Only five of the country’s universities, led by the University of the Philippines (UP), made it to this year’s list of top 300 Asian universities ranked by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).
This was the lowest number of Philippine universities to make the cut since QS began ranking universities in Asia in 2009.
Last year, 14 of the country’s own made it to the list of Asia’s top universities, according to QS.
There were 15 Philippine universities on the 2011 list, 18 in 2010 and 16 in 2009.
UP’s ranking went up by a notch—to 67th—in the 2013 QS University Rankings for Asia released on Tuesday.
It was ranked 68th last year, 62nd in 2011, 78th in 2010 and 63rd in 2009.
This year Ateneo de Manila University was ranked 109th, down from its 86th ranking last year.
The University of Santo Tomas (UST) was ranked 150th, compared to 148th last year.
De La Salle University was ranked in the 151-160th range, down from its 142nd rank last year.
The University of Southeastern Philippines remained in the 251-300 range, where it was last year.
UP, Ateneo, La Salle and UST have consistently made it to the QS list of top Asian universities since the rankings began in 2009.
Missed the cut
The nine Philippine universities that were on last year’s list but did not make the cut this year were Silliman University, Xavier University, Saint Louis University, University of San Carlos, Ateneo de Davao University, Adamson University, Central Mindanao University, Mapua Institute of Technology and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
They were in the 301-plus rank last year.
These universities were among the Philippine universities that were consistently included in the QS ranking since 2009.
QS ranks universities worldwide according to nine indicators, mainly based on reputation and research citations.
The indicators are academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty and student population, citations per paper, international faculty, international students, papers per faculty, inbound exchange and outbound exchange.
QS started the ranking among Asian universities in 2009. From 2009 to 2011, it ranked the 200 top universities in the region. Last year it expanded the ranking to cover the top 300 Asian universities.
QS said it used a “slightly different” methodology from the one it used for the annual QS World University Rankings to “reflect the region’s different priorities.”
This year’s top Asian universities were the same as last year.
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology once more topped the QS ranking. Once again it was followed by National University of Singapore, University of Hong Kong and Seoul National University.
Last year’s sixth-ranked Peking University rounded up the top five this year.
The idea that much of what a college graduate learned in school will turn out to be quite irrelevant at work is a prevalent one. Certainly, there may be a lot of anecdotal evidence to support this notion. However, the fact remains that a strong academic foundation is critical to one’s success and continuing upward mobility in the workplace.
Unfortunately, it is also a fact that the job prospects for the 500,000 or so college graduates that come marching out of the hallowed halls of the academe every year are not that bright. The National Statistics Office Labor Force Survey shows that “despite the attainment of a college diploma, college graduates comprised at least 18 percent of the total unemployed, the third highest share in terms of educational attainment from 2006 to 2011.”
College graduates have difficulty getting jobs for a number of reasons. For instance, there simply are not enough job prospects in their field of specialization, or they discover that the pay rate for entry-level positions is rather low. More often than not, however, the average college graduate misses out on a lot of job opportunities simply because he/she lacks the commensurate communication skills and competencies that will get him/her hired.
This is sad because there are actually many job vacancies right now, particularly in the IT BPM (information technology and business process management) industry. Jose Mari Mercado, president of Ibpap (Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines) recently said the IT BPM industry hired 772,000 full-time employees in 2012, and this number is expected to rise to around 1.3 million by 2016.
According to Mercado, the skills and competency levels of job applicants have always been a cause for concern for employers, but the shortfall is rather pronounced in the IT BPM industry where the potential for growth is such that the demand for talent far outstrips the supply coming from our universities and colleges.
To meet the shortfall, Mercado said, Ibpap is working very closely with the Commission on Higher Education to propagate the Service Management Program (SMP) specialization track among SUCs (state universities and colleges) and HEIs (private higher education institutions.) SMP, as defined by CHEd Memorandum Order 6 and 36 series 2012, is made up of 15 units of electives and six units of internship. This specialization track is prescribed for the BSBA or BSBM and BS IT degree programs. The electives (business communication, BPO fundamentals, service culture and systems thinking) are designed to calibrate the BA or IT graduate’s competencies and skills with industry standards.
Of course, the success of any education initiative ultimately rests on the quality of the faculty. Ibpap has been running SMP teacher-training activities precisely to address this issue.
The most recent, organized for selected faculty from the BA, IT and language departments of Cavite State University, Laguna State Polytechnic University and Polytechnic University of the Philippines, was concluded last May 24 at Asia Pacific College.
