At the South by Southwest education conference in Austin, Texas recently, on a panel entitled “What’s Next for Access and Affirmative Action?” administrators such as Anne-Marie Nunez from the University of Texas (UT) system revealed some of their thought processes.
Nunez, an associate professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at UT, San Antonio, explained that one of her projects included an initiative designed for Latina immigrants in California. When “underrepresented minority students” were instructed “to think about sociopolitical issues,” they “began to build more of a sense of entitlement,” she said, adding that it is “a different kind of entitlement than other students might feel…We should take back what is ours,” she said in describing respondent sentiments. “Our people clean there, they have helped build it, and we should take that back.” Students “see this happening,” relays Nunez, “they see the exclusion happening.”
As well, Nunez mentioned a unique experiment from the University of Michigan. They “started a living-learning program where professors, including professors of ethnic studies classes, lived in the same dorms as students, and they intentionally brought together students of different racial-ethnic backgrounds.”
Leftists often argue that states and the federal government ought to spend even more taxpayer dollars on public colleges. Following suit, Nunez railed against present financial support for academic institutions:
“In most states public funding for higher education has declined significantly to the point where even public universities might not even be thought of as public because so many of their funds come from – in some cases, 90%, I would say– do not come from the public… part of that is related to the public disinvestment in higher education… that trickles down to public disinvestment in K-12 education and increased, say, student-to-teacher ratios and student-to-counselor ratios.”
By extension Nunez believes societal welfare and university attendance are interrelated. “Too often higher education is framed as a cost by the media as opposed to an investment,” she cautioned. Nunez, by referencing specific economists, implied that the majority of the benefits from postsecondary schooling are social – not individual. “It’s quite possible that there’s severe underinvestment in higher education…The most challenging issue,” she claimed, “is promoting a public will for public higher education.”
“I think focusing on the assets that students bring to the campus or to an outreach program… looking at students really holistically,” Nunez casually remarked, “is really important.”