Black Concentration Dorm - Stanford Housing Problem





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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Black Concentration Dorm - Stanford Housing Problem
By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 02:11 am: Edit

My best friend is going to Stanford. At Stanford there is a theme house called "Ujaama House" and it is for black students. When she was filling out her housing form, she put the theme house near the bottom of her list, yet she was assigned to it. She called and they said that they have to have enough people to fill the house because they cannot have empty rooms. So it appears that they are just assigning black people to the dorm because there is not enough interest otherwise. She doesn't want to be in the dorm because she doesn't like the idea of being grouped by race rather than class or interests. She wanted an all freshman dorm and although she is black, she is from Trinidad and not African American so the "culture" the House is trying to promote is not her own anyway.

Anyway, she asked me to help her out so I decided to post here. She's too scared to call so she asked me to write a letter. She hasn't told her mom because her mom has a bad temper and would get angry and call and start yelling and she didn't want to start off this way. I was thinking that this has to be illegal somehow and it made me pretty mad, although their intentions were well meaning. If she doesn't want to be in the "black concentration dorm" she shouldn't have to be. And if there is not enough interest, they should stop the idea all together.

So I was looking for ideas on what is to be done, and what the letter might say. Thanks

By Valpal (Valpal) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 02:29 am: Edit

Frankly, I think that dormatories like that are an idea whose time has basically come and gone. Imagine the fireworks that would be generated by a house that was purposely reserved for "white students only". Diversity on campus can't be very well served by segregated housing. The practice should be abolished.

As for your friend, Tropicanna---I think it may be too late for letter writing (freshman move-in day must be coming up pretty soon). I think that her mother should be involved at this time, temper or no temper. The squeeky wheel gets the grease, and it sounds like your friend's mom is plenty willing to squeak. Just my opinion...

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 02:51 am: Edit

I don't intend to be mean. However, in all honesty, apartheid housing is something that your friend should have investigated BEFORE she applied to colleges. IMO, segregated housing is a significant negative characteristic of a college -- one that would give me serious pause.

If my daughter had msde such a mistake in college selection, I would be urging her to scream bloody murder and start working on her transfer applications.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 03:03 am: Edit

She knew about the housing before enrolling - she stayed there during the admit weekend. She dien't know that she would be placed there when she put it at the bottom of her list and there was space in her top choices. She thought it was an optional theme house and didn't find out until very recently.

I don't think she made a mistake in college selection, because I know she'd pick Stanford again even though she's unhappy with the housing.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 03:12 am: Edit

Whoa! Let's not toss the whole uni over one bad idea. Crikey!

I think your friend should call the Dean of Students and APOLOGIZE (this is just the ice breaker) for being a smart kid who mistakenly made a choice she cannot abide. Admit she's made a whoops and keep talking. Sweetly. Keep asking to speak to a supervisor if she doesn't get an answer she can live with.

That said, there might be gradations of acceptable solutions?

1. Best. A Stanford someone says "Oh my goodness, honey, you don't have to move in there!" And she is immediately reassigned. A uni that size has reassignment juggling at the last minute. Always.

2. Next best. A Stanford someone says: "Oh, I am so sorry, but you might have to move into that dorm until the first or second week/month until we can find you a room in a different dorm." So what's sixty days your friend says to herself. Her whole "identity" doesn't have to be attached to the house forever.

3. Next next best and her final negotiating position. A Stanford someone says, "We can absolutely move you out by next semester." Again, it ain't perfect, but it's liveable (?) .

Cheer her on. She should keep calling until she gets a Stanford someone who listens to her story and offers to help.

Good practice for real life! (I just had this exact situation with one of the US Embassies! First person wasn't interested in story (issue US student visa for kid who needs to be on campus next Saturday--just got his scholarship award YESTERDAY). Hmmmm. Called again. Second person: badda bing badda BOOM! The kid will fly to the embassy city at the crack of dawn, present all the required forms at a specified appointment, get the visa then and there, taxi back to the airport and fly to the US that afternoon!)