Carmelita Yadao-Sison, CHEd director for legal affairs, addressed the graduating faculty. Here are excerpts from her remarks:
“Faculty members in the state universities and colleges share the same mission and vision of pursuing philosophies, objectives, thrusts and strategies of higher education as that of their counterparts in the private sector. But what sets you apart is the fact that all SUCs are recipients of so much public funds and government support since you are also expected to provide access to quality education to those less endowed yet deserving members of society.”
“The program of collaboration between academe and industry is made possible through the P500 million for growth area funds that President Benigno S. Aquino III and [Budget] Secretary Florencio Abad made sure included the IT BPM industry among the recipients.”
“No doubt, the IT BPM industry has propelled this country to the heights of phenomenal economic growth at the present time. But we do not want to be complacent so we will continue these programs and initiatives with partner Ibpap and partner [HEIs] like the Asia Pacific College led by its president, the indefatigable Dr. Paulino Tan. He is one of CHEd’s pillars in the ICT program, being the chair of our technical panel in that discipline.”
“So you see, ladies and gentlemen, there is now a leveling of the playing field. Both private and public [HEIs] have responded to the call of President Aquino for a roadmap of reform in higher education. This program you have just completed is a distinct part of that roadmap. You, dear graduates, are the initial fruit that this program has borne.”
“Let me now share with you these simple thoughts of Madame Marie Curie: You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to those to whom we can be most useful.”
Graduates from low-performing D.C. schools face tough college road
By Emma Brown, Monday, June 17, 6:10 AM E-mail the writer
Johnathon Carrington grew up on the sixth floor of a low-income D.C. apartment complex, a building most recently in the news for a drive-by shooting that injured 13.
His parents told him early on that education could be his escape, and Carrington took them at their word. He graduated Friday as the valedictorian of his neighborhood school, Dunbar High, and against all odds is headed to Georgetown University.
But Carrington, 17, is nervous, and so are his parents. What if Dunbar — where truancy is chronic and fewer than one-quarter of students are proficient in reading — didn’t prepare him for the rigors of college? What if he isn’t ready?
“I don’t think I’m going to fail everything,” Carrington said. “But I think I’m going to be a bit behind.”
It’s a valid concern. Past valedictorians of low-performing District high schools say their own transitions to college were eye-opening and at times ego-shattering, filled with revelations that — despite taking their public schools’ most difficult classes and acing them — they were not equipped to excel at the nation’s top colleges.
When these students arrived on campuses filled with students from high-flying suburban public schools and posh privates, they found a world vastly different from the one they knew in their urban high schools.
For Sache Collier, it meant writing her first research paper. For Darryl Robinson, it meant realizing that professors expected original ideas, not just regurgitated facts. For Angelica Wardell, who grew up going to school almost exclusively with African American students, it meant taking classes with whites and Asians.
And for many top D.C. graduates, it meant discarding the idea that school is easy.
“You can’t make it in college by yourself,” said Wardell, who just finished her junior year at Ohio State University. “You need professors, you need friends, you just need all the help you can get.”
Wardell said she breezed through H.D. Woodson High before graduating in 2010 and heading to Ohio State, where the workload was immediately overwhelming. And the diversity was a social shock. But her lowest point came during sophomore year, when she failed trigonometry despite pouring herself into the course.
She had taken trigonometry in high school and earned a B.
“I basically thought I was stupid,” said Wardell, 21. “I just felt like, ‘What’s wrong with me? Maybe I’m not meant to be here at one of the best schools in the nation.’ I told my mom I wanted to leave.”
It was a temporary impulse, eventually drowned out by a chorus of encouragement from friends and professors. Wardell redoubled her efforts to reach out for help and earned a C-plus on her second try at college trig. She is majoring in public health and plans to continue for a master’s degree in the same field.
“I like to challenge myself, even though sometimes it frustrates me,” Wardell said.
College can be jarring for young people no matter where they’re from or how challenging a high school they attended. But experts and educators say the transition can be particularly difficult for first-generation collegians and students from struggling inner-city schools.
Nearly two-thirds of the District’s high school graduates enroll in college, according to the D.C. College Access Program, a nonprofit organization that offers college counseling and financial assistance to students in the city’s traditional and charter schools. (Washington Post Co. chief executive Donald E. Graham is the chairman of DC CAP’s board of directors.)
Of those D.C. students who enroll in college, 38 percent earn a degree within five years, compared with 54 percent nationwide, according to DC CAP. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education said that 37 percent of D.C. students who go to college complete a four-year degree in the six years after graduating from high school.
District schools officials said they are looking for ways to improve students’ high school experiences. The need for more rigorous academics was one reason the city adopted the national Common Core standards, which demand critical thinking and problem-solving from students starting at a young age, said Melissa Salmanowitz, a schools spokeswoman.
