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Challenging ‘mediocrity’

Kate Turner | Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dear Mr.Pearce,

I’ve read your Oct. 29 column a few times. First I rolled my eyes, not shocked by this opinion. Then, I became angry at the assumptions you made about categorizing diversity as “artificial” and personally agreeing that “struggling,” underrepresented minority students switch to “easier” majors because they feel they don’t belong with their peers. Your use of the “URM” acronym as a catch all for every “artificially diverse” student was also particularly insulting. Maybe I should start referring to “majority” students as “PWMs,” an equally misguided acronym.

I’m not going to try and debunk all the wonderfully well-thought-out arguments in your column. But I will say this:

Last May, I graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in chemical engineering. Earning that degree was the hardest challenge I’ve ever taken on. It wasn’t hard because I’m African American, or because I was at a university that, statistically, probably admitted me to promote “artificial” diversity or because I felt like I “didn’t belong” with my peers.

After reading your column a few more times, I’ve come to this conclusion: Thank you, Mr. Pearce. When my chemical engineering classes became exceedingly difficult junior year, it was off-hand comments and Viewpoint columns like yours that compelled me to finish my degree in this particular major. Your categorizing of people like me as “mediocre” compared to your own “excellence” drove me every night to push through differential equations, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics and 70-page lab reports. Thank you for reminding me why I stuck it out. Whenever someone remarked that people of my “mediocre” status on campus were destined to have “stunted” academic achievements to promote “artificial” diversity, I became even more convinced that I was good enough to get a degree in a “harder” major, just like anyone else.

So thanks, truly. Now, I’m going to print off your column, stick it onto the bulletin board in my office next to my degree and picture of my chemical engineering Class of 2012 on the Dome steps and read it every time I think my top-5 ranked Ph.D. program is getting tough.

Best wishes,

Kate Turner


Class of 2012

Nov. 1