Editorial: Lowering standards is insulting

Alvin Chambliss Jr. has a solution to MU's diversity problems. In a fiery speech at Friday's conclusion to Black History Month, he accused MU of having discriminatory admissions standards and proposed drastically lowering the ACT admissions requirement from 24 to nine. Unfortunately, lowering standards for black students is not the answer to this obvious problem.

It's true Chambliss didn't rail against a non-existent problem: At 6 percent, MU's black student population is nothing less than shameful, to say nothing of the dismal percentage of black faculty. And although the number of black students has risen this year, those numbers aren't especially impressive because the figure only rose from 232 black students to 295.

Admission standards are based on a variety of areas, including ACT or SAT scores and class rank. Chambliss claims the requirement of an ACT score of 24 creates an unreachable standard for many black students" but Chambliss fails to realize MU gives students every possible chance to meet admissions requirements, including enrolling on a probationary status or on a summer trial basis.

Lower standards could help some black students get a foot in the door. However, these regulations are in place to make sure students admitted to MU are prepared for the rigors of college. It would not help the situation if students ' black or white ' were admitted and not prepared. It's not the responsibility of MU to prepare students for college, but it is MU's duty to ensure students are able to succeed once admitted.

Chambliss does fight for a worthy cause. The importance of a college education in this country is undeniable" but it is not colleges that fail these students, it's inadequate elementary and secondary schools. This is the root of the problem, and this should be Chambliss' main focus.

What is particularly troubling is that Chambliss made these statements in front of a group of black students who undoubtedly wonder why MU's racial demographic is so homogeneous. To many of these students, Chambliss' answer may seem reasonable, but it was the wrong impression to give. The black students listening to Chambliss were qualified to enter MU, and they are not an exception to the rule. They don't represent a "gifted" segment of Missouri's black population.

There are a multitude of black students who could not only meet the requirements, but easily surpass them. Instead of MU's admissions standards policy, Chambliss should have attacked the recruitment policy. If MU is serious about increasing minority enrollment, it must actively seek out these qualified students in school districts with large black populations, such as Kansas City and St. Louis. MU must do everything it can to attract qualified black students in these districts.

Interestingly enough, the banquet at which Chambliss spoke was billed as a "100th year tribute to Dr. W.E.B. DuBois." DuBois, who himself was a strong advocate for education, would likely have argued just as passionately against lowering standards if he were present to hear Chambliss' speech.

One of DuBois' central visions was to increase the number of opportunities for African Americans, not to lower standards to an insulting level. He wanted to give African Americans equal opportunities. Given the state of public schools, Chambliss is right that black students often don't have these same opportunities, but lower standards would only worsen the situation.

Chambliss has the right idea. There are problems inherent in the education system for urban and black students. However, black students must be given the chance to succeed at the elementary level. Otherwise, these students will be stuck in the same state ' without the proper tools to lead productive lives.

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