We at InkWell are constantly railing at the ethnic/gender/sexual identity separatism that reigns at college campuses in the name of “diversity.” But I’ve always assumed that the students themselves just go along with the separate “theme” dorms and eating groups that encourage them to think of themselves primarily as members of some victimized group rather than as individuals. So it was with pleasurable surprise that I picked up yesterday’s Washington Post to read this essay by Sarah Bond, a high-school senior in Alexandria, Va., who got admitted into Stanford University but decided not to attend–partly because Stanford offered ethnic theme parties for just about everyone except heterosexual Caucasians like her.
Sarah, like everyone else admitted to Stanford this spring was invited to “Stanford Admit Weekend” on the campus, an event designed to encourage the prospective freshman to “bond” before enrolling and–even more important, as far as Stanford is concerned, to accept the invite from Stanford and not decide to attend, say, Harvard, instead. Admit Weekends, which sound like a gruesome combo of summer camp and reeducation classes, seem to be a brand-new college fad. I attended Stanford myself years ago, and the closest thing we had was an orientation session the day before classes began at which a faculty member briskly informed us that the person siting next to us would likely not be there this time next year, having flunked out. Life–or at least campus life–is less brutal nowadays.
Much of what turned off Sarah Bond at Stanford’s admit weekend consisted of dumb skits in the California sun and confession circles at which prospective students were forced to say “interesting things” about themselves under the officious guidance of counselors. But the clincher was this, as Sarah writes:
“The real kicker came when I returned to the dorm ….It was 9 p.m., and most other admitted students were attending ethnic-themed parties. Asian Americans and Pacific-Islanders had ‘Chill Night’ at Okada, the Asian dorm; African Americans, Chicano/Latino/Hispanics and Native Americans, respectively, were invited to do the same at other ‘theme’ dorms. Lesbian/gay/straight/questioning/transgender students were invited to a separate social event at something called Caf’ Q. Each group planned to discuss the issues facing minorities on the Stanford campus. I didn’t fit into any of those groups, so I found myself at loose ends.
“It’s almost eerie, the way a racially diverse campus life is automatically equated with a happy, functional campus life. A diverse undergraduate population is undoubtedly one of Stanford’s many attractions — especially if you ask the admissions staff. But it seems to me that lauding diversity is futile if the various ethnic groups are encouraged to stick to their own. Potential friends I had made between icebreakers were now gone, having sushi at Chill Night. The point, I’d thought, was to coalesce and learn from each other.
“So I sat letting my sunburned, fountain-dampened self drip-dry in a dorm lounge that was nearly empty save for a few of us socially awkward white kids….
“I’d had enough.
“Twenty minutes later I was in a cab on my way to stay with my dad at a hotel in town. So much for bonding.”
When she returned home, Sarah turned down Stanford and accepted an offer from Duke University. Duke the epicenter of academic political correctness, may likely be even worse than Stanford in the “diversity” department. But it’s refreshing to see that at least one young person hasn’t bought into the identity-victimology that so many college campuses encourage. And Sarah’s a terrific writer. I suspect we’re going to be reading a lot more under her byline in, say, four years.