But motivated students said they can get lost in classrooms dominated by disruptive students or students who are years behind and struggling with the basics.
Collier, the 2011 valedictorian at Ballou Senior High in Southeast Washington, said the first thing she noticed when she arrived at Penn State University was how intently her fellow students paid attention during class.
“It was like, ‘Wow, everyone’s on the same page and everyone wants to learn,’ ” Collier said. “At Ballou, it wasn’t like that at all. I was always trying to get the students quiet.”
Collier had been a star at Ballou, where fewer than one-quarter of students are proficient in math and reading. But she said that her classes largely dealt with the basics: summarizing story plots, for example, and learning how to write complete and grammatically correct sentences.
Only in her senior year, in an advanced English course, did a teacher challenge her to think more deeply. “I feel like it was too late,” said Collier, who took two of the three AP classes she said were available to her at Ballou. “It just wasn’t enough to have that kind of teacher for one year.”
In her first semester at Penn State, Collier took seminars in which professors asked her to synthesize ideas, develop arguments and do original research. It was new to her.
“We had to go into the library all the time and research articles and really, really write,” Collier said. “It was difficult for me because I hadn’t done that in high school. I didn’t have to write a lot. I didn’t really research anything.”
The 2.1 grade-point average she earned that first semester devastated her. She visited writing tutors, talked to librarians and sought out professors during office hours. Now a rising junior, her GPA is 3.38.
“I’m not the type of person to give up,” Collier said.
Matthew Stuart, an AP English teacher at Dunbar, attributed students’ lack of college preparation in part to the city’s focus on annual standardized tests that demand little by way of critical thinking or problem-solving. Many teachers give students simple strategies for tackling basic essay prompts, he said, but teachers don’t have a chance to venture into more difficult and stimulating intellectual terrain until after 10th grade, the final year of standardized testing.
“They’ll teach them coping mechanisms for essays, but they never teach argument,” Stuart said. “They never teach original ideas.”
Some D.C. neighborhood schools offer more rigorous courses that better prepare their students for higher education. Seth Brown took 11 AP classes on his way to becoming the 2010 valedictorian at Wilson High in Northwest Washington.
That meant he entered Dartmouth College with credit for at least five courses under his belt. Still, he was overwhelmed during his first semester at the New Hampshire Ivy League school because he was assigned two five-page writing assignments — longer than any assignments he’d completed in high school, he said.
“It was the most daunting task,” said Brown, a rising senior at Dartmouth. “I didn’t even know where to start.”
Students almost universally said writing is a significant challenge when they get to college. Darryl Robinson, a Georgetown student and 2011 graduate of Cesar Chavez, a D.C. charter school, said it was his first college writing assignment that taught him how much he had to learn.
Asked to analyze a memoir, Robinson wrote a simple plot summary. He hadn’t known how to develop an argument and back it up. His paper received a D-minus, as he recalled in an opinion piece he wrote for The Washington Post last year.
“Other Georgetown freshmen from better schools had been trained to form original, concise thoughts within a breath, to focus less on remembering every piece of information,” Robinson wrote. “My former teachers simply did not push me to think past a basic level, to apply concepts, to move beyond memorizing facts and figures.”
Robinson went to Georgetown as part of the Community Scholars Program, meant to give low-income and first-generation college students the support they need to succeed at the elite school. He worked hard during that first year, he said, and now feels like he belongs.
Carrington, this year’s Dunbar valedictorian, is participating in the same Georgetown program. He plans to start school this summer, living on campus and taking two courses as he gets to know his new world.
An avid sports fan, he wants to major in business and someday serve as the general manager of the Washington Nationals, or maybe the Redskins. His teachers say they have no doubt that he has the patience, the fortitude and the smarts to make that happen.
They point to his commitment to playing second base for Dunbar’s baseball team, which was winless for three seasons until April, when Carrington hit a home run on the way to a victory.
“He’s extremely driven,” said his coach, Jeffery Anderson. “He has a plan for his life, and he knows what he wants to do.”
His mother, Valerie Carrington, still frets. “For the next four years, you have to do well,” she said to her son days before he graduated. “I’m going to be praying.”
Stuart, the AP English teacher, said that Johnathon Carrington will be playing catchup in college.
“As a teacher, you always wish you could have done more,” Stuart said.
In the valedictory speech to his Dunbar classmates Friday, Carrington acknowledged the challenges ahead.
“Our future will not come easy,” he said. “We achieved a great milestone in our life today, but it’s up to us to continue our road to excellence.”
