A Worthy Trade

by Matt Soriano | 1/28/03 6:00am

Contrary to the national trend, diversity seems to be the exact opposite of the College's preferences over the last few months. According to them, the college budget can't support diversity in athletic activities. We can't afford diversity in social activities -- the cataclysmic battle between the Greek system and Wright's "solitary learners" occasionally makes national news, which is bad for our U.S. News ranking. Yet at Dartmouth and around the nation, diversity in race seems to be the proper type of diversity for which to strive. It's a hot button, a racially charged topic that the University of Michigan's admissions department has chosen to address by weighting minority status six times as much as a good essay, five times as much as outstanding community service, and 66 percent more than a perfect SAT score.

At minimum, an under-represented minority has 12 percent more admissions points than the representatives of the white male plutocracy that has cruelly oppressed non-Europeans the world over. In most situations he/she/they will have 20 percent or more points. Even George W. Bush's claim to Yale's fame -- his alumni connection -- would only have given him, ceteris paribus, two percent more points than he would have gained if the 41st president had been a Husky instead of a Bulldog.

We can all see the utility in this. "Diversity" as it exists at Dartmouth confers upon us the unique opportunity toassociate only with members of our own homogenous groups in "affinity housing", "separate but equal" tables at Food Court, and a wide range of Balkanizing organizations like La Alianza, the Dartmouth Asian Organization, and AfriCaSO. God forbid that we develop beyond our national origin and genetic heritage. Individualism was so 20th century.

In 2045 -- if the world has survived the very diverse threat of Islamic fundamentalism, the AIDS scourge in Africa and Christina Aguilera's "Dirty" video -- I plan to write a book about my ascendancy to the highest echelons of American society. From the senior's point of view, it doesn't look like this best-selling volume will credit Providence for the privilege of having to spend my parents' and the alumni's hard-earned money on the pursuit of diversity. I've been compiling a list, and I've been thinking about where exactly to credit diversity. As of now it's right down there with such worthy Dartmouth hallmarks as the presence of vending machines in dormitories, the reliable snow-removal service on campus and our conveniently located student parking lot half a mile away for which we pay $50 per term to trudge out to.

On further introspection, it's hard to imagine what I'd give up in exchange for the vending machines, snow-removal and parking lot. How many Saturday nights have I sat down with Chinese food and plugged myself in the forehead for forgetting to buy a drink? Will the multi-racial leaders of tomorrow suddenly materialize me a Barq's root beer to go with my bean curd and black bean sauce? Diversity could never substitute for the supply 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, all-weather carbohydrates that are important to college students in need of nutritious Life Savers and potato chips.

Indeed, will the same find me a place to park my car without our beloved A-lot? Perish the thought! Despite all our kvetching, without A-lot Hanover would be carpeted in expensive SUVs pouncing for any advantage in the Darwinian hunt for a parking space. Perhaps diversity in some respects would be preserved if we lost A-lot: A Ford Explorer's brush guard is entirely nondiscriminatory in the damage it inflicts on a hip or knee.

I would estimate that diversity isn't a suitable substitute for snow removal service either. When I trip and fall in the snow, I don't reflect on how wonderful it is that I have a chance that an African-American could help me up. Nor will I contemplate the rich racial tapestry of distinctive smells coming from 130 pairs of wet, disgusting boots drying on radiators. Truly our noses are blessed by FO&M's army of plows and shovels.

I will inevitably be crisped in the flames of vitriolic email from Dartmouth's left-wing "No Humor Brigade," so I'd like to speak clearly in conclusion. This column was hyperbolic in the extreme, which reflects about 80 percent of my particular style of writing and 20 percent of my personal views. Personally, I do not care about race. Diversity -- the pursuit of which is admirable -- is orders of magnitude greater at the individual scale, which is totally independent of ethnicity. I don't think that ethnicity covers any difference that can't be made up for in personal integrity. I think it is small-minded in the extreme to "right historical wrongs" at the cost of a race-blind admissions process. The bottom line is that assigning value to parentage is too much, in my mind, like the feudal system we fought a revolution to escape.