Posted on October 13, 2004

And Still More Euphemism (Diverse = Black)

John Rosenberg, Discriminations blog, Oct. 9

As discussed here, here, and here, Princeton was one of the first schools to abandon, with much hand-wringing, a racially exclusive program. Now, according to an article today in Newark Star Ledger, it is reviving that program, with what appears to be primarily a cosmetic change.

Princeton University will restart its popular summer institute to prepare minority students for public service careers, though the program will no longer exclude white candidates, school officials said yesterday.

The Ivy League school made headlines last year when it abruptly pulled the plug on the Junior Summer Institute amid worries that the university could be sued by anti-affirmative action groups because the prestigious program was open only to minority students.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I read this announcement to mean that in the future whites will not be excluded from enrolling in a program whose purpose remains preparing minority students for careers in public service. Will the few whites be regarded as mere tokens? I wonder if white graduates of this program will be able to apply for positions later on as honorary minorities.

Aside from the incongruity of admitting whites (if they do) to a program whose purpose remains training minorities, what strikes me as both interesting and increasingly typical is the easy and uncritical was the term “diverse” is now used as simply a synonym for black, or possibly black and Hispanic. Thus, according to Princeton spokeswoman Patricia Allen,

While the program will continue its mission to increase leadership opportunities for future policy leaders from diverse backgrounds, the institute will no longer be race exclusive.

And it’s not just Ms. Allen.

Though the program will no longer be open solely to minority students, Princeton officials said they hope the summer institute will continue to help bring a diverse group of students into a field that is traditionally dominated by white students.

Even though the program will no longer be open only to minorities, Princeton hopes it will still be diverse! And not just “diverse,” but “culturally aware.”

“The program will continue to attract talented students who are culturally aware and committed to public service in our rapidly changing world,” Allen said.

I wonder what Princeton means by “cultural awareness,” and how it tests for it.