In the June 4 edition of Public Education NewsBlast, an online weekly of the Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP), is a link to an article by Motoko Rich that first appeared in the New York Times titled “In Raising Scores, 1 2 3 Is Easier Than A B C.” A title as catchy as that will certainly draw attention.
The article cites classroom examples where teachers are able to help students figure out their math in an easier and more efficient way than they can reading comprehension. With math, teachers can easily diagnose where the students’ weaknesses are and drill them on the necessary skills—and in a few weeks they are fine.
Not so with reading comprehension, which appears to be the larger stumbling block to learning. The teachers are not quite certain of the problem: Can it be vocabulary, a background knowledge issue, a question of sentence length, or level of complexity of the given text? It simply takes longer to develop reading proficiency. Math is described as “close-ended,” and deciphering reading issues is more complex.
One reason offered for the difficulties that reading teachers experience is that students who come from low-income families have such literacy deficits at age four to begin with, bearing the liability of having heard 32 million words fewer from their parents than their peers with professional parents.
To prove the point that math is learned more predominantly in school (something that those who espouse everyday math will dispute, of course), a professor states: “Your mother or father doesn’t come up and tuck you in at night and read you equations. But parents do read kids bedtime stories, and kids do engage in discussions around literacy, and kids are exposed to literacy in all walks of life outside of school.” He contrasts the background knowledge of cultural and historical references that eases the reading of text, with the universality of the language of math and it being culturally neutral. An example he gives is the Pythagorean theorem, which will be as intimidating to any child regardless of social and economic background.
What are the implications for us in the Philippine setting? The link between the literacy deficits and the poverty level seems oversimplified, as affluent families do not necessarily nurture proficient readers and learners, as we all know.
It takes a considerable amount of time to learn and practice reading skills, as research and common sense indicate. But a positive sign is the evidence that “if we can take kids from kindergarten and take them through 12th grade, I think we can get there.” We have a long way to go, but we are at least headed in the right direction now.
The burden remains with the teachers, especially if the parents cannot or have been unable to provide the vocabulary and the background knowledge young readers need. Are our teachers prepared and themselves motivated?
It was a welcome indication of the importance that the current Department of Education leadership places on literacy that three days before school began, two of its undersecretaries, Francisco Varela and newly appointed Dina Ocampo, were plenary speakers at the Little Litfest of the National Book Development Board and the Museo Pambata, which focused on the children’s literature industry.
There could not have been a more apt choice than Ocampo, education undersecretary for programs and projects, as she is an impassioned advocate of reading education and the Mother Tongue-Based Multi-Lingual Education program. That should indicate where her priorities lie. She is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Education, where she majored in special education for her undergraduate degree and earned a master’s degree in reading education.
In her talk prepared with Leonor Diaz of the UP College of Education and which highlighted the need for teachers, parents, and students to be travel companions on the road to reading progress, Ocampo pointed out that reading comprehension happens when background knowledge overlaps with the content material. The less the overlap, the more challenging the text becomes.
Books used in classrooms need to be interesting and relevant to the students. Students like books that they are knowledgeable about. The big challenge is to match the reader to the book, to make the book not only a tool for instruction but also for motivating. One becomes a good reader by reading; it is as simple as that.
Introduce laughter and humor in books. Must learning be dour and serious? Literature is there for laughter, releasing tension, reliving different lives, and for the sheer enjoyment of it. We turn off students by making every reading piece something for utilitarian purposes, rather than allowing them to indulge in flights of fancy. Remember and heed Einstein’s words, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
We need to lead the students to see books and reading as pleasurable leisure activities. We need to empower them to make meaning out of their schoolwork and, more important, to make meaning out of their lives. We owe them that.
Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng claims he is being booted from his apartment and his fellowship at New York University this month because of NYU’s kowtowing to the Chinese government. The school protests mightily, claiming that it has lavished resources on Chen and never intended for his fellowship — granted after he sought refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing — to last for more than a year.
Here’s what’s not in dispute: NYU, as part of the most ambitious international expansion program of any U.S. university, is about to open a satellite campus in Shanghai that is being heavily subsidized by the city government. Chinese authorities haven’t hesitated in the past to punish universities and blacklist professors who cross its political red lines. And NYU already has a record of appeasing the authorities in Abu Dhabi, the site of another satellite campus.
The university is at the forefront of an exploding trend: the expansion of U.S. universities, think tanks and other cultural institutions not just to London and Paris, but to unfree countries whose governments are spending billions of dollars to buy U.S. teaching, U.S. prestige — and, perhaps, U.S. intellectual freedom. China is one of them: In addition to NYU, it is partnering with Duke to build a satellite campus, hosts smaller programs from schools including Harvard, Yale and Princeton and sent 193,000 of its own students to U.S. universities last year.
