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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, April 12, 2024

Professor's ad heightens campus climate problems

\The student papers have printed another racist ad,"" was the message that greeted me when I checked my voice mail last Monday. Oh no, not again, I thought as I flipped through the newspaper, bracing myself for the offending page. When I saw that the ad was about the UW System's ""faulty"" admissions policy, I felt anger and frustration. 

 

 

 

I am angry because retired economics Professor W. Lee Hansen, the author of the ads, which cost $1,380, purports to help prospective students of color by telling them they won't succeed at UW-Madison. But it is obvious this hurts more than it helps, and it also hurts the students of color who are already here. 

 

 

 

Hansen cites statistics that show students of color are less likely to graduate than white students. The reason for the disparities between graduation rates, Hansen argues, is that students of color are less qualified to be at UW-Madison than are white students. 

 

 

 

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This is where it gets ugly. How many times, through history and today, must students of color defend their right to be at an institute of higher education? I have argued with many of my peers, trying to convince them that we didn't get here solely because of our race. And now a member of the faculty at my university is asserting that not only was race the determining factor in our admission, but that we don't deserve our place as UW-Madison students because we are not white. 

 

 

 

This assertion that UW-Madison students of color lack the skills to succeed is wrong. In an April 2001 letter to the Board of Regents, Chancellor John Wiley wrote that two thirds of students who fail to graduate are in good academic standing when they drop out, and that there are many ""nonacademic reasons"" that contribute to a student dropping out. One of these nonacademic reasons is the challenges posed by having to attend a school that doesn't always welcome you. 

 

 

 

The message Hansen propagates contributes to the problem of campus climate, which Chancellor Wiley has named as his number one priority. When I have to convince my white classmates that we are just as qualified as they are, it makes me want to cry. When I have to convince an emeritus professor of the same thing, it makes me want to leave. 

 

 

 

Like most student of color leaders on campus, I have spent countless hours mentoring incoming minority students, trying to make them feel comfortable in a new city, offering consolation when the university can't, and finding them friends and allies. This is in hope that they start off on the right foot. Maybe they'll even tell their friends who aren't in school yet that UW-Madison really isn't that bad'that a student of color can find his own support network within a hostile campus climate and finish with a degree. But these efforts turn into a waste of time when teachers like Hansen try to keep students of color from even applying, worsening the lack of diversity on campus. 

 

 

 

I do agree with Hansen on one point'that the lower graduation rate for students of color compared to white students is problematic. However, rather than discouraging students of color from even applying to UW-Madison (and thereby having no students of color graduate at all), I call on the administration to work on retaining these students. The UW System has already taken the initiative on the issue of retention with Plan 2008. Yet in a Badger Herald article March 6, Hansen said he was aggravated by Plan 2008 and that the plan ""makes no sense."" Could it be that Hansen attacked Plan 2008 because he is afraid it will work, and soon the student of color graduation rate will match that of white students? We will only find out once the plan is fully implemented, and if students of color continue to apply, undeterred by a lone doomsayer's ads. 

 

 

 

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