Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Campus Diversity

“I had no need to apologize that the look-wider, search-more affirmative action that Princeton and Yale practiced had opened doors for me. That was its purpose: to create the conditions whereby students from disadvantaged backgrounds could be brought to the starting line of a race many were unaware was even being run.”  Sonia Sotomayor, “My Beloved World”

In recent years the Supreme Court has made it more difficult for universities to achieve diversity through affirmative action policies.  In the most recent case, however, Fisher v. University of Texas, the court ruled 4-3 that admissions officials may consider race as one of many factors in ensuring a diverse student body. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who dissented in a similar 2003 case involving University of Michigan Law School, surprised many by writing the majority opinion, which reads in part:
  A university is in large part defined by those intangible “qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.” Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U. S. 629, 634 (1950). Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission. But still, it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.  In striking this sensitive balance, public universities, like the States themselves, can serve as “laboratories for experimentation.”
 Sara, Rana, and Asad Torabi

Tooraj and Soraya Torabi

IUN takes pride in the diversity of its student body and, to a lesser degree, its faculty. Still, as Anne Balay discovered, it is not gay friendly.   I recall being initially puzzled when administrators counted Indian-Americans as minorities, but why not?  Two of my favorite colleagues were biologist P.K. Bhattacharya and business prof Sham Bhattia.  In the IUN publication Northwest News Erica Rose profiled three med school students enrolled at the Gary campus, Sara, Rana, and Asad Torabi, whose parents are Iranian-born Tooraj and Soraya Torabi.  Erica Rose wrote:
  These Chesterton High School and IU Northwest alumni insist they were never pushed by their Iranian-born parents to pursue medicine. Previously a radiation oncology physicist, Tooraj now works as a medical physicist and director of imaging. Soraya worked as a general medicine practitioner when the siblings were young and now works as a radiation safety officer.
  “I’m so fortunate that my family members are all in healthcare,” Sara, the middle sibling, said. “They all understand what you are going through and offer a great support system.”  Dad is there to remind them that “tomorrow is another day,” when things get tough. Mom is a rock of support in her own way, too. “It will all be okay,” she assures them. “You just have to be patient. Not all of the days will be the same.”
  “They are my pillars,” Rana, the youngest, said of her brother and sister. “Honestly, I don’t know how far I could have gotten without them. They are just so supportive. We all study in a somewhat similar fashion, so when my brother says, ‘you should really look at this review book,’ for instance, I say, ‘you’re right, this is amazing.’ It’s just the little things that add up and make it a lot easier.”
  Soraya Torabi said of her children. “We are very proud of them, and at the same time, we feel very blessed. We try our best to watch over their activities, but they have always been themselves and more mature than we expected them to be. Sometimes you are just blessed to have good kids.”
 C. Hearne, I. Bodensteiner, G. McClendon at VU; NWI Times photo by Susan O'Leary

For years Valparaiso University (VU) was pretty much a lily-white institution in a city that once was a Ku Klux Klan bastion.  Recently administrators have made strides to make it a more diverse and welcoming place for minorities.  VU co-hosted a three-day Town Hall event with the Northwest Indiana Coalition for Civil Discourse, which includes Northwest Indiana Urban League, Lakeshore Public Media, the City of Valparaiso, and the City of Gary.  The purpose of the gathering: to promote public dialogue among Region communities.  Tuesday’s discussion was on “Race, Justice, Community, and Policing.”  The moderator, Dr. Garrard McClendon, hosts the PBS program “CounterPoint.” In 2009 teenage thugs robbed and murdered McClendon’s parents Ruby and Milton in Hammond and dumped their bodies in a forest preserve near Calumet City. McClendon admitted getting a nervous twinge when he spotted a Valpo cop car behind him on the way to campus.  VU’s coordinator for disability support services Christina Hearne asserted, “I’ve lived in Gary all my life and never felt the fear that I do walking down the street in Valparaiso.”  Law school professor emeritus Ivan Bodensteiner noted that some learn racist attitudes from their parents. He argued, according to Susan O’Leary of NWI Times, that the best way to foster tolerance is for children of all races interact at a young age, lamenting: “The police and the policed are from different worlds.  We are so segregated.”