In September a joint venture between Yale and Singapore will open on a campus built and paid for by that autocracy. Then there are the Persian Gulf states. The United Arab Emirates hosts branches of Paris’s Sorbonne and the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in addition to NYU. While funding jihadists in Syria and Libya, Qatar is on its way to spending $33 billion on an “education city” hosting offshoots of Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon.
Is it possible to accept lucrative subsidies from dictatorships, operate campuses on their territory and still preserve the values that make American universities great, including academic freedom? The schools all say yes, pointing to pieces of paper — some of them undisclosed — that they have signed with their host governments. The real answer is: of course not.
Take Yale-National University of Singapore, a brainchild of recently departed president Richard C. Levin. When Yale’s faculty passed a resolution last year citing the “history of a lack of respect for civil and political rights” in Singapore, Levin called it “unseemly.” But several months later the new school’s governing board adopted a policy of preventing students from creating campus branches of Singaporean political parties, engaging in partisan political campaigning, or “promoting religious strife.” It also said students will be bound by Singapore’s laws, which restrict speech and ban sodomy.
In effect, as professors Seyla Benhabib and Christopher Miller argued in the Yale Daily News, “an institution bearing Yale’s name — headed by professors and staff taken from Yale-New Haven — is in the business of restricting the rights of students.”
As for academic freedom, a key test of the offshore institutions came at the height of the Arab Spring in 2011, when Nasser bin Ghaith, a lecturer at the Sorbonne campus in Abu Dhabi, was arrested and tried with four other activists for supporting democratic elections. As the scholar Alisa Rubin recounts in a forthcoming book, Human Rights Watch called on NYU and the other Western institutions there to speak up for the activists; so did more than 100 NYU faculty members.
Yet NYU joined with the Sorbonne in throwing Bin Ghaith overboard. A Sorbonne statement said the university had “no authorized means to express an opinion” because the charges against the professor were “external to his academic activities.” NYU also declined to make a statement; a spokesman said it fell outside NYU’s “core mission.” Concludes Rubin: “The Western universities . . . were not willing to risk their sweet financial deals and opulent new campuses by speaking up.”
A year later, a reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education visited Abu Dhabi and reported that professors “use caution in broaching topics such as AIDS and prostitution; the status of migrant laborers; Israel and the Holocaust; and domestic politics and corruption. Any critical discussion of the Emirates’ ruling families is an obvious no-go zone.”
Of course, reaching out to students across the world is a worthy activity for U.S. universities. But as Harvard concluded in deciding not to follow the NYU model, such outreach can be done through innovations like open online courses. Such ventures might not bring in as much cash as NYU is getting from Abu Dhabi or Shanghai. But they also don’t create incentives for throwing dissidents into the street.
Plaintiff’s life defined by high court ruling in 2003 affirmative action case
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Tuesday, June 25, 7:24 AM E-mail the writer
She tried. Oh, she tried.
Jennifer Gratz skittered onto the corporate career track. But, nah.
She fiddled around with a political accountability project, trying to make candidates keep their promises once they got elected. But it didn’t really move her.
Gratz, 35, kept coming back to the defining spark of her life: her role as the plaintiff in a 2003 Supreme Court case challenging affirmative action in college admissions. It was the ruling in her case — combined with another ruling issued the same day — that cleared the way for colleges to continue using affirmative action in admissions.
And that’s what she could never accept. “I have a one-track mind,” she says in an interview.
Her marquee turn stands out in bas-relief on moments such as Monday morning, when the Supreme Court once again delved into affirmative action in college applications, ordering a lower court to take a tougher look at how the University of Texas uses race in admissions decisions. The high court’s anti-climactic decision was issued in the case of Abigail Fisher, a white student who challenged the University of Texas policy that allows administrators to consider race as one of the factors in deciding who is admitted. Fisher, who is white, says she was discriminated against when her 2008 application was rejected.
Gratz called the court’s decision merely “a slap on the hand” for the University of Texas, which had asked the justices to uphold its admissions policy. “The battle goes on,” Gratz said in an interview moments after the decision.
This is what happens when an American life meets an American legal precedent.
A name becomes more than just a name. Gratz becomes synonymous with an idea. Not Jen Gratz, the girl from the Detroit suburbs. But Gratz, of Gratz v. Bollinger, the student against the school president, Lee Bollinger. And even Monday, as the court revisited affirmative action, there was her name again, mentioned in the very first paragraph of the headnote of the court’s ruling in the Fisher case.
