Thursday, December 31, 2015
Oberlin College Students Cry 'Cultural Appropriation' Over Serving Of Undercooked Sushi Rice
Pathetic. What emotional infants
Students at an American liberal arts college have accused university authorities of “insensitivity” and “cultural appropriation” over the serving of General Tso's chicken, Vietnamese sandwiches and sushi.
A report in the ‘Oberlin Review,’ newspaper of Oberlin College in Ohio, details student angst over the cafeteria’s serving of inauthentic international cuisine, with scholars demanding meetings with campus officials over the outrage.
Complaints against ‘Bon Appétit,’ the college's food management company, include serving undercooked sushi rice, and cooked sushi fish instead of raw; offering General Tso's chicken that was steamed, not fried; selling Vietnamese banh mi with pulled pork rather than grilled and using ciabatta instead of traditional French bread.
“The undercooked rice and lack of fresh fish is disrespectful,” scorned Japanese student Tomoyo Joshi of the sushi bar, decrying the counter as “a culturally appropriative sustenance system.”
“When you're cooking a country's dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you're also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture,” she told the newspaper. “So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as 'authentic,' it is appropriative.”
The sushi also caused disquiet for student Mai Miyagaki, who called for “collaboration with the cultural student [organisations] before starting new stuff like this [the sushi bar].”
Disgusted that a Vietnamese sandwich was being served with coleslaw instead of pickled vegetables, student Diep Nguyn said: “It was ridiculous… how could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”
College officials told the newspaper the dishes were an attempt at nutritional diversity and they would set up a meeting with students in the coming weeks.
Ban College Level Remediation
So if any presidential candidate is out there looking for ideas–particularly you Republicans–here’s my first proposal:
Colleges and universities have been constantly complaining for 30 years or so that incoming students are in dire need of remediation. These complaints inevitably lead into a conversation about failing high schools, accompanied by fulminations and fuming.
The correct response: Why are remedial students allowed to matriculate in the first place?
It’s not as if the knowledge deficit comes as a surprise. Most students have taken the SAT or the ACT, which most if not all four-year public institutions use as a first-level remediation indicator–that is, a score of X exempts the student from a placement test. Those who don’t make that cut have to take a placement test. Community colleges usually cut straight to the placement test. The most common placement tests are also developed by the Big Two ((Accuplacer is SAT, Compass is ACT).
So why not just reject all applicants who aren’t college-ready?
Private institutions can do as they like, but our public universities ought to be held responsible for upholding a standard.
Most states (or all?) offer two levels of post-secondary education: college and adult education. As colleges have sought to increase access to everyone who can demonstrate basic literacy (and far too many who can’t even manage that), adult education has withered and nearly died.
Pick a level and split them. My cutoff would be second year algebra and a lexile score of 1000 (that’s about tenth grade, yes?) for college, but we could argue about it. Everyone who can’t manage that standard after twelve years of K-12 school can go to trade school or to adult education, which is not eligible for student loans, but we could probably give some tax credits or something for self-improvement.
Adult education could be strengthened by repurposing the funds we now spend on remedial education. The existing community college system could, for example, be split into two tiers—one for actual college level work or legitimate AA degrees, the other for adult education courses, which are currently a weak sister of K-12.
The federal government could enforce this by refusing to back Pell grants for remedial courses in college, as Michael Petrilli and others have called for. State legislatures could arguably just pick a demonstrated ability level and restrict funding to those public universities that ignore it.
Of course, some argue that college is for everyone, regardless of their abilities. This path leads to a complete devaluation of the college degree, of course, but if that is to be the argument, there’s an easy solution. If no one is too incapable for college, then no education is remedial. So give the students credit for remedial courses, let barely functional students get college degrees after 120 credits of middle school work. No?
Diversity on campus: Does it have a future?
Diversity is under threat on college campuses across the land -- from exactly the students cherished for their diversity by admissions committees.
Let us recall that for almost 40 years now, diversity has been the gold standard defense of racial preferences. Racial diversity is said to enhance the classroom (and general social) experience by exposing other students to views purportedly most likely to come from people of color.
Yet it is too little remarked that much of what we hear from black students -- and not only amidst the protests of late but often over decades past as well -- flies directly in the face of the whole diversity argument that university administrators propound so ardently.
For example, at Oberlin, student protesters are demanding not just one but several "safe spaces" for "Africana-identifying" students. It's fair to assume that white students would not be allowed in these spaces, given that the rationale is that here is where black students could catch their breath after the endless sallies of racism that the school's students and environment force upon them daily.