Good luck! Let us know how it turns out!!

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 03:14 am: Edit

I don't understand what mistake she made...

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 03:29 am: Edit

Her mistake was selecting a college that has a policy of racially segregated housing.

BTW, if she want to change her housing assignment very fast, write a letter to the President of the University threating a lawsuit. Colleges are VERY nervous about their race-based policies in the wake of the U Mich Supreme Court decisions.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 03:44 am: Edit

>>>>Her mistake was selecting a college that has a policy of racially segregated housing.

I don't think that's what Cheers meant because he said, "Whoa! Let's not toss the whole uni over one bad idea. Crikey!"

Again, it's not the COLLEGE she has a problem with.

By Im_Blue (Im_Blue) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 04:12 am: Edit

Stanford does not have racially segregated housing! There is some ethnic theme housing, but no one is forced to live there. For all we know, perhaps no one else put that house down as any of their choices, but your friend did. I'm not trying to be mean either, but why is she mad about being assigned to housing that was one of her choices? There is no reason to believe that the assignment was made based on race. Also, if your friend does eventually get to move out of that house, then that means someone else who did not even put down that house as ANY of their choices will be assigned to it. Is that a fair solution?

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 04:27 am: Edit

>> Again, it's not the COLLEGE she has a problem with.

You lost me. If the college does not set their freshmen housing policy, who does?

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 04:43 am: Edit

>>>>>Stanford does not have racially segregated housing! There is some ethnic theme housing, but no one is forced to live there.

Apparently, they are. This topic would not have been created if she wasn't forced into living there. The housing is racially segregated - it's a black concentration dorm! They even call it that on their website so I didn't just create the term to sensationalize the subject.

>>>>I'm not trying to be mean either, but why is she mad about being assigned to housing that was one of her choices?

She said you have to rank ALL the choices, and it was near the very bottom of her list. The prompt wasn't "List your top three choices" and she put this one down as one of them. It was "Rank these options."

>>>>There is no reason to believe that the assignment was made based on race.

Well, it's a black concentration dorm. There were spaces in her other choices. The woman said there wasn't enough interest in the Ujaama house, but it had to be filled. My friend was put in it. Of course the decision was based on race.

>>>>You lost me. If the college does not set their freshmen housing policy, who does?

You know what I mean. It's not the university as a whole she has a problem with, just this one aspect. She loves Stanford and is going halfway across the country to go there, and doesn't have a problem with the school as an academic institution. She has a problem with the dorm she has to stay in.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 06:19 am: Edit

I doubt that it is helpful to tell a kid that she made a bad choice to attend a racially seggragated college and her whole life is down the drain from this point forward. I think Cheers has the right idea of trying to fix this as soon as possible.

It is hard for 18 year olds (or for 50 year olds for that matter) to be organized and calm on phone. If so, a letter might do the trick. It also leaves a paper trail. Write a letter stating:

1. How excited she is to attend Stanford. That one of the most appealing things about Stanford is its diversity.
2. For her, given her background, diversity really means being around white, asian, latino, international students in a large freshman dorm. Just as being in a theme house like Ujaama may bring diversity to the life of an Asian American or white kid raised in Los Angeles.
3. She feels ghettoized by being placed in Ujama house simply because of her race, although it was at the bottom of her list and she has been told on phone that spaces in other dorms are available.
4. She would really like to start her Stanford experience without feeling that she is being placed in a straightjacket for being black.

Send this letter to the Dean of Undergradute Studies and the Director of the Housing Office. Make sure at the bottom there is cc notation so that they know they can't sweep this away under the rug.

Good luck to your friend. We are all interested in how this is resolved. So do keep us posted.

P.S. Interesteddad, theme houses were set up at one point in time in response to student demands. Maybe their time is past but they are a result of universities trying to do the right thing. I personally feel the same way about Women's Studies Depts and African American Studies Depts in universities but there are students and professors who swear that without this kind of oasis black studies and gender studies would be marginalized in mainstream disciplines.