For Gratz, it all started one day in the summer of 1997, when she came home to the Detroit suburbs from the Michigan summer camp where she’d been working. Her father had spotted a newspaper article about the use of affirmative action in University of Michigan admissions. He brought it up casually, Gratz recalls. He thought his daughter, who is white, had moved on from the pain of being rejected by the university two years earlier.
Wow, was he wrong.
Gratz, then 18, chased down the author of the article. She dug up contact numbers. She called lawyers and state representatives. She had to do something.
She fell in with attorneys who had been challenging affirmative action policies. “I thought I’d end up stuffing envelopes,” she recalls. She ended up becoming their star plaintiff.
While Gratz worked on a math degree at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, her real passions were directed toward her lawsuit. On campus, all her professors knew that she was at the center of a major legal fight — the camera crews that trailed her around the school might have been a tip-off.
There was a lower court win, but on June 23, 2003 — almost exactly a decade ago — the Supreme Court had its say. And what it said filled her with pique.
Gratz was the winner, whose cause ended up being the loser. The court sided with Gratz, saying that she’d been discriminated against because the University of Michigan’s system of assigning bonus points in its ranking to minority applicants was too “mechanistic.” But Gratz’s case got lumped with another case — filed by Barbara Grutter, an applicant to the university’s law school.
In Grutter’s case, the high court endorsed the use of affirmative action to achieve a “critical mass” of minority-student enrollment. The sum result of Gratz’s and Grutter’s cases amounted to an emphatic endorsement of affirmative action in admissions. The decisions were huge. They not only reaffirmed the use of affirmative action — which had flourished in the quarter-century since the Supreme Court ruled against a rejected white applicant, Allan Bakke, who had sued the regents of the University of California — but also expanded the conditions under which race could be considered.
The defeat rankled Grutter. Two months later, an impassioned column Grutter wrote was published in the National Review Online. In the piece, she called the ruling “neither wise nor just.”
By the time the court had ruled in their cases, Gratz had gotten married, moved to San Diego and launched her career as a computer software expert. Her wedding was just six months before the Supreme Court’s ruling, and she decided to keep her maiden name rather than put her attorneys through the considerable trouble of filing paperwork to reflect a name change. Later, once her name became associated with ballot campaigns against racial preferences in school admissions and government hiring, it made practical sense to retain the familiar moniker. To this day, she says, people sometimes unknowingly call her husband “Mr. Gratz.”
“He barely tolerates it,” she says with a giggle. “Kind of like the Supreme Court with racial preferences. How’s that for tying it all together?”
She never anticipated this cause becoming her life. But it had.
In the days after the court ruled in 2003, the sting of the decision was too much. She told her husband that she was quitting her job and going back to Michigan to work on the issue that consumed her so. Gratz was soon jetting around the country, pushing for state ballot initiatives to accomplish what her lawsuit could not.
She helped win victories in a handful of states, reducing race and gender preferences in education, employment and contracting. From time to time, someone would approach her about running for office. In 2007, she says, a big wheel in Michigan’s Republican Party even gauged her interest in running for the U.S. Senate. Nah, she thought. She’d seen how ugly politics could get.
Even when she thought she’d just blend in, when it felt as if the years had wiped her name from the collective consciousness, her notoriety would follow her. She’d meet an attorney or an activist, and there would be a double-take. “Gratz, Gratz,” people would say. “Why do I know that name?” It happened just few days ago at a cocktail party in Naples, Fla., where a friend introduced her to another guest. She saw that familiar look on his face, that instant when she could tell he was scrolling through reference points in his mind. “Gratz!” he exclaimed. “As in Gratz versus Bollinger?”
“I turn a little pink,” she says.
In the end, though, it wasn’t those bursts of recognition that have steered her. It’s what she recognizes about herself: Affirmative action is her thing. Last year, she set in motion a group to push the issue further, the XIV Foundation, named for the 14th Amendment.
“Universities will hold on to these decisions for as long as they are comfortable,” Gratz says. “Our side has to find ways to make it uncomfortable for university administrators to socially engineer their campuses based on race.”
She’s planning projects related to next year’s 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. “I believe the dream of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was colorblind government,” she says. “I’m not sure we’re on the right path to truly colorblind government.”
It will be easy for her to figure out how to celebrate her victories in years to come: with something cold. She and her husband just opened a new business near their home in Southwest Florida: a micro-brewery.
Does a well-off black student deserve affirmative action?
By Negassi Tesfamichael
Tuesday, June 25, 7:37 AM
Negassi Tesfamichael will be a senior at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee.
When I apply to college this fall, I will mark the box labeled “Black or African American” on the Common Application. As the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas become understood and the nation examines the role race plays in achieving diversity, I wonder whether I should qualify for affirmative action.
