Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm glad it's free.

I mentioned in passing when I was talking about Paul Schmitt last week that there were bigger race issues at U of I than the Chief. Specifically, I think I mentioned the fact that the University is overwhelmingly white and suburban.

Some numbers by way of illustration. 6% of the students at UIUC are black, compared to 15.1% of the population of Illinois. 6% of students are Latino, compared to 14.3% statewide. The only overrepresented non-white group would be Asians, 11.0% of students are Asian, compared to 4.1% statewide. For completeness' sake, non-Hispanic White students make up 76.74% of the University's population*, compared to 65.8% statewide. (Sources: U of I's own Facts 2007: Illinois by the Numbers and the Census Bureau).

So, with the numbers out of the way and hopefully sticking in the back of your mind somewhere, I can tell you what brought this up. A column by an Illinois Student Senate member in the DI, which said, basically, that U of I is hostile towards minority students, and suggested that we make it better. So far, so good. Personally, I'd like to see the University do more to get downstate kids here, too, but that's my ax to grind**. Where she leaves the rails a bit is in first getting overly histrionic, talking about individual acts of hostility***, and then suggesting the university do more to control these, which raises the specter of speech codes, which are beyond worthless.

The problem with discussing racism at UIUC is threefold.
1.) It all comes back to the Chief. The first comment on this column? Mr. Paul D. Schmitt, talking about the author's support for taking the Chief out of homecoming, and citing the well-worn statistic that 70% of campus is pro-Chief. It would be nice to have a discussion where we could talk about race without bringing up our favorite member of the Village people.
2.) Affirmative Action. Probably (just making a back-of-the-envelope guess here) 80% of the comments were about affirmative action, with the attendant cries of "but unqualified blacks and Hispanics are taking away spots from qualified candidates (of any color)"**** and complaints about lowered standards. One poster made a particularly charming comment about "
Let?s not even start on how many scholarships are going to these folks who urinate them down the drain." [sic] It's always a wonderful thing when people get together for a free exchange of ideas, isn't it?
3.)And, because UIUC is so disproportionately Asian, someone is bound to bring up the model minority myth. Several times. In this case, it was formed as "why do you want to sabotage your own race by letting less qualified people in." Especially lovely.

So, that's today's DI roundup. Stay tuned next time, when I remember again why I'm glad it's free.

*This is down from my freshman year, when non-Hispanic Whites made up 79 and a bit percent.
**I couldn't find a by-county or by-region breakdown of enrollment, but I don't see a lot of downstate kids here, and the ones I do know were doing FWS jobs with me.
***Which are unfortunate, and do contribute to a hostile environment, but focusing on them lets people say "oh, some hicks are so rude" and ignore the structural inequalities that are still as strong as ever.
****That one confused me. I mean, most Americans recognize what, 4 races, and two of them are black and Hispanic* so, that seems to me to be a really inept way of saying "taking spots from white people.
* please don't remind me that Hispanic is not a race. It seems to be recognized as such, so I'm treating it as such, kthxbye.

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