With the stringent foreign language requirements the University places on students in the college of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts, it’s about time it engaged in a little bilingualism of its own. Last Monday, the University announced the launch of a Spanish-language news service. It has long been a goal of the University to appeal to qualified minority candidates, and creating an environment that wholly accommodates Hispanics – now the largest minority group in the United States – is a good start.
Despite its attempts to separate itself from the elitism of other top universities, the University too often appears a distant, even unfriendly place to minorities. If it is to live up to its reputation as one of the premier public institutions in the country, the University must first serve the most basic purpose of public universities: making higher education more accessible to everyone. Establishing this news service is the latest in a series of steps the University has recently taken, and it is to be applauded for taking the initiative in attracting minorities.
However, this progress must not stop. As Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Robert Kelch indicated, Spanish language translation is a very common request, and the University should move to translate all its resources to meet this demand. The step it took in launching this site will bring the University plenty of good press in the Spanish-language media that will carry stories from the University’s Spanish news service. This will increase the exposure the Hispanic community has to the University and, hopefully, make it seem like a more open place for minorities.
Having taken the lead in defending affirmative action by arguing Grutter v. Bollinger all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the University has shown that it is willing to fight for its principles. Yet many minority groups – on campus and off – remain skeptical of the University’s commitment to these principles once the national media’s scrutiny is gone. As the University faces the heat from various groups alleging discrimination, it is encouraging that it is not oblivious to the need to attract more minority students.