I defy many black stereotypes. I grew up in a quiet suburb, where I have never faced a dangerous situation. My parents have been happily married for 18 years. I attend private school, and my standardized test scores rank in the 90th percentile. I never have had an encounter with the law. (My worst offenses are overdue library books.)
I also have never had to worry about where my next meal would come from or whether my family has the resources for me to even consider applying to college. But while my family is well off now, that wasn’t always the case. My parents came to the United States after fleeing war in Eritrea. They had to work very hard to achieve the financial stability we now enjoy.
So, should affirmative-action efforts apply to me?
In 2003, the high court ruled in Grutter v. Bollinger that race could play a limited role in public universities’ admissions policies. Many opponents of affirmative-action programs would say that I have economic advantages and that people who are well off underscore why colleges nationwide should dissolve the kind of race-based considerations that Abigail Fisher, a white student, claimed kept her out of the University of Texas.
Private and public universities seek diverse student bodies under the thinking that multiple and varied perspectives lead to a better classroom experience. Texas’s Top 10 Percent program, by guaranteeing admission to state-funded schools to all who finish at the top of their high school class, helps many minority students from struggling schools gain admission to public colleges. Many top colleges have full-time minority recruitment programs. With only 5 percent of African American high school students meeting all of the ACT college readiness benchmarks in 2012, it’s easy to see why a smart black kid is a rarity whom such recruiters would seek out.
Some aspects to my life are influenced by but not unique to my race: We speak multiple languages in my home, and not all college applicants get to see this country through an immigrant’s lens. I have also had experiences that are only about my being black.
Affirmative action is aimed at promoting diversity, a legitimate principle whose merits are often derided or abused. Many supporters believe that affirmative action is needed for the benefit of minority students who could not otherwise move up in society or to make up for wrongs done to past generations. Yet as President Obama said in May to graduates of historically black Morehouse College, “We’ve got no time for excuses.”
Who today really thinks that they can survive in the 21st-century workforce with no ability to communicate and collaborate with people different from themselves? There should be some appreciation for the diverse backgrounds of all Americans. As a student trying to learn and grow, I appreciate views that help me see the world more clearly.
I understand that many would say that people like me don’t need any sort of affirmative action. Some of us probably could get into a college without efforts to ensure diversity. But I’m glad the holistic admissions process practiced by most colleges remains in place. They give more people the opportunity to contribute and allow others to benefit from and appreciate uniqueness, regardless of whether that is based on race alone.
Court ruling continues to stir debate about college admissions
By Nick Anderson
Tuesday, June 25, 8:59 AM E-mail the writer
The Supreme Court’s decision Monday to force another look at the legality of race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas is likely to intensify debate about affirmative action at colleges and universities nationwide.
The high court affirmed its precedents on the use of race in college admissions but ruled that courts reviewing college policies must consider whether “workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.”
Several states have banned racial preferences in public university admissions since the 1990s, and instead have sought to achieve diversity through other means. Experts said the ruling is likely to spur widespread internal reviews of school policies to ensure that they comply with the law.
Some analysts say that initiatives already in use, on the whole, show that it is possible to assemble a balanced class of incoming students by focusing on factors such as family income and geography instead of skin color and ethnicity. Others say that race remains an essential ingredient for admissions officers seeking to ensure diversity.
At public colleges in Maryland and Virginia, admissions officers have repeatedly defended the use of race in what is known in the field as a “holistic” review of applications. They had been awaiting the ruling in the Texas case to find out whether those policies would be struck down. For now, the court has left them intact.
“We have not been told through this ruling that anything we’re currently doing is contrary to law,” said Henry Broaddus, dean of admission at the public College of William & Mary in Virginia.
Shannon R. Gundy, director of admissions at the University of Maryland, said she was pleased that the ruling continued to allow the consideration of race and ethnicity among 26 factors in U-Md. admissions.
But Gundy predicted that schools everywhere will review their policies.
“Conversations have to be had,” Gundy said. “What are we doing? How are we doing it? And are we doing everything we possibly can to be sure we’re doing it appropriately in the legal framework?”
Richard D. Kahlenberg, an analyst with the left-leaning Century Foundation, contends that viable alternatives to race-based admissions are underway in places such as Florida. Since that state banned the use of race in admissions in 2001, the University of Florida has managed to increase the number of Hispanic students significantly, according to a foundation report. The black share of enrollment has been up and down.
In an effort to maintain diversity without considering race, the report found, the university stepped up outreach to minority high school students and bolstered scholarships for first-generation college students from low-income families. Florida also began a “Talented 20” program to ensure that students in the top 20 percent of their high school graduating class could obtain slots at state universities — regardless of race — and it took steps to consider students’ socioeconomic backgrounds.