By Pafather (Pafather) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 07:37 am: Edit

This is obviously Monday morning quarterbacking, and it does not directly help your friend because it is too late, but if she had not noted her race on her application, then it obviously could not have been used in placing her in that dorm. For URMs, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. By listing your race, you are preferred for "diversity" reasons over similarly qualified applicants, but you are then in that category for other reasons as well. If you truly want race to be irrelevant, then simply do not list it.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 07:56 am: Edit

Pafather's argument is bogus. Colleges can achieve diversity without having segregated housing. Furthermore, there is nothing to indicate that the student was accepted over "similarly qualified" students merely on account of race.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 08:30 am: Edit

I don't think the dorm is restricted to black students, which makes it NOT racially segregated (or apartheid housing, as someone said). I assume it is, like most colleges with theme housing, for students interested in a particular area (in this case, Afro-American studies, black culture, etc.).

To the OP -- if your friend is not happy w/her housing assignment, she needs to contact the university (e-mail or phone call is fine) and work it out. If she doesn't want her mother involved, that's fine.

Also, I don't understand whether she was asked to rank ALL housing by order of preference, or give her top 5 choices, and this was the last of her top 5. If the latter, then she did make a mistake, although that doesn't mean she can't try to get it fixed.

By Garland (Garland) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 08:42 am: Edit

I agree with Marite...no reason for those assumptions.

I think it's also too late for letters; especially as it's Friday already. she needs to make phone calls NOW, following Cheers' advice except for the apologizing part--it's not her fault if this was on her list if she had to rank them all.

She needs to be polite but FIRM, in pointing out she feels discriminated against because of her race. She should have the same options as a similarly placed student of another race.

As a last resort, she could suggest this might necessitate a letter to the college newspaper (actually, a well-written essay on this might make it onto some major op-ed pages.) Obviously that's not what she wants, but it's also not what Stanford wants either.

I disagree that she picked the wrong school; many selective schools have optional housing. There was no way she could know the "optional" part would be eliminated by them, and I have a feeling they'll rectify it if she presents her feelings forcefully.

I also think she should be firm about it being changed before the semester starts--this is when she needs to be in the freshman dorm, not next semester.

It would definitely be easier if she could enlist the help of her mother--this is tough for an 18 year old, as has been said.

By Jenniferpa (Jenniferpa) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 08:57 am: Edit

Has anyone looked at the Stanford "Hows and Whys of the Housing Draw"? This has to be the MOST confusing description of how they assign anyone to housing. What with preferences, assignable pool amd priorites (hard and soft) I'd be amazed if anyone knows why they end up anywhere. Here's the link http://www.stanford.edu/dept/hds/has/drawdoc/drawdoc.html

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 08:59 am: Edit

Garland -- unless the school has indicated in some way that she was selected to fill rooms in this house solely because of her race, I'd be careful about claiming racial discrimination.

I think the first step should be a phone call explaining that she would like to be in another dorm, and explain that she would prefer not be in the theme house. I don't think she needs to explain why, although if she indicated it as one of her top 5 preferences, then she should just say she didn't understand the form, made a mistake.

Fortunately Stanford doesn't start until mid-Sept so she has a little time to work this out w/the school.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 09:05 am: Edit

Garland, Stanford orientation begins Sept 20 (and they just sent out housing assignments) so it is not too late for letters although phone is fine too.

Stanford did ask them to list all housing in the order of prference. The dorm is definitely not restricted to black students (that would be illegal, I think!) but my guess is that it does have more African-Americans and Africans than other racial groups.

I agree with Garland, this situation is fixable if firm and timely actions are taken.

By Garland (Garland) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 09:07 am: Edit

My mistake: I didn't realize they start that late! (My S leaves next week, so my tunnel vision assumes everyones else does, too!

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 10:35 am: Edit

Thanks for all the advice.

Stanford gave a list of every option and told students to list them in order of preference. I think there were ten and this was at the bottom or near the bottom of her list, so 8th, 9th or 10th place. The other 2 people going from our school got into their 1st or 2nd choices, so it's not that there wasn't any space.

