By Melvin Felix, nyulocal.com
NEW YORK - A panel of two experts and three students discussed the need (or lackthereof) for diversity programs under the topic: “Diversity Programs: Necessary, Unfair, or Both?” The programs are designed to develop professional skills within minority (Black, Latino, or Native American) undergraduate members, and to help them get internships and jobs through a large network of corporate sponsors.
“I got into NYU by way of an opportunity program,” said panelist Natalie Holder-Winfield, an NYU Stern grad who now writes for the Huffington Post. Holder said the university took a gamble on her by looking at more than her grades and SAT scores, and it paid it off. “They brought somebody to the institution who won numerous awards for herself and the university,” she said. “Not to mention, I write a number of checks to this place now.”
Stern senior Bryan Ting was the only panelist to disagree with the notion that these diversity programs are fair. “Affirmative action homogenizes racial groups,” said Ting. “It also engender racial animosity in an attempt to reach a certain number of the population at the expense of the other population.” He said that college admission and work entry should be based on merit and not on race, claiming that these programs give minorities an unfair advantage in the work field.
Michael Holmes, the director of Global Talent Acquisition at Terex Corporation, disagreed. “To assume that these programs cater to people who already have a leg up also ignores some real facts about our educational system even today,” he said. “We have not progressed in the U.S. to the point where there is equality of opportunity regardless of these programs.”
Holmes said that African-American and Latino students are 3 to 5 times more likely to drop out of high school than white students. That opportunity gap was stressed by Kasey Hemphill, a CAS senior who found internships through a diversity program. “The problems of education at a young age fundamentally affect what becomes merit at the college and career entry level,” she said. Hemphill hopes that these programs will only be necessary until the lingering effect of the last generation’s racism fades away.
That may not be the case. “Programs like this are always going to exist,” said Juan Arenas, a Colombian Sternie who found internships without using any Career Prep programs. “Maybe, 25 years from now, it won’t be race; it’ll be— I don’t know, the size of your foot.”
For now, though, these minorities will continue to battle for a bigger space in the workforce on racial terms, sometimes even exclusively so. “It’s legal for these programs to deny Asian-Americans,” said John Sanchez, who organized the event. “That’s probably the biggest thing that shocked me.”