The University Record, December 17, 1996


Stereotyping by race is wrong
In his letter to The University Record of November 26, 1996, Prof. Steneck reproaches Prof. Cohen for "accusing of immoral behavior each and every one of us who in any way supports preferences in admission to anyone on the basis of race, gender or ethnicity" and goes on to claim that ignoring race, gender and ethnicity in admission and other programs means "perpetuating inherent biases that unfairly advantage some segments of our society while disadvantaging others." These views of Prof. Steneck cannot remain unchallenged. Does Prof. Steneck really believe that stereotyping people by race instead of treating them as individuals is not wrong? Does he really believe that it is fair to give preferential treatment to students just because of their race? And isn't it condescending if not outright racist to maintain that all people of some races need the crutch of preferential treatment, thus implying that they cannot make it on their own merit?

Further, Prof. Steneck provides no evidence for his claim that the absence of racial preferences would perpetuate racial biases. Indeed, a reasonable case could be made to support the contrary assertion that the system of racial preferences, instituted by President Nixon's "Philadelphia Plan in 1969," has nurtured racial divisiveness. A good example of this is a letter in the Ann Arbor News of Dec. 8, 1996, written by an African American who complains about the discussion of the Black/white achievement gap in schools in terms of racial identity. The author asks, in my opinion quite rightly so, what difference can it make what color the underachieving students are when the question should be, "what effective programs can be created to assist all students in reaching their maximum potential?"

In fact, the introduction of racial preferences under the disguise of affirmative action represents a gross subterfuge of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that clearly declared that workplace discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex or national origin" should be outlawed and that the act should not be interpreted to require any employer "to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group." Ironically, when the Civil Rights bill was debated on the Senate floor and Sen. Goldwater dared to say that it might be abused, Sen. Humphrey proclaimed that he would eat every page of the bill if it ever were used to justify discrimination against anybody on account of race or sex. Well, if Sen. Humphrey were alive today, he would be suffering from very serious constipation!

Jan Kmenta
Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics

Moths not "hidden away"
The "Moths become media stars" on page 7 in the Nov. 26 issue of The University Record was presented well, with the exception of one statement. They were not "hidden away in a drawer for the past 16 years." Such a statement implies that biological research specimens are relegated to some dark and mysterious place, only to see the light of day when some wizened old caretaker opens a cabinet for the occasional visitor.

This, unfortunately, has become the view of some academics and administrators here at U-M and at other universities. The specimens that Dennis Owen collected were here at the U-M Museum of Zoology (UMMZ) is in excellent condition and easily findable because of the fact that we are a world-class museum with modern facilities and well-trained staff and curators with wide-ranging and far-reaching research projects. In fact, the data from specimens he collected have been incorporated into several faunistic survey projects.

Systematists from all over the world are continually making use of our collections, and specimens collected nearly a century ago are adding to our knowledge of biological processes. Had the specimens that Dennis Owen collected been left in an institution that did not support a bona-fide research museum, I suspect that they would have indeed been "hidden away" and more likely, would have been a bunch of tattered specimens.

For a glimpse of the UMMZ Insect Division over the WorldWide Web, you can visit our web site at


Mark F. O'Brien,
collections coordinator
Insect Division, Museum of Zoology