Pafather, my friend didn't get in because of her race. I doubt she benefitted much from affirmative action because as I noted, she is Trinidadian, not African American. What probably helped her more than anything else was that she's a female strong in math and science and wants to study chemical engineering.

The black dorm is open to anyone interested in black culture, but you can look at the pictures online and see that it is 99% black.

By Sybbie719 (Sybbie719) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 10:47 am: Edit

1. According to Stanford: Cross-cultural theme residences are thus similar to focus residences. However, a cross-cultural theme residence can also have non-ethnic-based priorities (like an ordinary theme residence), and these priorities are valid for all spaces in the residence (not just the spaces set aside for the ethnic group).

Consider the following example. Ujamaa is a cross-cultural theme residence with a total of six spaces. Three of these spaces are intended for members of a specific ethnic group; the other three will be filled without regard to ethnic status. It is not segregated housing.


2. The student was has asked to state her preferences for housing. She had a choice in the housing selection (we can correlate this to the college process) Why apply to live some place that if chosen, you will not want to live? We really do not who what has transpired and what number this student had in the housing draw, therefore can we really that she was "thrown" ther just because she is black if we cannot accurately manage the facts?

If her previous choices were filled when they got to her application, maybe the school felt they were still giving her one of her choices. At some level it seemed as it would have been damned if you do, damned if you don't.

While the housing assignment truly proved not to be her preference, what would have happened if another student reqested the same housing, was not given their preference onl to find that there was indeed space available?

3. Pet peeve here: "She wanted an all freshman dorm and although she is black, she is from Trinidad and not African American so the "culture" the House is trying to promote is not her own anyway".
First of all I am not trying t get into a debate but I am just throwing it out here because I am just curious. When she applied did check state that she was African American? It seems almost like a double standard.

Overall, she has gotten good advice, if the Uujama house is not where she wants to live and depending on the housing policy, she should calmy state her case and ask to be reasigned.

By Sybbie719 (Sybbie719) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 10:49 am: Edit

Yes, Tropicana,

I realize there is a cross posting as I was typing my response as you were posting.

By Garland (Garland) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 11:02 am: Edit

"First of all I am not trying t get into a debate but I am just throwing it out here because I am just curious. When she applied did check state that she was African American? It seems almost like a double standard."

I don't quite get this point. My S checked white on his apps; didn't mean he wanted to be in a white-only dorm...

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 11:06 am: Edit

Jenniferpa, thanks for that link to the Stanford housing site. It helps put things in perspective. It appears to me that Tropicana's friend had a choice in filling out her housing form: she could either list specific housing/dorms that would be acceptable to her or to go for a generic placement (i.e., stating that she wanted a double in any coed dorm on campus). She did not choose generic placement she chose a list of specific places and by doing so said they would ALL be acceptable to her. The site also seems to say that listing a special interest residence on your preferences means that Stanford will give that preference over other housing choices because special interest housing needs to be filled with people who express an interest in the particular theme.

Therefore, I suspect She was not placed in the Uujama house at random BECAUSE she is African-American but because she said it was an acceptable choice to her. Preference for placement in Uujama house is given to African-American students who have requested it but if a student of ANY race had listed Uujama house, they could also have been placed there. It can't hurt to call the housing office and say she's changed her mind but she shouldn't be accusing Stanford of discrimination for a placement she herself said would be acceptable to her.

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 11:14 am: Edit

If it is simply a "Black theme house", I'm sure there would be plenty of white students who would be happy to move in.

