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Council Reform Panel Attracts Low Turnout

By Nicole W. Green

Only 20 students out of 140 nominal members attended the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Undergraduate Council Reform last night to discuss ways to increase student interest and involvement in council representation.

Committee chair William M. Jay '98 credited the low turnout of the group to the snow.

"Tonight, because of the snow, we're lucky to get 10 [attendants}," he said.

Officers said they had hoped to use the meeting to create subcommittees, but the small size of the group presented "an unexpected opportunity [for] brainstorming...to think about what is the purpose, function, and mission of student government," said committee vice-chair Susan M. Groppi '98.

Council President Lamelle D. Rawlins '98 identified the main problem for the Reform Committee as a "communications gap" between council representatives and students.

"Ten year down the road, when I look back at Harvard, I'd like to see students who think: When I have a problem I go to the U.C.," said Rawlins.

A central question discussed by committee members was the appropriate role of the council's representation.

"I'd like to see a scene in which people...have an opportunity to be part of student government to represent themselves and their ideas," said Benjamin A. Rahn '99, who joined the council in February.

Committee secretary Shannon K. May '99 pointed the disadvantages of a narrow focus.

"It sounds like this is moving away from representative politics to interest group policies," she said. "The cost of that might decrease overall student involvement beyond what it is now. It leads to a distancing and a radicalization."

Another reform which was dis- SCHOOLSoverwhelming number of [Boston Latin students] come from private, parochial or the Metco programs in the suburban schools," says Alkins.

'Reverse Discrimination'?

But Julia's father, Michael C. McLaugh-lin--the lawyer who filed the controversial suit--believes that there are "no vestiges of past discrimination" remaining. Rather, he believes that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, into the realm of "reverse discrimination."

Under the new exam school policy, the top test scorers comprise half the entering class, while to other half is made up of the top scorers from each racial group, in accordance with the proportion of that racial group in the applicant pool.

Although the compromise partly was the result of his suit, McLaughlin denounces it as "race baiting" and "numerical racial warfare."

"A white or an Asian is therefore kept out not because of their performance, but because of the failure of people of his race applying in sufficient numbers," says McLaughlin. "I'm sure there are many students who would have gotten in who are Asian or white who are being kept out by the new quota, and that is fundamentally unfair because we're talking about a governmental entity."

He adds: "A private entity can do whatever it wants under the constitution, but according to the 14th Amendment, public schools can't."

McLaughlin says that he experienced such double standards firsthand when he sought a lawyer to represent his daughter in court.

"No one would take the case. The American Civil Liberties Union wouldn't take it because it was non-politically correct, and the civil-rights lawyers said they couldn't take it because it would hurt the black community," says McLaughlin. "civil rights is perceived as a black issue, when it's a people issue."

The New York Times reported that McLaughlin's former employer, the Boston law firm of Lane & Altman, dismissed him over the lawsuit.

McLaughlin, who represents women in constitutional issues regarding banking laws, then had to undertake the case himself, spending $300,000 but ultimately winning what he regards as a vindication.

Of Payzant's decision, McLaughlin says: "There are 300 other families who were offered admission as a result of Julia's case. secondly, a lot of other people know that this can't go on, especially the Asians."

To underscore his point, McLaughlin referred to Stuyvesant High School in New York City, which admits students on test scores alone.

In 1995, stuyvesant had a racial composition of 49 percent Asian, 43 percent white, 4 percent Hispanic and 4 percent black, according to The New York Times.

McLaughlin says, "If it turns out to be all Asians, then that's the way it should be because they've shown that they're the best students."

Asian-American Responses

Robert Guen, a Chinese-American former Boston School Committee Member and self-described "de facto spokesperson for the Asian community"--says some Asian-Americans do consider the exam schools' admission policy to be unfair.

"For the basis of getting into examination schools, we're considered in the white category, but in all other categories, we are considered a minority," says Guen. "In that respect, the Asian parents are sort of confused and indignant.

"We are at nine percent of the population, and we are penalized for that, so the only thing fair for Asians is to have admission based on merit," Guen says.

He says that affirmative action might be self-defeating if it benefits economically privileged minority students who do not need special opportunities.

"Giving special consideration due to race is wrong because not all minority students are disadvantaged," Guen says. "There are middle-class minority students who are advantaged because they attend parochial schools or schools in the suburbs."

