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CNN on Self-Segregation at Cornell

CNN is airing a segment about program houses and the self-segregation of students by race/ethnicity on Cornell's campus.

The segement is unfortunate because it glosses over many aspects of this multi-dimensional issue, and fails to interview ordinary Cornell students on the matter; it only interviews a member of the College Republicans and residents of the program houses themselves. If CNN really wanted to cover the issue well, it would have included the following details:

-- Cornell features one of the most diverse student bodies, both socio-economically and ethnically, among top colleges and universitites. Such a composition of students on such a large college campus means that some degree of self-segregation will always occur, as students naturally seek out peers who they are most comfortable around. We're not exactly some of our Ivy League brethren, where everybody is rich and well-bred.

-- By far one of the most self-segregating aspects of campus is the Greek system. To see Greek houses as anything other than mini-program houses for narrowly defined segments of the student body denies reality. There are fraternity houses for middle-class Jews from Long Island, just as there are fraternity houses for international students from Asia.

-- Many more minorities on campus exist than could ever live in the program houses.

-- Any student on Cornell campus who wants to meet, interact, or even live with students of a different background from herself doesn't have to try very hard. Between classroom settings, extracurricular activities, and informal interactions, there are ample opportunities to meet people from all walks of life. I know my Cornell experience was filled with it.

-- A little bit of history: The racially-themed program houses were instituted after the Straight takover of 1969, when racial tensions on campus were at an all-time high.

-- And finally, all signs indicate that the progam houses are waning in popularity due to the appeal of the West Campus residential house system. The take away? Provide students with an honest sense of community and they will no longer default to race-based associations.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on April 06, 2007 (#)

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