By Dan McGuire
Illustration by Holly Randall
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Last week, Charles Tatum, dean of the College of Humanities, publicly advocated that the UA become a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a mission that President Peter Likins has also deemed worthy.
By definition, according to U.S. Department of Education standards, becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution would mean UA's Hispanic enrollment would increase from 14 to 25 percent, and of that enrollment, 50 percent would be low-income students.
There's nothing wrong with wanting people who statistically are less likely to attend college to get an education, right? Well, it can be wrong, and here's how.
Similar to affirmative action, this undertaking by the university would call for it to specifically target Hispanic students to attend the UA rather than the most qualified students.
Thomas Jefferson, one of the ideological founders of our educational system, believed in a meritocracy, or a system that functions on the principle that the best performance earns the best rewards, regardless of the social status of the student. The idea of a Hispanic-Serving Institution directly contradicts that.
Instead, I propose a different mission for the UA: to become a Human-Serving Institution. According to my idea, the UA, in order to become a Human-Serving Institution, would need to admit the most qualified, well-rounded individuals, regardless of race.
If, based on qualification, this university's enrollment becomes 75 percent minority, including Hispanics, that's wonderful, as long as it's consistent with the idea of a meritocracy and the earning of benefits rather than the granting of them.
What the UA is really trying to do here is attempt to change the social condition of Hispanics in Arizona who, unfortunately, are twice as likely to drop out of high school as white students and have lower graduation rates than most ethnic groups in the state.
But this isn't the purpose of the university. The university's sole mission is to admit and educate the most qualified students as best it can. If it deviates from that aim, it is crossing the boundaries from being an educational institution to an organization for social change.
I believe all people have the right to an education, and it's very impressive that everyone in Arizona has abundant opportunity to attend college. Whether it is community college or one of our three universities, everyone can receive some form of higher education.
Did you know that if an Arizona high school student graduates with a 3.0 grade point average or above, they're automatically admitted to the UA?
Did you know that students in the top 10 percent of their class are automatically offered scholarships to the UA, often in the form of partial or complete tuition waivers?
Even those without university-funded financial aid can still apply for federal aid or private loans. If white students can finance their own education by taking out loans and working, minority students can as well.
The idea of a Human-Serving Institution, rather than a Hispanic-Serving Institution, gives everyone an equal footing in the eyes of the university, which is the "equal protection of the laws" that is meant in the 14th Amendment.
The Constitution was not written to say, "equal protection of the laws, unless you're a minority, because then you can get better standing when it comes to jobs and education."
Ultimately, the problem with the Hispanic-Serving Institution idea is that, like many government ideas and programs, it is reactive rather than proactive. The proactive approach would attempt to solve the social problems and obstacles that make Hispanics drop out of high school or believe that college is an unrealistic goal.
Diversity, which I'm sure is part of Likins' plan, is not reason enough to discriminate against white students who have earned a place here at the UA. Diversity should be a natural trend of admissions, not something that is forced upon the community by means of an unfair and biased deviation from meritocracy.
The UA should adopt the Human-Serving Institution idea rather than the Hispanic-Serving Institution mission. It is the only way to ensure that discrimination and inequity does not taint the admissions process and deny qualified students, regardless of race, educational opportunity.
Dan McGuire is a political science and journalism senior. He can be reached at email@example.com.