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David G. Rhodes rhodes at MODEL.PHR.UTEXAS.EDU
Sun Apr 24 14:25:53 EST 1994


On Apr 21, 12:13am, <U58563 at uicvm.uic.edu> wrote: <order of sentences inverted>

> [what I'm talking
> about is a statistic I saw about a year ago, claiming that NO blacks had
> received Genetics doctorates in 1992, I think.]

This may well be - in the most recent data of which I am aware (from 1988,1989
studies by the National Science Board of NSF) which showed the distribution of
doctoral degree recipients in 'life sciences' to be:
                   1988     1989
caucasian          93.1     93.0
asian               2.9      3.1
hispanic            1.6      1.9
black               1.6      1.7
native american     0.4      0.2

I have seen isolated statistics since then (e.g. _Science_ special reports), but
this study is fairly comprehensive.

> I don't understand how
> any kind of racism could possibly gain a foothold among people educated enough
> to KNOW that the races are equal, but so long as the symptoms exist people
> have a right to look for a cause and a cure for such inequities.

I must take issue with this assertion.  That a disparity exists may not be due
to overtly (or even subtly) racist behavior by those who might sponsor minority
candidates (presumably the group referred to above).  Certainly, in this group,
as in any cross-section of a society with high-points and low-points, there will
be racist individuals of varying degrees (no pun intended).

The question remains, "given the anomalous distribution, what is the source and
can it be rectified?"  I would maintain that the primary cause of the disparity
is not deliberate racism by those in the universities - most of us would eagerly
welcome any qualified candidate into a degree program.

Nevertheless, there are other factors that we can and should address.  One area
that I feel is a significant factor is the number of potential minority
scientists who begin their educations in substandard schools.  Magnet programs
have helped to bring quality (excellence) in a limited way, but these can
usually only help a few children who have been identified for the available
programs.  Disparities in the demographics of poverty are reflected in the
quality of available education and in the extent of this education.  If we can
improve the opportunities available for our youngest students, the end result
will, I feel, be a stable, long-term improvement in the diversity of our
scientific workforce.

As 'scientists', we can make useful contributions through mentoring.  This could
take the form of participating in ACS-related outreach programs (or equivalent),
taking the initiative to visit schools in need to talk with or work with
'at-risk' children, voluntering an hour or 2 per week to work through
Science-by-Mail projects with a group of children (call your local science
museum), or even corresponding with groups through internet.  Perhaps through
creation of this interest group, a coordinated effort could be made to get
people involved.  I haven't discussed this aspect with the originator, but it
might be very useful to get guidance councelors from high schools or minority
student affairs offices into the forum.

This is not an overnight solution (the students we begin to work with will not
receive their PhD's until well into the next century) and for that reason, many
will find it unsuitable.  It is not offered as _the_ solution, only as one
important component.

Just a few thoughts ....



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