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November 12, 2003

Busting Caps

UNC submitted what it thought was a fairly innocuous proposal to raise the current cap on out of state submissions from 18 to 22% of an incoming freshman class, and found it had kicked over a hornet's nest.

The proposal, pushed by UNC-Chapel Hill, has sparked outrage among many state taxpayers who want their sons and daughters to have a shot at admission to the university. Opponents fear that more out-of-state students would hurt the chances of in-state students, although UNC-CH officials have insisted that they want to increase the numbers of both groups.

Wilson said he had received more e-mail messages and letters on this issue than any other during his six-year tenure on the board. Most correspondence is from the western part of the state, he said, particularly the Asheville area.

"It's overwhelmingly in opposition to any liberalization to the cap," Wilson said.

Sen. Richard Stevens, a Republican from Wake County and former UNC-CH trustee, said his mailbox has been full of dissent about the plan, too.

"All of my mail -- 100 percent of the e-mail, letters and phone calls from constituents -- has been against this increase, consistently," he said last week. "The only folks who have really been for [allowing more out-of-state students in] have been associated with the university in one way or another."

Now, far be it from me to adhere to the nativist line here, but the reasoning behind the plan was flawed from the beginning. The idea was to increase the intellectual diversity on the student body, as if the only in-state intellects available to UNC were devoted to studies of Nascar and tobacco, when in fact all those guys go to State anyway.

It also ignores the fact that the population of North Carolina, especially in the Charlotte/Triad/Triangle areas supplying most of the UNC student body, is among the most diverse in the nation, especially since the tech boom of the 1990's.

And how, exactly, does one measure intellectual diversity? If it's by grades and SAT scores, then perhaps UNC ought to send a few more recruiters 8 miles down the road, to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a school devoted to educating the gifted and talented whose student body is composed entirely of the children of North Carolina citizens. (Full disclosure: I attended NCSSM in its formative years, and was kicked out due to my preference for making out as opposed to studying for calculus exams. Any school that won't have me can't be all bad.)

I'm not sure what "intellectual diversity" is code for, since even if no out of state students were admitted that measure of campus quality would not decline, unless UNC is admitting that it can't compete with other colleges for the best students in the state. Possibly it means something along the lines of "we need more accents round here," but if so then the holders of those sentiments have obviously never seen a Raleigh debutante, a first generation Pakistani and a Hoi Toider reading Chaucer in the original Middle English.

Oddly enough, the two towns encompassing UNC, Chapel Hill and Carrboro, are famous for their intellectual diversity, yet are two of the least racially diverse in the state. The population of Chapel Hill is 77% honky, and "bohemian" Carrboro is 72% Caucasoid. In fact, the only major cities in the state with an equal or higher percentage of people who can't keep the beat are Asheville, which ties Chapel Hill, and Cary, where a whopping 82% of the population is composed of the easily sunburned.

So, wouldn't a proposal to increase the "intellectual diversity" at the UNC campus end up further marginalizing the racial minorities on the campus and in each town? Would the intellectual diversity of a white out of state student trump the racial diversity a black in state student with lower scores?

The whole problem with setting "diversity" of any type as a goal is that it unfairly excludes those who would otherwise qualify.

If intellectual diversity is the goal, then UNC should define what it thinks of as the minimum requirements to meet that goal for each incoming class, take all the in-state students meeting said requirements, then accept an out-of-state student for every remaining slot.

My quess is that would cap out of state entrants at about 5%, if that much. It wouldn't do much for UNC in the annual college rankings, as if that was something we should care about, but it would guarantee a better education for the children of the taxpayers of the state that has supported it for over 200 years.

Of course, such a program would be "intellectual diversity" in name only. It would actually hearken back to a term much less used in today's educational discussions.

"Merit."

Posted by Bigwig at November 12, 2003 05:47 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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Comments

Hear! Hear!
or is it Hear here?

Posted by: Indigo at November 12, 2003 07:45 PM
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