Culture show is expressing culture, not defining it

To the Daily:

The recent column written by Sravya Chirumamilla (My culture is mine own, 11/17/2004) regarding the Indian American Students Association cultural show struck me as rather interesting, especially considering that it came out two days before the actual show. Unfortunately, she misunderstands the role that IASA’s program fulfills at the University.

First of all, IASA provides an environment that gives students the opportunity to meet other students of the same cultural background. Chirumamilla extrapolates her experience with the Telugu conference to somehow insinuate that IASA is meant to be a program to “hook” people up. This could not be further from the truth. Unlike week-long conferences held in cities secluded from the rest of the world, IASA interacts with the surrounding environment. This intrinsically provides IASA members with a connection between the South Asian culture and the American culture, and in the process, provides students with the ability to make a comparative assessment of the differences between the two cultures. The melding of the two is not something that should be denigrated, but something that should be celebrated, as it is the result of a complex process of choice — the defining character of culture.

It is true that the Indian culture is diverse, but IASA’s cultural show should not be misinterpreted to be a definition of the Indian American culture. Rather, it is a showcase of the attempt by students of Indian heritage to connect with this heritage. The variety of dances, while not inclusive of South India’s kuchipudi, koolaatam or the vibrant Telugu movie industry, shows that India is indeed a diverse land; it is one’s own responsibility to take this to the next level and learn more about this diversity. It makes no sense to cancel an entire program because it cannot include every infinitely regressive detail.

No one is fed culture through IASA or its cultural program; rather, the participants recognize the work that must be exerted to begin to understand their culture. They meet other students with a genuine interest in South Asian culture. This is a crucial step in the process of cultural recognition. I applaud Chirumamilla for realizing that IASA’s cultural show does not define her cultural identity; however, I feel that her column merely states the obvious in an attempt to insult the hard work of more than 250 sincere members of the South Asian community.

Lastly, Chirumamilla analyzes the IASA cultural show completely out of context. The fact is that IASA organizes a variety of events, some relating to South Asian culture and some not. It is the fact that IASA is not entirely isolationist with its cultural practices that allows it to thrive and encourage cultural exploration by non-Indians as well. In fact, this year IASA organized several politically motivated events and hosted groups such as the College Democrats, Republicans, Students for Nader and Students for Kerry. IASA has also sent its community activity to new heights with the growth of its Gandhi Day for volunteering, which draws even staff members of the University.

While raas and bhangra may not be the staples of Indian culture, one’s voluntary exposure to these elements underlies a sincere attempt to understand one’s culture — whatever one may decide this to be.

Shailesh Agarwal

LSA junior

The letter writer is an IASA board member.

 

New admission policy is in the B-School’s best interest

To the Daily:

I am writing in response to the recent editorial concerning the Business School’s new admission policy (A four year mistake, 11/19/2004). First, I would like to point out the irony that a newspaper that champions itself as progressive has taken a stance promoting the status quo. My guess is that the stance stems from the editorial board’s extreme lack of qualifications to be editorializing on this subject. At a school so vast, it is simply amazing that such a small group with only a few years of time here feels capable of evaluating the decisions of those in niche areas of campus.

That said, let me give some additional insight on why changes are being made to the program. The Bachelor in Business Administration program currently is almost a direct model of the Masters in Business Administration program at the University, short some action-based learning programs and with the addition of the two-year liberal arts background that students get before entering. The program has been this way for more than 30 years, and while well rated in U.S. News & World Report, has never really been looked at in the context of what might make it better suited to undergraduates. Last year, the administration instituted a director position for the program and commissioned a group of faculty, alumni, and students to examine ways to make the No. 2 program in the country even better. Students expressed a desire to be less restrained by the program in terms of going abroad, double-majoring and taking additional business electives. They also noted that the first semester of business school is too rushed, with too much information about careers and courses flooding over them.

The solution was actually quite clear — a longer program. Though the Daily asserts that this could be done internally, with no change in length, I challenge an editor to come over and draw up a workable scenario on the white board. Trust me, we’ve looked at a lot of them. The new staggered approach will provide the same quality courses in addition to new capstone electives that combine all of the business functions studied in addition to warming up students to the career search earlier on. In addition, flexibility for students who are not sure that business is their best choice does exist. Students can decide to join late or to leave if they choose without a significant setback to an LSA degree.

Finally, in regards to the Daily’s assertions that this move is based on generating additional revenue for the school and will block out less privileged applicants, I simply shake my head. Business schools are huge proponents of customer service, and this is a move to provide it better to students. If the school’s mind were on the revenue, this change would have been made long ago. In terms of underprivileged applicants, students will have no less of a shot at the Business School now than they did before. The Business School honors the University’s race-based affirmative action policies and will be working together with LSA admissions to make sure all applicants get a fair review. Students applying will be judged on their performance in whatever environment the grew up in and their reasoning behind getting a business education. To suggest some scheme that blocks out some group is a classic example of this newspaper’s unfounded discovery of discrimination in every subject it tackles.

Michael Phillips

Business senior

The letter writer is vice president of BBA affairs

for the Student Government Association of the

Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

 

Evaluate Detroit’s problems in a historical context

To the Daily:

Alexandra Jones’s documentation of her entrance into Detroit’s old Michigan Central Depot (Michigan Central Depot an ostracized memento of a once-great city, 11/18/2004) is patronizing and demeaning to the city of Detroit. Jones writes about the city as if it were some type of exhibition for her and her fellow “urban explorers” to rummage through. She describes the fear she feels while seeing “boarded-up windows” and “abandoned restaurants” and rejoices when she sees the sunset over the Detroit skyline and feels “for the first time today the city doesn’t look like something to be ashamed of.” While Jones writes about Detroit as if it were a relic from the past, she fails to take into account that people live in the city and could find her comments extremely offensive. Perhaps before proclaiming Detroit as something to be “ashamed of,” she should analyze the historical causes for the city’s current struggle. Dating back to the 1940s, it was middle-class whites that deserted the city, frightened by African Americans who sought to exercise their right to live in desegregated neighborhoods. Along with this white exodus came the de-industrialization of Detroit, as many factories followed and left behind poor, struggling minorities that had little access to jobs and other services.

Today, Detroit faces a weakened tax base as a city that at one point had a population of nearly two million, now holds less than one million. Jones describes that she comes from a “suburb of nowhere, a small city made up of shopping centers and split-levels spreading out from a cluster of old money mansions stuck next to near-segregated slums.” Although Jones says that she is from the South, it is exactly these types of suburban wastelands that are sucking the life out of modern American cities across the nation, as the forces of urban sprawl plague them fiscally, socially, and environmentally. Perhaps before blasting Detroit, Jones should analyze what her role is in this struggle.

Paul Mardirosian

RC sophomore

 

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