Kahlenberg said that, after Monday’s ruling, “universities are going to be really pushed to justify the use of race.” He added, “I think this will push universities toward alternatives: class-based, economic affirmative action.”
Other analysts, contending that racial affirmative action remains necessary, point to the experience of California.
The nation’s most populous state banned racial preferences in public university admissions through a 1996 voter referendum. The share of black and Hispanic students at the University of California’s prestigious Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses fell significantly and has not recovered. The stagnant population of Hispanic students at UCLA and UC-Berkeley stands in sharp contrast to the state’s booming Hispanic population.
The UC system has increased minority outreach, built partnerships with K-12 schools and banned “legacy” preferences for alumni, which are often considered an obstacle to racial diversity. The nine-campus system considers socioeconomic background, and it seeks to guarantee admission for those ranked at or near the top of their class.
But analysts say those steps have not raised the share of black and Hispanic students at the system’s top two schools.
“The record shows we tried pretty much everything that seemed feasible,” said Patricia Gandara, an education professor and co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. “The university tried to be responsible in this. But the diversity challenge is getting more and more difficult.”
Many public and private universities had urged the Supreme Court to preserve the status quo in admissions.
Monday’s ruling “is a complex one, but it does make clear that colleges and universities will have work to do,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, which represents college presidents. “Each institution will need to show that any process that considers race and ethnicity as part of a holistic admissions review is precisely tailored to meet the goals of achieving the educational benefits that flow from diversity.”
A month into the beginning of the school year, most parents may be worried not only of their kids’ grades, but about their health as well.
More than just the “conventional” health drives initiated by many other schools, the schools mentioned here have employed a long-term plan to ensure that their students are not only healthy, but also ready to face more health challenges in their adulthood.
A growing number of schools are taking to heart lifestyle-disease prevention and are launching a “revolution” in their cafeterias. For instance, an elementary school in New York City has become the first in the States to go all-vegetarian.
First US public school
The New York Daily News reported that Public School 244 in Flushing has been the first public school in the nation to serve all-vegetarian meals for breakfast and lunch. Among the items in its cafeteria menu are whole grain sunrise carrot bread with hot cereal, roasted organic tofu with cacciatore sauce, whole grain pasta and roasted zucchini, “superhero” spinach wrap with cucumber salad, chickpea falafel in a soft wheat wrap with chopped romaine, fresh diced tomatos and cucumber salad.
The New York Daily News quoted Eric Goldstein, chief executive of the Office of School Support Services for the city Education Department, as saying that city public schools have undergone a “revolution” in their cafeteria fare since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office.
The Washington Times, in its story “Bloomberg launches vegetarian-only school lunch,” reported that the school’s switch to vegan fare comes amid a years-long drive from Bloomberg to improve the health choices of city residents. He has also compelled restaurants to post calorie counts and ban the use of trans fats.
Recent studies have shown that elevated blood cholesterol levels have been closely related with fatal heart disease. The Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine cited that dietary cholesterol comes from animal products like pork, beef, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt.
In the Philippines, there are now several school cafeterias that have gone vegetarian, including Adventist-run universities. A small school in Bulacan, however, needs special mention. The Sophia School in Meycauayan, Bulacan, decided in 2012 to offer vegetarian-only meals on Mondays, and vegetarian options Tuesdays to Fridays. Shelving the conventional meat- and dairy-based fare provided Sophia School added revenues from the brisk sales. The canteen began to offer fresh vegetables and vege-meat (or vegetable fiber that tastes like meat), fruits and grains.
Today, Sophia School administrator Lorenzo Abacan (a psychologist), and principal Marie Ann Abacan (a nutritionist-dietician) affirm that their school is quite literally going strong with the vegetarian effort.
But there’s more to overall health than diet. Another health challenge that kids face is germs.
During the recent Procter & Gamble (P&G) Germ Academy media event, hygiene advocates pointed to germ “hotspots” which people are constantly in touch with, literally. With a germ-detection device called luminometer (photometric instrument that detects a sample’s level of contamination), the hotspots were found to be cell phones, ballpens, bag straps, wristwatch, identification cards, computer keyboards and computer mouse.
“We have to think holistically and determine all possible germ hotspots, because it can happen at different points and different times of the day,” said Clint Navales, P&G country communications leader.
“We would like to make it clear that no one is exempted from getting germs, whether you’re rich or poor. Whenever you are sick, there is an increased opportunity for germs to spread, especially in homes. You will find germs in different parts of the home such as kitchens and bathrooms, but the most important thing is to be knowledgeable in identifying the places where germs will most likely spread,” Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said.