Kudos to President Ruth Simmons. Simmons, who has the top post at my alma mater, Brown University, has cast a skeptical eye on the pre-orientation Third World Transition Program (TWTP). For those of you who aren’t in the know, “Third world” is Brown’s word for minority. When I was a student there in the politically-correct charged atmosphere of the 90s, I was told that minority was a loaded world. Third world didn’t have the political baggage that minority does…. Huh?
When I found out about the choice in terminology, I was stunned. More shocking still was the explanation. For me, minority conjures up a Benetton advertisement. Third world, on the other hand, makes me think of shantytowns and of people with dentition issues. I thought it offensive to call U.S. citizens — many of whose families have been in this country longer than mine — third world. Not just offensive, but confusing.
In any case, I’m thrilled to hear that Brown is investigating the mission and legality of TWTP. Although it’s clear that racism is still an issue, I’m not inclined to believe that omitting whites and finger-pointing in their absence is a step in the right direction. This purported bastion of Ivy League liberalism has systematically — and thoughtlessly — thwarted the open-minded spirit of the students. I hope that the university, which was mostly great to me, enters an age of cultural pluralism where dialogue is encouraged and facilitated.