I'd just call 'em. They don't want unhappy students, Black or white. (Though they especially don't want unhappy Black ones, given that they have trouble recruiting 'em to begin with.) There are always last-minute changes; folks who get ill and take a year off. Folks who just invented the latest Google and aren't coming this year. Folks called to do missionary work in Pago Pago. It will work out, provided she calmly but firmly makes her needs clear.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 11:27 am: Edit

Mini, Actually that is true. If you read all the links on the Stanford site it actually talks about Uujama house and says 3 of the six places in the house are reserved for African Americans but the remaining spaces are assigned based on the lottery numbers of people who request to be assigned to Uujama regardless of their race. So, it is not a residence RESTRICTED to African-Americans, but preference is given to African-Americans who request it which Tropicanna's friend did.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 11:32 am: Edit

Also, assignments for all students, even freshmen, are based on an assigned lottery number - so even though other friends of Tropicana's got their first or second choice, it doesn't mean that everyone did --- it sounds to me like Stanford made an effort to give her friend ONE of the choices on her preference list. Perhaps she had a low lottery number so she didn't get her first choice but one at the end of her list. The point is, the house WAS on her list of preferences (she could have left it off or requested generic placement) Again, a quick and calm phone call saying she has changed her mind and does not want Uujama to be on her list of preferences may result in a change but it doesn't mean she will get moved into her first choice.

By Garland (Garland) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 11:35 am: Edit

From the STandford housing website sited above which we are all using to figure out how she made her choices:

" Freshmen and transfers are assigned using a completely different system that will not be described here."

I think we need to see the "freshman" rubric before we comment on her choices.

By Garland (Garland) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 11:44 am: Edit

On the freshman housing form, it does ask to state "no Preference" or rate all. If she chose "no preference" that would mean she couldn't ask for a freshman-only dorm, which she prefered. She did indeed have to rate all choices in order to do that, and three of the choices were ethnic-themed houses, so to put this particular one eighth in no way meant she wanted an ethnic-themed dorm; she had to rank at least one of them eighth or higher.

I really don't see from this procedure how she could have expected this outcome. Sixty percent of freshman get their first choice; it's a little suspicious that she gets her eighth.

I'm having trouble seeing why anyone thinks that she in any way asked for this outcome.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:03 pm: Edit

Garland: They told her why she was assigned to the segregated dorm. They don't have enough interest in segregated housing to fill the rooms.

So rather than draw the kind of rational intelligent conclusion one would expect from brilliant Stanford minds ("If the students don't want segregated housing, maybe we should abolish it"), the "pointy-headed" academics force black freshmen into segregated housing against their wishes to fill the beds.

By Newnudad (Newnudad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:18 pm: Edit

Tropicana - Call. ASAP. Explain the situation...Let someone know how you feel...Ask them for their help... Most people will do what they can to help someone in trouble IMO.
Stanford has a world-class rep, so I am thinking that they will do anything and everything possible to placate you. I will make the call for you if you like, but I am sure you can handle it.

Give it a try!

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:27 pm: Edit

Carolyn
Jenniferpa has posted a link which shows assignment system. Here is a link to the actual form students were asked to fill. Look at the form no. 9 (page 83). This was the form this student filled out. It does ask students to list specific choices.

http://approaching.stanford.edu/pdf/APSU2004.pdf

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:30 pm: Edit

>>>It is not segregated housing.

Why is it called a "black concentration dorm", then? Of course it is segregated, because most of the people living there are black, so it keeps the races separate, which is exactly what segregation is.

>>>Why apply to live some place that if chosen, you will not want to live?

She didn't. She had to rank all the choices and put this one at or near the bottom.

>>>>If her previous choices were filled when they got to her application, maybe the school felt they were still giving her one of her choices.

No way were all the choices filled.

>>>When she applied did check state that she was African American? It seems almost like a double standard.

No!! I've said already that she's from Trinidad.

>>>>>>She did not choose generic placement she chose a list of specific places and by doing so said they would ALL be acceptable to her.....Therefore, I suspect She was not placed in the Uujama house at random BECAUSE she is African-American but because she said it was an acceptable choice to her.

If she had said she had no preference, she could have been put there anyway. She chose to rank the choices so that she wouldn't get put in her bottom choice. If you're given a list of choices, some desirable and some not and you can either have no preference or rank them and hope that (like the vast majority of others) you don't get the bottom of the list, what would you do? Listing the choices and placing this one at the bottom doesn't really indicate it was acceptable to her.

