Friday, March 24, 2006

Well, not THAT kind of diversity 

The Wall Street Journal notes a program that sends Afghan women to colleges in the US. It pays for the travel, the schools give them a free ride. How many signed up?

In 2002, Yale received a letter from Paula Nirschel, the founder of the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women. The purpose of the organization, begun in that year, was to match young women in post-Taliban Afghanistan to U.S. colleges, where they could pursue a degree. Ms. Nirschel asked Yale if it wanted to award a spot in its next entering class to an Afghan woman. Yale declined.

Yale was not alone. Of the more than 2,000 schools contacted by Mrs. Nirschel, only three signed up right away: Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, Notre Dame College in New Hampshire and the University of Montana, Missoula. Four years later, the program enrolls 20 students at 10 universities...

And it's not like these are bad students who need remedial English. Not one of them has a GPA under 3.5. Notre Dame College -- four blocks from my parents home when I was in high school and college -- closed at the end of its 2002 year; its campus was bought out by So. New Hampshire Univ., where my sister teaches. Sadly they're no longer on the list.

Suppose you really wanted to bring diversity of viewpoints to your campus. All you need to do is give a free ride to an Afghan woman -- certainly a group that's experienced discrimination -- and have her share her life experiences with your students and faculty. Why won't other schools jump at the chance? Why wouldn't we at SCSU?
Nadima Sahar, who will graduate from Roger Williams in May with a political science degree, says: "Staying here has never crossed my mind. . . . We are responsible for making sure our country succeeds, so that future generations don't face problems we did." Mrs. Nirschel expects a "trickle-down effect." The returning students will "influence their family, their community and the country at large." Clearly there is more going on here than the usual search for campus "diversity."

For those who will embrace it.