Volume 2 of the NWI Times pictorial history “Memories Along the South Shore” concentrates on the years between 1940 and 1970.  It contains many photos from IUN’s Calumet Regional Archives, including the cover, a shoreline march by Save the Dunes Council demonstrators.  One from our Inland Steel collection shows actor Jimmy Cagney visiting the Harbor Works in 1942 during a World War II bond drive.  Several photos of striking steelworkers first appeared in Ron Cohen and my “Gary: A Pictorial History.”  One of IUN’s first graduation ceremony in 1967 graces the cover of Paul Kern and my “Educating the Region: A History of Indiana University Northwest.”  Several depict Gary’s African-American community, including one donated to the Archives by McKenya Dilworth and taken on New Year’s Eve, perhaps at Mae’s Louisiana Kitchen.  We surmised the date from a reveler’s party hat.
 Inland Steel Tin Mill, 1940

Gary revelers, 1952

“The Great Emerson Art Heist” (2016) by Kendall Svengalis is set in Gary during the World War II years. The author, a Lithuanian-American Gary Emerson grad, wrote his master’s thesis on William A. Wirt and the Gary Schools and in 2006 published “Gary, Indiana: A Centennial Celebration.” In an Epilogue to his novel Svengalis wrote:
  Principal Everett A. Spaulding initiated the Emerson art collection in 1912, with the acquisition of a copy of Rembrandt’s Mother.  In 1920, with funds derived from the profits of the school cafeteria and art shows, Emerson acquired 14 original paintings.  By 1931, a total of 38 paintings had been acquired at a cost of $14.093.00.  By 1949, the collection comprised 44 oil paintings, including a portrait of Principal Spaulding, who retired in 1952 after 42 years of service.  When the building closed in 2008, the Gary Community School Corporation placed the art collection in storage.  In 2015, the Corporation contracted with the Conservation Center of Chicago to store Gary’s entire collection of over 120 paintings, now estimated to be worth over a half million dollars.  Ultimately, the Corporation hopes to have the collection inventoried, catalogued, and preserved so that this precious resource may be enjoyed by future generations.
Interestingly, some folks believe that when Emerson School permanently closed, a landscape by dunes artist Frank Dudley went missing and ended up in an Indianapolis museum.  

David Parnell showed “Kingdom of Heaven” (2005) in his Crusades class.  The movie gets off to a gruesome start with the beheading of a suicide victim after the death of her child.  The good guys, Godfrey de Ibelin (Liam Neeson), Tiberius (Jeremy Irons), and the leper King Baldwin of Jerusalem (Edward Norton) believed in getting along with Muslims – albeit, as their masters in areas they controlled - and making peace with Saladin (Ghassas Massoud).  The power-hungry villains Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) and Reynald de Chatillon (Brendan Gleeson) are intolerant, murderous religious zealots.
Homecoming volunteers; Victoria Morales, above, right; George and Betty Villarreal, below
Oral history intern Victoria Morales has interviewed six former IUN students for the university's bicentennial project.  IUN's website posted Homecoming photos where she recruited Betty Villarreal and others who agreed to participate in the project.

Melissa Bollmann Jenkins sent this update about her dad, my friend Terry:
    You can never get tired of seeing Terry in this chair, can you! Well, this is (hopefully) the last one you will receive because yesterday was his final scheduled chemo! Woo hoo! 
    He may miss riding the train to Philly, the (really good!) soups from Kitchen Gia at the Perelman Center, and the (many) hours of visiting with family, but other than that, I think he’s ready for a break! 
    He’ll get a CT scan next week, and then his surgery will likely be scheduled for the first week of January (he’ll be at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for about a week). We’ll let you know exact dates and details when we know.

A UPS package from Amazon arrived containing ten copies of revolutionary humorist Jean Shepherd’s “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” that I purchased with Angie’s help for five bucks each and plan to give out to old friends.  A hardback copy was listed at a price of several hundred dollars.  Known by some as the basis for the movie “Christmas Story,” the book is much more subversive, with a dreary mill town during the Great Depression the backdrop for many chapters.  The older edition, which Ray Smock gave me when we moved to Northwest Indiana and got worn out from excessive use, contains this review on the back cover by Anne Bernays of the Boston Globe: “Mr. Shepherd has the true satirist’s grip on his pen; he is humorous, sympathetic, and ironic all at once, an enviable skill and one that makes reading “In God We Trust” an infinitely satisfying experience.” The more recent edition contains this blurb:
  Before Garrison Keillor and Spalding Gray there was Jean Shepherd: a master monologist and writer who spun the materials of his all-American childhood into immensely resonant – and utterly hilarious – works of comic art.  “In God We Trust” represents one of the peaks of his achievement, a compound of irony, affection, and perfect detail that speaks across generations.

Monday I’ll have to choose between attending a VU piano recital by Ann Carlson entitled “A Tribute to Cole Porter” (part of the VOLTS continuing education program I was part of) and an IUN History Club function entitled “Weird History.” Leaning toward the latter, I may talk about Abe Lincoln the wrestling champ and Tecumseh’s so-called curse (every president elected in a year ending in zero died in office from William Henry Harrison till John F Kennedy).  Ronald Reagan barely survived an assassination’s bullet. Googling “Weird History” I found a site that mentioned flour sack dresses once being a fashion statement and that morphine and alcohol were the main ingredients in “soothing syrup” medicine.

No comments:

Post a Comment