I don't think this is what happened or she knew this was what happened. The form asks to rank all the choices.

>>>>>It can't hurt to call the housing office and say she's changed her mind but she shouldn't be accusing Stanford of discrimination for a placement she herself said would be acceptable to her.

That's definitely not what she indicated.

>>>>>>>So, it is not a residence RESTRICTED to African-Americans, but preference is given to African-Americans who request it which Tropicanna's friend did.

No, she didn't.

>>>>>Also, assignments for all students, even freshmen, are based on an assigned lottery number - so even though other friends of Tropicana's got their first or second choice, it doesn't mean that everyone did --- it sounds to me like Stanford made an effort to give her friend ONE of the choices on her preference list.

How did they make an effort when they said the reason they put her there was because there was not enough interest in Ujaama? Most people actually get their first, second or third choices. A VAST majority would get their first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or even sixth choice, don't you think?

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:31 pm: Edit

>> P.S. Interesteddad, theme houses were set up at one point in time in response to student demands. Maybe their time is past but they are a result of universities trying to do the right thing.

Believe me, I know the origins of segregated housing on elite college campuses. I enrolled in an elite New England college in 1971, in part because I wanted to be a part of an inclusive, integrated community.

I was dismayed when the college instituted segregated housing for black students. To be perfectly blunt about it, I don't see any philosophical difference between racially segregated housing and racially segregated schools. Arguing that black students would be "more comfortable" in all-black segregated dorms is PRECISELY the "logic" espoused by George Wallace in justifying racially segregated schools in Alabama. I despised George Wallace's racism with every bone in my body. I'm not going to turn around and accept the same arguements, just because the people espousing racism have fancy degrees and self-proclaim themselves to be liberal.

The intellectual dishonesty of the elite academic community drives me up the wall. How can you argue for "multiculturism" and "diversity" and then turn around and segregate your campus by race? It defeats the whole purpose.

They know it's intellectually dishonest. That's why they come up with a politcally correct euphemism, "theme housing". Baloney. Racially segregated housing is racially segregated housing. Imagine if Martin Luther King, Jr. had accepted that it was OK to ride in a "theme section" of the bus or to drink from "theme water fountains" or to attend "theme high schools"?

A handful of colleges recognized the hypocricy and refused the demands of their Black Student Unions for racially-segregated housing in the 60's and 70's. More (Harvard, for example), fell into the trap, but later realized the negative impact of segregated housing and abolished it.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:36 pm: Edit

>>>>Jenniferpa has posted a link which shows assignment system. Here is a link to the actual form students were asked to fill. Look at the form no. 9 (page 83). This was the form this student filled out. It does ask students to list specific choices.


Thank you for posting that. I think some people think my friend listed this as one of her top choices and suddenly changed her mind. This is not the case, because she stayed there during the admit program and knew she didn't want it. If she had listed no preference, they would have randomly assigned her and she could have ended up in one she didn't want, anyway. The form even says that #10 should be the "last choice" so obviously this doesn't indicate what's acceptable. I don't understand how by ranking them, you indicate that ALL are acceptable. She definitely did not request the housing.

It seems that by checking "no preference" you'd be saying they're all OK, but by ranking, you show which ones you really don't want. Stanford understands this and there's no way all other choices were filled when 60% get their first choice. There wasn't enough interest in the house, so they started putting black people in who didn't want to be there.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:38 pm: Edit

>> It's not the university as a whole she has a problem with, just this one aspect. She loves Stanford and is going halfway across the country to go there, and doesn't have a problem with the school as an academic institution.

I don't believe that you can separate the many facets that add up to define a school. The college experience includes learning about the world and its people in many, many ways, academics being just a small part of the overall experience.

For example, my daughter strongly believes in a co-ed college experience. So, no matter how excellent the "academics" may be at Wellesley, she couldn't choose Wellesley.

