Sunday, November 13, 2005

DOJ to SIUC: Clean Up Your Fellowships Process

I heard about this problem at my alma mater while I was driving to work Friday morning. Apparently the Department of Justice is telling Southern Illinois University to end selective admissions to a series of minority fellowships. Barack Obama dismisses the case as "divisive" and "cynical." Well, looks like he's found a horse for the race, hasn't he?

According to the article, Pat McNeil of the Underrepresented Fellowships Office states clearly that the three fellowships will remain discriminatory, and speaks specifically of the Bridge to the Doctorate fellowship:
The Web site describing the Bridge program specifically says it is only open to members of underrepresented minority groups. Several white women who have "overcome hardship" have been awarded the Graduate Dean's Fellowship, even though women outnumber men at the university. White men need not apply, however. "I'll be upfront with you -- no white male will get this award," McNeil said.
No white students have applied for the Bridge to the Doctorate or Proactive Recruitment and Multicultural Professionals for Tomorrow fellowships, as is stated in the paragraph previous to this one.

I asked Song of the Suburbs reader and SIUC history professor Jonathan Bean about the issue and he wrote back to me that DOJ investigators have missed an even bigger program:
Actually, they missed the worst program of all, the so-called "cradle-to-grave" affirmative action program DFI (Diversifying Faculty in Illinois). This program pays members of certain racial groups--including Asians who are triply OVERREPRESENTED as faculty--to go to graduate school (plus $17,000 stipend) and they pay back by taking a tenure-track job at one of 34 institutions, including private colleges in Illinois (e.g., Northwestern). This program is different because, at SIUC's behest (I am told), the state legislature established it in 1985.
He also added under the DFI program minority groups who have gotten into the program can continue to benefit when they become overrepresented in the larger faculty pool:
[I]t's not just "anti-white," as the Sun Times implies. No "whites," no people from North Africa, no Middle Easterners, and no people from certain Asian countries need apply. However, if you were born in Latin America to a white businessman who works for a multinational -- bingo! You are "Hispanic." Defining race and distributing benefits on this basis is not only wrong and illegal, it often violates common sense (as the case of the Asians shows). When I challenged, in writing, the inclusion of Asians in the DFI program, I was later told by an administrator that, yes, they are triply overrepresented overall but still underrepresented in areas like English literature! What this means is they will never admit success: once a group is "in," it is in FOREVER.
Dr. Bean also states that local state senators do nothing to get the DFI program changed because proponents of the current plan will accuse them of racism. There is also a "diversity hires" fund created by Chancellor Walter Wendler that Dr. Bean says warrants investigation.

What are SIUC alumni to do about this? Well, after the story gets out, and I need my readers to spread it around further, we should confront the administration and explain to them that SIU's fellowships should be based upon merit and academic achievement, not on race or sex. These are discriminatory and our school should do its part to create a colorblind society. If the administrators do nothing, alumni should withhold any donations they'd usually make to the school. SIUC might get our tax money, but the administrators certainly won't get anything else until things change. If you know of any other SIUC grads, let them know what's going on. Our school needs to stand for something other than being a party school.

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