Aside from the obvious problems with this plan, note that students barricading themselves in this way would have pointedly little interest in sharing their experiences as "diverse" people with their fellow white students. Even those who would consider this self-segregation justified will admit that these students are giving a thumbs down to the idea that they are valuable on campus as "diverse" lessons for others.
Trudeau's case for diversity: Because it's 2015
Trudeau's case for diversity: Because it's 2015
Or, in this recent opinion piece in The New York Times, a black physicist tells us that the presence of students of color in university classrooms should not require justification on the basis of the color of their skins.
Now, it's unclear what new strategy she is proposing to ensure a representative number of such students on a campus if they are not singled out for their "diversity." Be that as it may, here is one more person of color arguing against the admissions rationale considered so inviolable in discussions of affirmative action since Justice Lewis Powell created the "diversity" argument (rather briefly) in the Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke decision in 1978.
Finally, for all the appeal of the notion of black students earnestly teaching white students the view from beyond the affluent suburbs, black students quite often don't like being expected to take on that role.
I have lost count of how many times a black student has told me, in question sessions after talks on race I have given, that being required to attest to the "black" view of things is, of all things, one way that college campuses are racist (!). Here is an articulate expression of this kind of complaint, very much commonplace since the '80s. And truth to tell, how many of us would enjoy being singled out in any setting, all eyes upon us, as the one assumed to have intellectually valuable counsel?
Once again, the writer above likely isn't aware that his declaration stands as a rebuke to a justification that likely played an important part in his evaluation for admission. However, it stands as a rebuke indeed.
One might claim that students can teach white ones about their "diversity" in other ways, but prospects for that look glum from further reports one often hears.
Black students don't like being asked questions about where they are "from," about their hair care regimens, or being approached in general as if they belong to a distinct clan of persons, as we have learned from discussions of microaggression over the past few years. OK -- but it's unclear what space is left for these students providing diversity lessons for others.
So: There is the verdict from the very people singled out for their "diversity" by admissions committees. We might add that it's hard to see how diverse viewpoints relate to not just some, but most, of what a college curriculum consists of. The black view of French irregular verbs? Systolic pressure? The usual counterargument here is that white students will benefit from the simple fact of interacting with colleagues of color -- in, say, a lab -- as preparation for interacting with people of color in the work world. On that one, I often wonder just what it is about black people that white students are to learn to watch out for.
A different kind of affirmative action
All this is clearly a mess. Now, one solution is to sigh that it's "complicated" and change the subject. But that's a cop-out we've been settling for for decades, and it's clear that it gets none of us anywhere. We settle for this cop-out nonetheless out of fear that actually taking the issue by the horns will mean turning our backs on seeking social justice. But it doesn't.
Rather, the facts on the ground -- as opposed to in colleges' multiracial publicity photos on websites and brochure covers -- can be taken as support for the growing movement to base admissions preferences at universities on socioeconomics.
The originators of affirmative action policies would find this a familiar and compelling approach, given that until the Bakke decision, the whole policy was founded on a quest for reparation, making up for historic discrimination against black people.
In an America where it is becoming increasingly difficult to see poverty, the "underclass," and historic disadvantage as having solely a black face, restoring affirmative action as an anti-poverty policy is progressive.
Some assail this approach as cluelessly "race-blind," but they're wrong. Fears that hardship-based affirmative action would mean black and Latino students being all but eliminated on college campuses in favor of working-class whites are overblown, as is clear from rigorous treatments such as this one. Rather, letting go of the ever-fragile diversity rationale would, while leaving college campuses with healthy populations of black and Latino students, finally let us exhale.
To wit: no more pretending there is a black take on Jane Austen or differential quotients, or that white students having black students in their classes about these things will teach them something useful for when they meet black colleagues at the law firm they work for after graduation. No more singling out black kids to talk about "the" black experience. No more skirting by the inconvenient fact that an affluent black student is rather insignificantly "diverse" compared to a white one who grew up with one parent in a trailer park.
In a nutshell, quite a few "diverse" students are -- whether unwittingly or not -- opposed to a key rationale for their recruitment and admission, and the whole diversity rationale has always been extremely fragile anyway.
Affirmative action must be preserved, but what we need to affirm in the 21st century is disadvantage. There are those who will insist that such a view is conservative -- yet it is them who will seem backward in the future.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:52 AM