Letters to the Editors
Race-based admissions can hurt diversity
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 5, 2001
Re: University chief says Talented 20 has "fatal flaw," March 22.
It's ironic that just as the ink was drying on your article, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman was preparing to rule that the University of Michigan law school's admissions standards are unconstitutional because they use race as a factor in judging applicants. Because of the ruling, Michigan now faces a tragic yet completely avoidable dilemma: Michigan's law school must now abruptly eliminate race as a factor in admissions, putting the diversity of its law school student body at great risk.
The perversity of the University of Michigan's admissions policies was uncovered by 60 Minutes' reporter Ed Bradley in a report last October. According to the report, the University of Michigan uses a point system in its undergraduate admissions process: A perfect SAT score is worth 12 points, an outstanding essay is worth one point and being a minority is worth 20 points. Therefore, according to the University of Michigan, a non-minority student with a perfect SAT score and an "outstanding" personal essay is 35 percent less worthy of admission than a minority student without those accomplishments. Does University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger truly believe that such an admissions process is fair to either the minority student or the non-minority student?
Bollinger is perfectly entitled to pledge enthusiastic allegiance to the belief that use of skin color as an admissions factor is the sole and exclusive method for achieving diversity in higher education. However, the March 27 ruling is proof positive that, among other deficiencies, such allegiance threatens to harm the educational opportunities of students from minority backgrounds.
Anticipating that such a ruling might leave Florida's universities with no sound alternatives for promoting diversity, I proposed the Talented 20 program and other outreach efforts to get more minority students into college classrooms. Despite not being fully implemented last year due to unsuccessful legal challenges, our efforts have already paid great dividends. Consider the following:
Minorities last year accounted for almost 40 percent of the new, first-time-in-college students whose race could be determined. Each of the 10 universities increased the percentage of its entering class that was African-American.
The rate of growth for minority students at Florida State University and the University of Florida far outstripped overall university-system growth and the growth of white students.
Once our Talented 20 program and our other efforts have a chance to realize their full potential over time, I am confident that our approach to diversity can provide equality of opportunity in a way that is fundamentally fair to students of every race and ethnic background.
Baker took the right approach to race
Re: Baker's ace was city's too familiar race card, March 29.
In her apparently bitter frame of mind, Mary Jo Melone accused St. Petersburg's newly elected mayor of playing the "race card." In reality, however, Rick Baker courageously and frankly acknowledged the fragility of race relations in St. Petersburg and exhibited a keen sensitivity to the concerns of African-American voters.
On the other hand, his defeated opponent, Kathleen Ford, spent the greater part of her term as a council member vehemently denigrating police Chief Goliath Davis. Social scientists agree that to deny the existence of racism helps perpetuate the evil of it.
Furthermore, Ford seems not to understand that most African-Americans who overcome racial barriers to become "firsts" in any field of endeavor heretofore denied them attain "hero" status in their communities. Chief Davis is no exception. Though he comes with impeccable credentials -- a lifetime of unblemished service in law enforcement and a doctorate in criminal science -- he became the target of vicious and unfounded criticism from Ford. I wonder just what sort of "negotiation" or "compromise" Mary Jo Melone refers to or would have approved. Perhaps a trade-off of "Go" Davis' job for Kathleen Ford's election?
I'm reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. He hoped for the day when black Americans would be judged not by the "color of their skin but by the content of their character." That day has not yet arrived, Ms. Melone.
Men's health forum deserved coverage
On Feb. 24, a wonderful event took place in the Tampa Bay community that was totally ignored by the mainstream print media. The Florida Cancer Education Network held its Second African-American Men's Health Forum at Hillsborough Community College's Dale Mabry campus. More than 1,000 men attended this forum, making it the largest men's health event in Central Florida. This event is important because it targets a segment of the population identified as high-risk and medically underserved and which suffers disproportionately from a number of major health issues.
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the No. 1 diagnosed (non-skin) cancer in our state, and this year it is estimated that 15,000 Floridians will be diagnosed and 2,400 men will die from it. African-American men have a 60 percent higher incidence rate and die at twice the rate of white males from prostate cancer. In addition to offering health education, 475 men were tested for prostate cancer and 51 had abnormal results. Why is this community so reluctant to talk about prostate problems and prostate cancer?
