October 28, 2003

Dean's Advisory Council addresses diversity issues

In its next meeting, the Dean's Advisory Council seeks to tackle the issue of diversity in the college experience. Admittedly, this is an issue heavily discussed and well represented in administration-student relations, but the council hopes to approach the issue on more unusual fronts.

Primarily, as we work most directly with the Dean of Students and the College advisers, we invite students of all backgrounds to send us any experiences that they believe relate to academic advising, student/faculty/department relations, race, or college administration.

Our next question stems from the discussions of the students on the council.

Foremost was the recognition of our own lack of knowledge and participation in these issues. Among our eight student members, there are four students of color but only one student actively involved in (or even well informed about) campus minority groups. Unfortunately, however, we believe that this ratio is all too representative of the student body at large.

Thus, we are pursuing the question of how those outside of minority groups view campus racial issues and what is being done, by both students and offices of the University, to inform and involve the majority of students in racial and ethnic issues on campus. In particular, we are interested in where dialogue that is designed to include white and racially apathetic students is, or should be, taking place. Although some students, and perhaps a majority, simply do not care about these issues and cannot be inspired to take part in their discussion, we believe that a significant number would be but are simply not aware of what is going on.

On this point, we invite all students, from those who are committed members of minority groups to those who are considering such issues for the first time, to write us with their plans or thoughts.

Comments should be sent to dac@listhost.uchicago.edu. Please include your name, year, and concentration. Mail will be read by Brittany Ann Simmons and myself, and it will be contributed anonymously to the council's discussions.

Recap: Last week, the Dean's Advisory Council met and discussed the summer—students' expectations and jobs, and how they got them. The results of the conversation that I report here are unusually pedantic and I promise that future articles will be more interesting.

Our prime finding was that possibly the greatest obstacle for students are their attitudes towards the personal networking necessary in the job search process.

Simply put, students on the council feel that we are encouraged to "develop" relationships that can lead to letters of recommendation or references from our first days in the College. Many students, finding this process inauthentic and intimidating, neglect it and suffer. The reality, according to the deans and advisers, is that students need to realize that this the way the world works.

Faculty, supervisors, and adults of every shade have had the same needs and expect them from the current generation of students. Similarly, the council recognized that an attitude of idealizing meritocracy common among many Chicago students interferes deeply with our willingness to form and use the sort of "network" that is a mainstay in the world of elite private schools and their alumni. According to one member of the adviser side, however, "Hiring and getting a job is not a meritocracy." Students need to make use of every advantage they can.