If living in non-segregated dorms is important to a student (and it clearly is to your friend), then a college with a policy of racially segregated housing isn't an appropriate choice -- no matter how well-respected the academics.

This is a sermon that I preach here often. When selecting colleges, forget the academic rankings. Look at the big picture and choose colleges that are a good fit for an individual student.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:40 pm: Edit

Interesteddad, your point is well taken and deserves a thread of its own. You may find many agreements and disagreements. It just seems overly harsh towards an 18 year old to tell her "you deserved this, you did not think about it before applying to Stanford that of the incoming class of 1200 you might be one of the 3 assigned to Ujaama house."

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:44 pm: Edit

Interesteddad -- you obviously have a big beef with ethnic theme housing. I'm not sure why you are so down on a theme house which would house 3-6 black students, with the rest of Stanford's black students living in dorms w/everyone else. That is hardly segregating the campus by race.

The fact is that most dorms are majority white (or at Stanford maybe majority Asian).

and there's a big difference between a black student who chooses to live in a house where s/he knows there will be other black students than mandatory racial segregation where the student would have no choice (or "theme buses," etc). I'm surprised that you cannot see any difference between the two.

By Candi1657 (Candi1657) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:52 pm: Edit

I agree concerning the negative impact of racially/ethnically-themed housing. If you go to the Stanford board, you will also see a post concerning this, on which an Asian student bemoaned being placed in Okada house as opposed to an all-frosh dorm.

I think Tropicanabanana's friend is even in more awkward of a position by virtue of the fact that she is Trinidadian, and Carribean-American culture is very different, yet she is still lumped in with African-Americans in regards to housing. It is an insensitive and foolish premise that melds together a race from all different cultures and backgrounds, because they are inherently saying that that all members of that race automatically share those cultural commonalities.

Not too long ago, I attended Cornell's "Diversity Weekend" for admitted students. I was automatically assigned to the "black-themed" house, which ironically was also named Ujaama (so much for originality). I think (but am not sure), that one has to put in a special application for such housing, which I find much less offensive. I did take issue with the fact, however, that as an admitted student surveying the school for possible matriculation, that I didn't have a choice. While I had a very thoughtful, intelligent, and kind hostess, I couldn't help but be very disappointed. Although it was only a weekend, I wanted to be able to experience Cornellians from across the spectrum, and I felt robbed of that experience. Overall, there were a couple of incidents that factored into my decision not to attend Cornell, but I can't say that this experience help to cast the Weekend in a better light.

However, I don't agree with the idea that Tropicanabanana's friend was "asking for it", by attending a school with such housing. Particularly if alternate housing could be requested, I don't think I would turn down the university of my choice for that one negative aspect. I don't believe she foresaw this occurrence, and I don't believe I would have either.

Racially-themed housing is counterintuitive to what universities state is their goal in promoting diversity-to have each and every one of their students to become personally enriched by others from different backgrounds and cultures.

By Swbutterfly9 (Swbutterfly9) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:55 pm: Edit

Tropicanabana, if your best friend is relying on you to resolve her problem, is posting on CC really the best you can do for her? Carolyn, Newnudad and Cheers have offered constructive analysis and/or advice. Many of the other posts are thinly-disguised affirmative action rants or race-baiting. Do us all a favor and pull the plug on this thread. If your best friend was smart enough to get into Stanford, she should be able to work her way through this.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 12:59 pm: Edit

Candi -- I agree with you that admitted students weekends, etc., should not be "segregated," as the one you describe was, because it does not give you a full experience. And as in your case, it can work against the school. But I don't think that is the same as having a residence with 3-6 spots for black students IF they choose to live there (and allowing any student to apply to live there).

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:00 pm: Edit

"Racially-themed housing is counterintuitive to what universities state is their goal in promoting diversity-to have each and every one of their students to become personally enriched by others from different backgrounds and cultures."

Well said.

(An oddity is that last year Amherst offered to fly my older d. in for its "diversity weekend". Only thing is, she is "Mongol-Semitic". Maybe she should have gone. Meanwhile my other daughter is "Caucasian" - Gujarati to be exact. She is not likely to receive such an invitation...)

