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Underrepresented

Although my politics makes it likely that I will disagree with Mike Reed ’75, the College’s new Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Strategic Planning, allow me to first praise the transparency with which he conducts College business. Here are copies (recruiting letter, Bolin ad and listing of faculty positions) of the recent material sent out by Mike to, I think, all alumni of color. (At the least, my wife received a copy while I did not.)

Thanks to Mike for allowing us to post these and to Maggie Driscoll for providing electronic versions. Comments:

1) Process matters. The single thing that I most want out of College administrators is an open and transparent process. I may disagree with much of the substance of these efforts, but as long as the College is forthright in its dealings with me and other stakeholders, I should not complain too loudly. Kudos to Mike for making this material public.

2) Once Mike has a chance to settle in, I hope that he will post this and other material on the College’s website.

3) It would also be nice to post the report from the Diversity Initiatives. Although some criticism is justified, the report as a whole is a solid piece of reporting and analysis. The College should be proud of this work and make it easy for everyone to read it.

4) I have one substantive comment. The Bolin Ad reports, “At least two graduate students from underrepresented groups are appointed each year.” Hmmm. Just which groups qualify under this standard?

I believe that the Bolin was originally restricted to African-Americans. True? At the very least, recall the change from 3 years ago.

Since 1985, Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., has annually awarded the Bolin Fellowships for Minority Graduate Students, named after the school’s first black alumnus. This year, Williams changed the scholarship’s name to the Bolin Dissertation Fellowships, and for the first time applicants of all races will be considered as long as they belong to an “underrepresented group.” That could include academic rarities such as female physicists of any ethnicity or Caucasian researchers in Asian Studies, according to acting dean of faculty William Lenhart.

“The college thought it was a reasonable change” in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions, Mr. Lenhart says.

Here are the fellows for this year and last. See any “Caucasian researchers in Asian Studies”? See any Caucasians? I didn’t think so.

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#1 Comment By rory On November 6, 2006 @ 9:44 am

a sample size of four is evidence? I though you did stats…

Besides, as a caucasian studying africana studies and sociology, i’ve been preliminarily pushed to apply in a couple years. so who knows–irony of ironies, perhaps i’ll be able to prove or disprove whether or not they changed the process :)

#2 Comment By rory On November 6, 2006 @ 9:44 am

i should mention, those pushes haven’t been by anyone actually connected to the program.

#3 Comment By Richard Dunn On November 6, 2006 @ 10:14 am

I think you overstate your role as “stakeholder.” Alumni have an interest in the college, but we aren’t stakeholders in any traditional sense since none of us can sell our claims. Institutions have no responsibility to their alumni outside of what they must do to encourage charitable donation.

#4 Comment By frank uible On November 6, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

Then cause the College to send out a simple but pointed letter to its alumni stating forthrightly to the effect that merely as an alumna/us YOU ARE NOT A STAKEHOLDER. If they won’t do it, then either alumnae/i are stakeholders or the College is intentionally misleading them. You take your pick.

#5 Comment By Jonathan Landsman On November 6, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

Frank —

Were I in the habit of writing so, I might call that an incredibly stupid argument. Since I’m not, I’ll rather ask if you’d like to reconsider the above, or if you would truly like to support the argument:

“The College bears responsibility for the faith I have in what it will not deny, so that if I come to believe a falsehood in this way, the College has misled me.”

Come, now.

Richard makes a good point, but as in so many arguments, this one turns on how you want to define the word “stakeholder” or, more to the point I think, which definition of that word you care about.

In fact there is no one in the world who can “sell” any “stake” in the College. But does it feel right to say that we have no stakeholders? Do you think that the College’s directors believe that their institution has no stakeholders, and acts with this mindset?

If you rather feel that being a stakeholder in the College is defined as having real interest in its well-being, as David seemed to, maybe Richard is usefully disillusioning you, or maybe he is bringing in terminology from another context that is not helpful here.

#6 Comment By David On November 6, 2006 @ 6:06 pm

1) Rory should definately apply! Again, my prediction is that at least one white male will win this award in the next 8 years, if only to keep the lawyers away.

2) I believe that the College and/or Morty would apply the term “stakeholder” to alumni. Certainly, the standard definition of stakeholder does not imply any ability to sell the stake. Consider:

More recently a very different meaning of the term has become widely used in management. This sees a stakeholder as a person or organization that has a legitimate interest in a project or entity.

The new use of the term arose together with and due to the spread of corporate social responsibility ideas, but there are also utilitarian and traditional business goals that are served by the new meaning of the term (see stakeholder concept and below).

Alumni would surely qualify as stakeholders in this usage.

#7 Comment By frank uible On November 6, 2006 @ 7:47 pm

Jonathan: You dislike my argument. I like it. On such differences rests Baskin-Robbins decision to make all them flavors. At any rate why would the College continually bombard its alums with all sorts of information about the College unless it regards the alums as stakeholders or, alternatively, wants to mislead them into believing that they are stakeholders?