Dynes Convenes Diversity Town Hall Meeting

Students, staff and faculty gathered Tuesday afternoon in the Price Center Ballroom for the second annual Diversity Council Town Hall Meeting. The council’s theme was “”Embracing Diversity: A Campus-wide Responsibility.””

The meeting opened with a welcome and introduction by Diversity Council Chair Deborah Wingard, with opening remarks by Chancellor Robert Dynes. Dynes opened the discourse on embracing diversity.

“”We don’t pursue cultural diversity because it is a noble concept, but because it really does strengthen the community,”” Dynes said.

Following Dynes’ remarks, Catherine Joseph, vice chair of the Diversity Council, introduced the keynote speaker, Daryl G. Smith. Smith is a professor of education and psychology at The Claremont Graduate University.

Smith said the road to cultural diversity in higher education, although difficult, is possible.

“”We’re living in the consequences of Proposition 209, and on the other hand, people are beginning to realize the importance of cultural diversity,”” Smith said.

Smith talked about Proposition 209, which passed as California state law in 1996 and ended affirmative action, making it illegal to hire on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

Smith spoke of the need for immediate changes in higher education to bring about diversity. She rebuked the common argument that kindergarten is the place to start. On the contrary, Smith proposed that the greatest need exists for graduate schooling.

“”If graduate education is not engaged, we will go very short distances,”” Smith said.

Smith also spoke about placing value on the multiple identities of individuals and on steering clear of classifying individuals solely on the basis of color.

Smith closed her discussion rhetorically, asking “”If not now, when?””

Smith’s words were followed by short speeches from each of the panelists from the council on diversity. The panelists addressed issues of admissions and outreach and discussed already functioning programs to counteract the trend of the increasingly homogenous campus.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph Watson remarked on the continuing need to press toward the goal of cultural diversity.

“”I don’t think UCSD has found all the solutions to cultural diversity,”” he said.

Watson also alluded to recent talk of eliminating of the SATs as a criterion for admission to the university.

Laura Barroclough, an ethnic studies graduate, spoke on the weakness of the SAT.

“”The SAT is culturally biased toward students with greater amounts of money,”” Barroclough said.

Smith concurred, remarking that recent studies have shown that high SAT scores do not equal success in later life.

Following the speeches from Smith and the panel members, there was a question-and-answer period. The audience was allowed to address questions to the panel and to Dynes.

One group called for a repeal of SP-1 and SP-2 and gave Dynes a petition to sign that would call for such a repeal.

SP-1 and SP-2 were legislative documents passed by the UC Regents in response to the passing of Proposition 209. SP-1 and SP-2 state the university’s policy on affirmative action, which is aligned with the dictates of Proposition 209.

Dynes said that he was opposed to the legislation, as he was opposed to the passing of Proposition 209. However, he said that repealing SP-1 and SP-2 would not change the law that stands under Proposition 209 in California. Dynes also remarked that the present outreach programs are more important than the repeal of SP-1 and SP-2.

“”I do not want to put to compromise the outreach programs for the sake of a repeal to SP-1 and SP-2,”” Dynes said. “”I will not sign this because I don’t sign these sort of things. That does not mean I will not fight the regents aggressively against SP-1 and SP-2.””

Students found this response unsatisfactory. Alexis Montevirgen, a biology major, expressed worry.

“”My biggest concern was the reasons the chancellor gave for not signing the petition,”” Montevirgen said. “”I don’t see it as a choice between outreach programs we have now and the repeal of SP-1 and SP-2. The repeal should not affect the programs we have.””

Other audience questions involved the status of diversity at UCSD and the means for getting to where the university needs to be.

Undergraduate student Joseph Sherman-Villafane rebutted a claim Smith made in her speech regarding the widespread participation among students fighting for diversity.

Smith said that the trend seen at most universities is that students of color are active in seeking diversity. Sherman-Villafane claimed that the students fighting for diversity are often the underrepresented themselves.

Overall, the meeting expressed optimism for the Preuss School and for programs such as C.R.E.A.T.E., while demonstrating a need to press on for a larger amount of diversity on campus.

The council meeting will be aired on UCSD-TV on May 21 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

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