But Guen concedes that the "system as it is could be unfair."

Plans for Equality

McKinnis says that much needs to be done before there is a level playing field for all races.

"Everything is not equal," she says. "They have made a step forward, but each year, they seem to be going backwards, too."

McKinnis fears that busing will be the next target.

"The next thing you're going to hear is that the school system will return to neighborhood schools, and that is a big mistake because there are certain areas in the black community where there are no schools for those kids to go to," she adds.

prominent black leaders have said they are not asking for a lowering of the standards so they can get into Boston Latin but rather improving the quality of early education so everyone can have an equal chance of getting in.

Alkins would like to see more resources put into the city's elementary and middle schools.

"There's no reason why all the public high schools in the Boston area should not have a level of education equal to the education that the exam schools offer," he says, "Not everyone has to go to the three schools."

McKinnis also wonders why "all schools can't be like Latin and provide a quality education." But she insists that until things change, the Boston Latin School still remains the best school for minority students and should therefore make a special effort to accept them.

America's Oldest school

Founded in 1635, the Boston Latin School boasts an impressive alumni roster, including five signers of the Declaration of Independence and Harvard alumni Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Santayana and Leonard Bernstein.

For blacks and whites.alike, it holds out the promise of a bright future.

For the celebration of the school's 350th anniversary, McKinnis says that "many of the alumni were saying that they would prefer a Latin student over other students. Even if the Latin student made D's, they would prefer the Latin student over other students.

"It opens a lot of doors," she says, "especially being a minority."

McKinnis's own daughter, Palestine, graduated from the school in 1989.

McLaughlin also stresses the importance of a Latin diploma toward a good college and a promising future.

"It was always available to the best students regardless of who they were," he says. "For many years, the entire graduating class [ofLatin] went to Harvard."

Two of McLaughlin's daughters graduated from Boston Latin, and Julia is currently in the eighth grade there.

McLaughlin recalls that in each of his daughter's graduating classes, about 20 students went on to attend Harvard.

Charting the Future

Robert P. Gittens, president of the Boston School committee, says that the public school system would continue to improve and seek ways to be even better and fairer.

"We want to make busing students as competitive as non-busing, non-Boston public school kids," he says. "We also want to define the idea of merit and whether it should be based on standardized testing, and if so, which test ought to be used."

Gittens believes that the exam-school admission policies should have a "broad-based legitimacy" that city residents can all deem fair.

"There needs to be merit involved in the admissions process, but it should also be available to the diverse population of Boston," says Gittens. "we are committed to ensuring student diversity. But at the same time, we want to put into place a mechanism that would comply with constitutional law."

He says the Payzant and his staff will continue looking at the issue and will announce its recommendations in May.

Previous proposals included a total abandonment of the racial quota system--a plan initially favored by Mayor Thomas M. Meni-no--but those suggestions have partly died down in the furor over the issue

'Reverse Discrimination'?

But Julia's father, Michael C. McLaugh-lin--the lawyer who filed the controversial suit--believes that there are "no vestiges of past discrimination" remaining. Rather, he believes that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, into the realm of "reverse discrimination."

Under the new exam school policy, the top test scorers comprise half the entering class, while to other half is made up of the top scorers from each racial group, in accordance with the proportion of that racial group in the applicant pool.

Although the compromise partly was the result of his suit, McLaughlin denounces it as "race baiting" and "numerical racial warfare."

"A white or an Asian is therefore kept out not because of their performance, but because of the failure of people of his race applying in sufficient numbers," says McLaughlin. "I'm sure there are many students who would have gotten in who are Asian or white who are being kept out by the new quota, and that is fundamentally unfair because we're talking about a governmental entity."

He adds: "A private entity can do whatever it wants under the constitution, but according to the 14th Amendment, public schools can't."

McLaughlin says that he experienced such double standards firsthand when he sought a lawyer to represent his daughter in court.

"No one would take the case. The American Civil Liberties Union wouldn't take it because it was non-politically correct, and the civil-rights lawyers said they couldn't take it because it would hurt the black community," says McLaughlin. "civil rights is perceived as a black issue, when it's a people issue."

The New York Times reported that McLaughlin's former employer, the Boston law firm of Lane & Altman, dismissed him over the lawsuit.

