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A Sign of the Times

A Sign of the Times    

The second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark rulings in the University of Michigan’s Grutter v. Bollinger and the Gratz v. Bollinger affirmative action cases provides the backdrop of this year’s Top 100 graduate school edition. Reports from senior writer Ronald Roach and assistant editor Kendra Hamilton document the changes that graduate school pipeline programs are having to make in order to avoid legal challenges.

In July 2001, Ronald profiled the Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship Program, which had become one of the premier pipelines for producing minority doctorates. Fast forward to 2005 and he is once again reporting on the Mellon program — but for different reasons.

Previously, colleges, universities and foundations such as Mellon and Ford worked hard to attract and support under-represented minorities in graduate school. But due to the activism of opponents of race-conscious affirmative action, such as the Sterling, Va.-based Center for Equal Opportunity, and the actions of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, dozens of institutions have either modified or dropped their specially targeted scholarships and academic enrichment programs. In “Affirmative Action Fallout,” Ronald writes that the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund officials have raised strong objections to what they perceive as OCR’s attempt to shut down the use of race-conscious measures despite the Supreme Court’s affirmation of them in the 2003 cases.

When one surveys the Top 100 graduate schools of master’s and doctoral degrees conferred to Black, Hispanic and American Indians it becomes quite clear why these targeted programs were created in the first place. Representation by these groups in disciplines and professional fields across the board remain quite low even after four decades of affirmative action. That programs designed to provide financial, academic and social support for under-represented minorities in graduate education are under pressure to accept students from well-represented groups is causing alarm among those who have worked hard to have minority access broadened.

While private efforts such as those of the Ford Foundation and the Mellon Foundation will continue to be somewhat effective at attracting and supporting under-represented minorities to enter the professoriate, the concern is that they will produce fewer Ph.D.s of color than when they previously targeted specific under-represented groups. The low production of masters, Ph.D.s and M.D.s by Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields only increases the dilemma for a nation that is fighting to remain competitive as a world power in those fields.

Lydia Lum’s “Careers in the Classics” provides a fascinating look at how Black scholars have been making unique contributions with teaching and research in the classics. From groundbreaking research by the University of Chicago’s Dr. Danielle Allen, Penn State’s Dr. Leah Johnson and Duke University’s Dr. Grant Parker (all Black Issues Emerging Scholars) to inspiring teaching by Purdue University’s Dr. Patrice Rankine, African-Americans continue a defiance to naysayers that dates back to the 1800s when Black scholars first achieved prominence in the field over the relevancy of the classics.

What’s needed by Americans overall is a more thorough comprehension of how the classics — the ancient Greek and Latin languages and literature as well as history and philosophy from those ancient cultures — is an important field of study for understanding Western society in the modern world. Having an intellectual affinity for and connection to the ancient world is not something that Americans need dismiss as esoteric or trivial. As these scholars demonstrate, an education in the classics would reveal how ideas and discoveries from the ancient Greek and Roman societies are vitally alive today.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

© Copyright 2005 by

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