Much like breast cancer in the '70s, it is still not considered a subject for polite conversation. However, women have achieved legitimate support of their cause and, to this end, we find the media tripping over themselves to cover events to fight breast cancer and raise public awareness of the issue.
So what's the reason for this disparity? Partly it is because women have done a good job speaking up for themselves, but mostly it is that men have done a poor job. The tough-guy image endures. Boys don't cry, and men don't go to the doctor. There are various national studies that have shown that men are 25 percent less likely than women to visit a doctor and are much less likely to have regular checkups.
I can't help but wonder... if this same group of 1,200 people had come together to protest the governor's budget or the mayor's cultural arts district, they would have probably been featured on the front page of all our local newspapers.
Let the black view be published
Re: Author's estate sues to block black "Gone With the Wind," March 29.
The estate of the late Margaret Mitchell (who died in 1949) is suing to prevent the publication of The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall.
I think this would be a very important book on how African-Americans view the way they were portrayed in that era. The estate has had many years to benefit monetarily from Gone With the Wind and should not stand in the way of Randall's interpretation of the slaves' point of view.
Looking to avoid blame
Re: Parents win median verdict, March 31.
As I read this article, I was struck with the feeling that this is nothing more than a woman trying to quell her conscience over a tragedy involving her children. This certainly rang true with her statement: "Six totally objective people have exonerated me of any blame."
While blame was placed by the jury on the driver of the other vehicle, Hunter's Green and on the landscape company, has it been overlooked who was driving the vehicle containing the children? While driving an automobile, especially with others aboard, there is a responsibility to be very attentive to your surroundings and other vehicles.
I have been a Hunter's Green resident for 10 years and have made the turn from Bruce B. Downs into Hunter's Green hundreds of times. Although foliage is present in the median, the oncoming traffic can be seen -- and avoided.
I do not wish the tragedy that involved the Jackson family on anyone. I have a young son and can only imagine the pain and suffering this mother and father have endured. However, placing blame on others does not solve the problem. As in aviation, the old axiom, "see and be seen" certainly applies here.
Learn from watching the birds
Re: Feeding wildlife is a bad idea, letter, Feb. 20.
Regarding the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary personnel feeding pelicans on the beach, it is amazing that some so-called wildlife "experts" state opinions without having a thorough education regarding the birds' habits and behavior.
I have been actively observing and studying pelicans since 1972. The primary reason for the sanctuary's feeding of pelicans on the beach is to remove on a year-round basis fish hooks and line that would otherwise cost hundreds of birds their lives. Pelicans are going to congregate where people are fishing, and the pelicans and other seabirds see these fish as a potential meal. A cast-out bait or a fish being reeled in is a potential meal for a hungry pelican or other seabird. Also, in the wintertime, the pelicans' supply of fish becomes scarce, and so even if a bird wants to get its own fish, the fish are not always available. Thus, the birds get hungry and aggressive. These so-called bird "experts" do not realize that a hungry pelican cannot simply travel to the local grocery store for something to eat.
Furthermore, the overused statement that all pelicans fed by hand become freeloaders does not explain the observation that I have made where a pelican will accept free fish from a fisherman and then fly out and dive into a passing school of bait fish.
I once was sitting on a dock at John's Pass eating a hot dog when a huge great blue heron stood beside me and stared intensely at my meal. I offered the bird a small piece of my hot dog, and the so-called "experts" would not have believed what the heron did with it. (I wish I had had a video camera at that moment.) The bird took the meat, placed it in the shallow water and quietly stood by. As the small fish gathered around the meat, the heron simply picked and speared the fish it wanted from the smorgasbord. I wonder how the wildlife "experts" would explain that behavior. The heron certainly was not interested in the handout from me.
The best advice I can give is to observe the birds. They have a lot to teach us, unless we are too blind to see.
Tripping over one tongue
Re: Language is shared, along with befuddlement, March 29.
The comments by Susan Taylor Martin about the occasional difficulties in understanding what the English say bring to mind a quote attributed long ago to the superb Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. He described the English and the Americans by saying: "Two great peoples divided by a common language."
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