By Candi1657 (Candi1657) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:02 pm: Edit

Rhonda63, your points are well taken and I edited my post to make that distinction.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:07 pm: Edit

Mini, sorry U.S. Vs. Thind (1923) decrees that Indians are not caucasians (not trying to start another flame here.) But you are right about her not getting an invitation in any case..

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:12 pm: Edit

I was trying to be overly harsh for rhetorical purposes.

Actually, I don't blame the student. I think it's a bit unfair to expect a 17 year old high school student to consider "big picture" items for a college experience that they have not yet lived. I believe that parents have the responsibility to raise issues for consideration in the college selection process.

To me, the single biggest issue is the policies set by the school and the mentality of the people making those policies. For example, my daughter's school made the decision to dump their football program. From that, it is very clear that the people setting the policies at the school don't value varsity atheletics as highly as the policy-makers at other schools. That's big picture stuff.

Likewise, my daughter knew, up front, that the policy makers at her school steadfastly refuse to allow segregated housing. So, if living in a segregated dorm were important to my daughter, or to our "family values", then this would have clearly been the wrong school for her. Dorm living is clearly a "big picture" item. In all likelihood, a mindset that gives segregated housing major emphasis is going to have a wide range of policies that may impact the day-to-day college experience.

Do you agree with the school's mindset? If not, then you probably should scratch it off your list. Personally, I would view a school that places a black student in segregated housing, depsite the student's explicit preference to live in a racially-mixed dorm is a school that is far more interested in espousing an agenda than in meeting the individual needs of its students.

I was being intentionally harsh in the hope that this year's group of students and parents would back away from the academic ranking lists for a moment and spend some time looking at the big picture items. What makes a particular school tick? Is it really a good fit?

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:18 pm: Edit

So some legal code of 1923 determines race (that's a hoot!) Actually, what we are really looking at is how close in line one is to the Queen of England. Surprising, my Gujarati d. is likely much closer than my Mongol-Semitic one (who is most surely classified as "Caucasian".)

Anyway, daughter #2 is not a "scholar-athlete", just an "athlete". Amherst wouldn't want her. And she thinks that anyone who would even consider attending a northeast LAC is seriously "sick".

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:26 pm: Edit

Interesteddad's point is well-taken, even if expressed overly harshly. There is a wonderful book by a dean at Harvard about "what matters at college" (name escapes me, but it was recommended by "Thoughtfulmom"), based on survey data and in-depth interviews that found that diversity in the housing setup, even to the point of suite mates, was one of the single most important positive aspects of the college experience, academically and otherwise. And this view was equally expressed by folks of different races.

And I think it IS an academic issue. It affects conversations, study buddies, exposure to wider arrays of experience. I also happen to think that first-year ghettos are a terrible idea as well; while they may induce class solidarity, they limit daily contact with potential academic role models. You end up with the blind leading the blind.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:28 pm: Edit

Interesteddad, like you I find segregated housing appalling. My own alma mater, Brown, which is known for being progressive, has some housing based on "affinity groups," which include ethnic and racial classifications. When the university admin suggested, after an exhaustive study, that residential clusters (resembling the residential colleges and houses at HYP and elsewhere) be introduced, the students insisted that this was totally against the Brown ethos. I am not happy about this.

However, I don't think there is a college in the world today that anyone would find to be perfect. I have certainly taught my own kids that when they go to an elite school they will encounter many of the challenges that face our country as a whole, and they will have an opportunity to learn to deal with them and act on their own values and principles to create change.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:30 pm: Edit

Mini -- you are right that anthropologically South Asians are considered Caucasian.

I'm not going to chime in on the main topic anymore -- suffice to say I think the issue is being blown out of proportion by a few here in order to perpetuate their personal agendas.

By Skyhawk (Skyhawk) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:37 pm: Edit

I agree with the previous post. This thread has worn itself out so I am closing it. Moderator Skyhawk


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