line? Far too many of us ÷ students, faculty, and staff ÷ work and learn in an environment that is hostile and unwelcoming. The Wildcat has just demonstrated it is part of the problem.

Kali Tal
Professor, Arizona International College
Member, Presidentās Council on Diversity

Wildcat editorial board is racist

I am writing in response to the editorial ćDiversity efforts a waste of timeä that appeared in todayās Arizona Summer Wildcat. Yesterday I stood proud in representing our university, as I explained to a group of parents here for orientation the experiences their incoming freshman would face in the coming four years, would undoubtedly be the best years of their lives so far.

Today, I could not be more embarrassed by the Wildcat. To suggest diversity efforts are a waste of time is akin to suggesting that women should not vote or that people of color should drink from separate fountains. I am curious as to the make up of the editorial board. Surely, someone among you has had an equal chance to study here because the university does not discriminate in admission. Beyond the fact that the editorial was offensive to me personally, it was, simply put, poor journalism. Your research is faulty, your statements are inaccurate throughout and, even worse, you lead the reader to believe that your assumptions are facts. As a member of the Presidentās Council on Diversity, and of the Deanās Diversity Subcommittee I have had many opportunities to review, as you wrote, ćlanguage from officials who will be reshaping affirmative action policy on the campus suggest(ing) that they plan to use race and gender as a litmus test for hiring faculty.ä

For the record (and I contacted the UA Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action Office to double check my understanding), UA is not ćreshaping affirmative action policy.ä The subject matter to which you refer is a draft set of guidelines for the recruitment and retention of faculty written by the college deans themselves. Diversity is not limited in the guidelines to race and gender. Finally, the guidelines do not make any recommendations for hiring policies, despite what you assume and would like the reader to believe.

The guidelines are about ensuring a robust and diverse pool of qualified candidates. In fact, affirmative action law, our university attorneys and affirmative action offices are very clear that, with all other things equal, it is not permissible to make a hiring decision based on race, gender, national origin, disability or sexual orientation. Have you consulted any of these sources? Given the draft stage the guidelines are in, I am sure that the editorial board has not reviewed them either.

In closing, let me explain the concept of diversity to the editorial board (since you asked what it means and could not seem to find an answer). All the statistics aside, diversity is ultimately about power sharing and justice ÷ two concepts that strike fear into the heart of those such as the members of your editorial board.

Alan L. Strauss
Assistant Director, Disability Resource Center
Presidentās Council on Diversity Member
Deans Diversity Subcommittee member


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