Proposition 209: Wrong for CA and Us
California's Proposition 209 bans any type of preference given on the basis of "race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." It essentially means that programs intended to aid in attaining diversity in governmentally-funded institutions will be eliminated. Programs designed to encourage girls to study for and pursue careers in math and science will be eliminated. Tax credits for woman- and minority-owned businesses will be illegal.
Scholarships for students from inner cities, where education is typically not viewed as a priority or a valuable tool, will be erased. It will be legal to discriminate on the basis of sex if considered "reasonably necessary." Women's centers, ethnic studies and women's studies programs will also be in danger. Magnet schools intended to desegregate school districts will no longer exist.
In an ideal world, I would be able to support Proposition 209. I would be able to say, "Affirmative action is unnecessary," that there would be no discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnicity, race, religion or sexual preference. We would not infer socioeconomic status from someone's clothing or base judgements on the homogeneity of their chromosomes. We would allow people to determine their own identity rather than pigeonhole them into the eight little boxes on government forms. But this is not an ideal world.
Proponents claim that Proposition 209 will eliminate the stigmatization of the beneficiaries of affirmative action, that the "playing field" will be leveled by its passage, that none of the "reverse discrimination" that has plagued predominantly white males in admissions and contracting will be allowed anymore.
I am a white male. Please enlighten me, because I just don't understand how my prep school, Dartmouth education, job opportunities, safe home, self-esteem and upbringing have been infringed upon by this "anti-white-male" policy. Maybe I slipped through the cracks, but 82 percent of the first-year class here is white, and the majority of students here are male. So most Dartmouth students cannot say that they are at a disadvantage because they were white, or male, or both.
One of the benefits of a Dartmouth education is the tremendous alumni support, the so-called "Old Boys Network." It's affirmative action for white males. Without government-sponsored forms of affirmative action, minorities and women might not have equal access and opportunity to jobs at McKinsey or IBM, spots at Harvard Law or Congressional seats.
Since we are a private institution in New Hampshire, you might say that Proposition 209 is outside our realm of concern. However, political analysts rightly say that California is a trend-setter in national politics. If a national policy were adopted based on Proposition 209, Dartmouth would feel its impact. Good-bye WISP and Women in Politics. Good-bye Women's Resource Center. Good-bye scholarships that allow disadvantaged students to attend Dartmouth. Good-bye fellowships that promote more women and minorities in scientific research. Good-bye Afro-American Society. Good-bye quality education.
It is frequently asserted by students that we learn more outside the classroom than inside the classroom. This is often due to the diversity of perspective that is presented in social or extracurricular situations. For example, an African-American woman does not just benefit our community by adding some color to the scenery during the winter. She is different from me in the way she is perceived and is therefore likely to be different from me in the way she perceives herself. As a result, her opinions may expose issues that are new to me. A discourse between us can only further educate us both. Therefore, I am a beneficiary of affirmative action. And so are you, whether you are white like me, or black like her, or orange, or green.
We must act affirmatively to end the need to base judgments on lines drawn around groups, and to eliminate those lines altogether. But until the people who make decisions in corporate boardrooms and admissions offices open their avenues of entrance and offer equality of access and opportunity, we need affirmative action.
I am denouncing my home state's abhorrent decision to pass 209. Perhaps the policies of affirmative action are not perfect. They probably wouldn't be needed anymore if they were. But the concept behind affirmative action is not only legitimate; it is an integral aspect of obtaining a quality education, which is clearly a value of every Dartmouth student. We can take a stand on this issue. The students can make a statement that affirmative action is valuable and must be maintained and the Administration support them.
There is a growing tendency toward taking responsibility for oneself and not one's community. Let's not be a part of that. Let's take responsibility for the community we call Dartmouth. Let's be a voice crying out in the wilderness.