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Frederick Douglass

9 Posts

Posted - 2006 May 05 :  18:08:32  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Many other liberal arts colleges have substantial numbers of black students. The fact that St. Johnís has so few black students and as far as I know, no black tutors or administrators, demonstrates that St. Johnís is not making an effort to recruit minorities. This may be indicative of a deeper problem. In a place where evaluations are so subjective, it is very easy for evaluations to be motivated by race. A tutor may feel that he has more in common with a white student than with a black student and may consequently evaluate the same performance differently. Also, tutors may be inclined to cover up racist behavior in other tutors rather than to directly address problems as they may feel that it would make the school look bad to publicly air such problems.
Two incidents last year struck me as disturbing indicators of this problem. The first incident was when Mr. Scally walked out of a black studentís don rag while that student was speaking. The black student was later informed that he would be transferred to another seminar because Mr. Scally didnít want him in his seminar anymore. This solution satisfied everyone in the short term; the student didnít want to be in Mr. Scallyís seminar any more than Mr. Scally wanted this student in his seminar. Yet it is disturbing that Mr. Scallyís behavior went unchallenged. No one knows for certain whether Mr. Scally is a racist or simply a jerk. Yet even more disturbing than Mr. Scallyís bizarre behavior is that no one felt a need to discuss this issue or to force Mr. Scally to explain his conduct.
The second incident was when another black student was told to leave the school after he failed two classes because he missed too many classes in violation of the schoolís absence policy. He asked that he be allowed to finish his other two classes as he could not afford to retake them as well. The school refused to make an exception to its rule that if you have too many absences in one class, you get kicked out of all your classes. I heard one of his tutors said that it would make a mockery of the collegeís rules if he were allowed to complete the semester. Yet many white students have been allowed to go part-time. The administration probably does not see itself as racist when it decides whom to make exceptions for and whom to show no mercy to. Yet in a subjective system, blacks often get the short end of the stick. I believe that this is why it is so important for the school to consider very carefully its treatment of minorities and to aggressively strive to increase the number of black students and tutors. I cannot believe that there are no black people competent enough to be tutors at St. Johnís.


2 Posts

Posted - 2006 June 08 :  03:56:53  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
When I was a student at the Annapolis campus, there was one African-American tutor, Mr. Russell. There was also an Asian-American tutor there at the time, but I don't know his name. I am Asian-American as well, and I was never the victim of racism by anyone connected to St. John's. The Annapolis townies, of course, were another story.

However, I did see and hear a few things that were a bit insensitive, for example when a white tutor played the part of Othello in blackface as well as the indifference that most of my classmates seemed to have about injustice towards African-Americans in the senior seminar discussions.

I think the administration knows that the mostly-white campus community looks bad. I remember seeing the same picture of a black student plastered over all the school's publicity material. I can't imagine that they kept using her picture because they liked her shoes.

Despite these things, though, I'd say that most people I knew there didn't care about race at all.
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42 Posts

Posted - 2006 June 08 :  19:29:53  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
It is unreasonable to conclude that Mr. Scally is a racist based on his treatment of one black student. If he had habitually treated black students worse than white students, then the claim would have more justification. As there are so few black students at St. Johnís, it is impossible to make such a comparison. Many white students have complained about Mr. Scallyís treatment of them; there is evidence that he judges people quickly and that he does not change his judgments once formed. This is a far cry, however, from the claim that he judges people based on ethnicity.

I do not know for certain the racial backgrounds of all the tutors at St. Johnís, so I stand to be corrected if the following is inaccurate. The Annapolis campus has 74 faculty members of whom four are non-white. George Russell is black, Lijun Gu and Cordell Yee are East Asian, and Sriram Nambiar is Indian. The Santa Fe campus has 80 faculty members of whom two are non-white. Jennifer Otsuki is East Asian and Krishnan Venkatesh is Indian. In addition, Victoria Mora, whose term as dean of the Santa Fe campus begins on July 1, is Latina.
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4 Posts

Posted - 2006 July 21 :  18:25:54  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
"demonstrates that St. Johnís is not making an effort to recruit minorities"

You should know better. I'm not speaking of the College's recruitment efforts; I don't know what they are (though I'm sure Admissions would talk to you about it). I'm just speaking of the logical coherency of this statement. If the College *only* talked to minorities, and none of them came, we would still have our current racial makeup. In other words, the racial makeup of the college is only a reflection of minority attendance, not effort on the part of the College.

Take a logic class, yeah?
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Frederick Douglass

9 Posts

Posted - 2006 July 23 :  23:46:46  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I was unaware that the Annapolis campus had a black tutor. Nevertheless, St. Johnís should strive to have more than only one black tutor on the entire faculty of both campuses. Sjcodysseus derided me for using what he or she believes to be flawed logic. Thinking in sjcodysseus's terms, there are two logically possible explanations for the scarcity of black students on campus: that the admissions office is not trying to recruit black students or that the admissions office is trying but utterly failing. Many colleges and universities used to be all-white or predominantly white. The racial compositions of student bodies changed only when institutions made efforts to seek diversity. Generally, effort leads to results, and the lack of results indicates a lack of effort. I cannot believe that there is any reason for St. Johnís Collegeís failure when so many liberal arts colleges have succeeded other than the collegeís lack of desire to make student diversity a priority.

My belief that the college is not making a serious effort to recruit minorities is based on more than an observation of the results. When I spoke informally to a college official about the collegeís admissions goals, he made no mention of increasing minority enrollment. Instead, he told me how pleased he was by the increase in applications, as now the college can admit fewer high-risk students. What makes a student high-risk was not explicitly defined, and I believe that the college still puts a great deal of weight on the application essays, but I assume that high-risk students are those with lower grade point averages and test scores. I have also heard that the college is making an increased effort to recruit students from wealthier backgrounds. While it may make sense to admit students who have shown strong past academic credentials and it also may make sense from the financial perspective of the college to recruit from schools whose students are more likely to be able to pay the high cost of tuition, the college should realize that the paucity of minority students is unacceptable and should work to change this. If the admissions office were really working to increase campus diversity, the official would not be as pleased as he was by the predominantly white campus that resulted from the collegeís efforts.
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