Higher GPA standards will hurt minority kids

To the editor:

I always try to find the humor in things. It’s how I maintain my sanity in this crazy world. And, even though it was hard, I did find some humor in the Review- Journal’s Aug. 17 editorial, “Nevada university admission standards.”

I particularly found humor in the characterization of me, which read: “Defeatists such as Mr. Rodriguez need to stop making excuses for Southern Nevada teens. Mr. Rodriguez … has since 1988 made the de facto argument that most blacks and Hispanics aren’t capable of attaining a 2.75 high school GPA, let alone a 3.0. This is dangerous nonsense.”

As one of my old political heroes, Ronald Reagan, was fond of saying, “There you go again!”

Does the Review-Journal really believe that I want minority children to fail? Or that I would ever say that I don’t believe minorities can achieve a 3.0 GPA, especially when I have spent my entire adult life working and fighting to improve educational opportunities for minorities?

I was appointed by two different governors of Nevada to serve on the only two statewide excellence in education committees convened in Nevada. I was an appointed member of the university system’s two blue-ribbon minority task forces established to improve higher education opportunities for minorities. I was a co-founder of the Latino Youth Leadership Conference, which is designed to prepare Hispanic youths for college and leadership opportunities. I am a past chairman of the Latin Chamber of Commerce’s Career Day Scholarship Program and have been involved in the program for the past 23 years and helped to raise and award more than $1 million to needy Hispanic students, many of whom had GPA’s above 3.0. Yet the Review-Journal absurdly accused of me of wanting minority children to fail? Sure sounds like I want that, doesn’t it?

As to my belief that the rationale that it is elitist to require that incoming students at UNLV or UNR earn a 3.0 GPA in high school, let me respond by giving you Webster’s definition of “elite” and “elitism.” Webster defines “elite” as: “The best or superior members of a society or group. A small, privileged, and often powerful group.” The definition of “elitism” is: “Belief in rule by an elite. Domination or rule by an elite.” Given what we all know about our society, does that sound like they are describing minorities? If you believe that, then I have some real estate I’d like to sell you.

Sadly, the proponents of raising the GPA to 3.0 have made being a “C” student something to be ashamed of, and they have essentially told all “C” students, de facto, that, “You’re not good enough to be in school with the elites so we’re going to send you to the College of Southern Nevada until you smarten up. Then maybe, just maybe, we will give you another chance to join the elite.” Of course, the proponents do not see this as a form of educational segregation or as elitism. I wonder why?

It’s beyond me how educated people can’t see that implementation of the 3.0 GPA will arbitrarily force certain students to attend a community college, whether they want to or not, and that the majority of those students will be minorities. Nevertheless, despite how I feel about the raising of the GPA to 3.0, it is a done deal. And that is why I have some real concerns.

For the record, when the agreement to raise the GPA standard to 2.75 in 2006, and to 3.0 in 2010, was hammered out by the Minority Coalition and the Board of Regents in 2001, and again in 2005, it was implicit that the Nevada System of Higher Education would dedicate additional dollars and implement new programs at UNLV and UNR to beef up recruitment and retention programs on their campuses; would address the overt lack of Hispanics in high, decision-making administrative and faculty positions on all campuses; would make available more dollars for tuition assistance directed toward low-income minority students; would consider implementing an Educational Opportunity Program at UNLV and UNR; and in general would double and triple their efforts to ensure that minorities were recruited and provided services to ensure their retention and success on campus. Unfortunately, what we got instead of all these wonderful things was a dramatic decrease in Hispanic and black student enrollments. Congratulations proponents, you win, we lose.

And so that we don’t confuse what you won, let me tell you that your victory will now ensure that only about 16 percent of Nevada’s high school-aged population will ever get to attend UNLV or UNR. The other 84 percent, i.e., those with less than a 3.0 GPA, the majority of whom will be minority kids, will just have accept their lot in life. Tough luck, kids.

But don’t worry: The elite will take care of you.

Thomas rodriGuez

HENDERSON

THE WRITER IS EXECUTIVE MANAGER OF THE CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT’S DIVERSITY AND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS.

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