McLaughlin, who represents women in constitutional issues regarding banking laws, then had to undertake the case himself, spending $300,000 but ultimately winning what he regards as a vindication.

Of Payzant's decision, McLaughlin says: "There are 300 other families who were offered admission as a result of Julia's case. secondly, a lot of other people know that this can't go on, especially the Asians."

To underscore his point, McLaughlin referred to Stuyvesant High School in New York City, which admits students on test scores alone.

In 1995, stuyvesant had a racial composition of 49 percent Asian, 43 percent white, 4 percent Hispanic and 4 percent black, according to The New York Times.

McLaughlin says, "If it turns out to be all Asians, then that's the way it should be because they've shown that they're the best students."

Asian-American Responses

Robert Guen, a Chinese-American former Boston School Committee Member and self-described "de facto spokesperson for the Asian community"--says some Asian-Americans do consider the exam schools' admission policy to be unfair.

"For the basis of getting into examination schools, we're considered in the white category, but in all other categories, we are considered a minority," says Guen. "In that respect, the Asian parents are sort of confused and indignant.

"We are at nine percent of the population, and we are penalized for that, so the only thing fair for Asians is to have admission based on merit," Guen says.

He says that affirmative action might be self-defeating if it benefits economically privileged minority students who do not need special opportunities.

"Giving special consideration due to race is wrong because not all minority students are disadvantaged," Guen says. "There are middle-class minority students who are advantaged because they attend parochial schools or schools in the suburbs."

But Guen concedes that the "system as it is could be unfair."

Plans for Equality

McKinnis says that much needs to be done before there is a level playing field for all races.

"Everything is not equal," she says. "They have made a step forward, but each year, they seem to be going backwards, too."

McKinnis fears that busing will be the next target.

"The next thing you're going to hear is that the school system will return to neighborhood schools, and that is a big mistake because there are certain areas in the black community where there are no schools for those kids to go to," she adds.

prominent black leaders have said they are not asking for a lowering of the standards so they can get into Boston Latin but rather improving the quality of early education so everyone can have an equal chance of getting in.

Alkins would like to see more resources put into the city's elementary and middle schools.

"There's no reason why all the public high schools in the Boston area should not have a level of education equal to the education that the exam schools offer," he says, "Not everyone has to go to the three schools."

McKinnis also wonders why "all schools can't be like Latin and provide a quality education." But she insists that until things change, the Boston Latin School still remains the best school for minority students and should therefore make a special effort to accept them.

America's Oldest school

Founded in 1635, the Boston Latin School boasts an impressive alumni roster, including five signers of the Declaration of Independence and Harvard alumni Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Santayana and Leonard Bernstein.

For blacks and whites.alike, it holds out the promise of a bright future.

For the celebration of the school's 350th anniversary, McKinnis says that "many of the alumni were saying that they would prefer a Latin student over other students. Even if the Latin student made D's, they would prefer the Latin student over other students.

"It opens a lot of doors," she says, "especially being a minority."

McKinnis's own daughter, Palestine, graduated from the school in 1989.

McLaughlin also stresses the importance of a Latin diploma toward a good college and a promising future.

"It was always available to the best students regardless of who they were," he says. "For many years, the entire graduating class [ofLatin] went to Harvard."

Two of McLaughlin's daughters graduated from Boston Latin, and Julia is currently in the eighth grade there.

McLaughlin recalls that in each of his daughter's graduating classes, about 20 students went on to attend Harvard.

Charting the Future

Robert P. Gittens, president of the Boston School committee, says that the public school system would continue to improve and seek ways to be even better and fairer.

"We want to make busing students as competitive as non-busing, non-Boston public school kids," he says. "We also want to define the idea of merit and whether it should be based on standardized testing, and if so, which test ought to be used."

Gittens believes that the exam-school admission policies should have a "broad-based legitimacy" that city residents can all deem fair.

"There needs to be merit involved in the admissions process, but it should also be available to the diverse population of Boston," says Gittens. "we are committed to ensuring student diversity. But at the same time, we want to put into place a mechanism that would comply with constitutional law."

He says the Payzant and his staff will continue looking at the issue and will announce its recommendations in May.

Previous proposals included a total abandonment of the racial quota system--a plan initially favored by Mayor Thomas M. Meni-no--but those suggestions have partly died down in the furor over the issue

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