UH already ahead of President’s request for greater diversity
Recently, the Obama administration sent out a letter to various university presidents on behalf of the Departments of Education and Justice. The topic at hand was the increasing importance of ethnic and racial diversity on college campuses, with particular emphasis on how contact with different cultures positively impacts the development of American students.
The letter referred to the Supreme Court case of Fisher v. University of Texas, which was decided this past summer. Abigail Fisher filed suit against UT for using race as a decider in their admissions process and lost her case in a 7-1 decision. It was reiterated, though, that the consideration of race with regard to admission must be “narrowly tailored” and is subject to periodic review for its relevance.
Many critics of the decision have been up in arms, fearing that the continued use of race in college admissions will have the ability to perpetuate racism and discrimination. In actuality, the procedure has been put in place to do the exact opposite; colleges are meant to be using the information to ensure that no one group is favored or dominating.
At first glance, it seems like the Court should be vehemently overruling the consideration of race in these types of decisions where academic ability is the primary concern, in the interest of avoiding any possible biases. However, Catherine Lhamon of the Department of Education explained why this decision is appropriate: “The Court preserved the well-established legal principle that colleges and universities have a compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits that flow from a racially and ethnically diverse student body and can lawfully pursue that interest in their admissions programs.”
A 2012 study by Rice University determined Houston to be the most diverse metro area in the United States. Michael Emerson, a Rice sociologist, said, “There is no majority group here, not even close.” By his estimation, “Houston runs about 10, 15 years ahead of Texas, 30 years ahead of the U.S., in terms of ethnic diversity and immigration flows.” Keeping with that theme, UH tied for second place in U.S. News’ ranking of the most diverse schools in the country, and that’s not even counting international students.
According to NPR, after Houston’s 40 percent non-Hispanic white population, the rest of the city looks like this: “At about 35 percent of the population, Latinos make up the second-biggest group in Houston. But Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing group — doubling between the 1990 and 2010 census to about 7 percent.”
All of this makes for great news for UH students. Attending a particularly diverse school in the most diverse city in the country promises some spectacular personal benefits. Included in this long list are personal growth, increased cultural sensitivity, more liberal and relaxed attitudes toward people different from oneself, breaking down stereotypes, reduced social isolation and better preparedness for the eventual workplace, which will undoubtedly reflect more of the same diversity.
The letter from the Departments of Justice and Education came to a close by saying, “The future workforce of America must be able to transcend the boundaries of race, language and culture as our economy becomes more globally interconnected.” This is true, but more relevant is the fact that most residents of this country must be able to transcend these boundaries to be able to effectively relate to their next-door neighbors. Particularly in Houston, there is nowhere to hide from those who are different from you. Ethnocentrism must die, and UH is the place to learn how to fight it.
The things that make Houston so different from the rest of Texas and the rest of the U.S. are what make it so wonderful. Houston has one of few female mayors, and she just happens to be one of even fewer openly gay politicians. This is one of the many marks of a beautiful, progressive city that we possess and wear with pride.
Though there may be few places one can go within the United States more diverse than the UH campus, there is no question that this kind of exposure can do nothing but great things for a student’s social and professional future. The ability to relate to people from all types of backgrounds is intrinsic to anyone’s personal success. As Emerson explained, Houston is just the tip of the iceberg. Soon enough, the rest of the country will be just as diverse. UH students will possess a distinct advantage when they set out into the wide world, because they are no strangers to change.
Opinion columnist Katie Wian is an English junior and may be reached at [email protected]