Current standardized tests must be fixed before we add new ones

To the Editor:

Kanya Balakrishna’s article regarding the Department of Education’s plans for undergraduate standardized testing (“Yalies may face standardized tests,” 2/23) reminds us that we should fix existing standardized tests before adding new ones.

As Claude Steele, then chairman of Stanford’s psychology department, testified in the Bollinger cases, the threat of being negatively stereotyped depresses artificially the scores of ethnic minorities taking high-stakes standardized tests, such as the LSAT. The fear of being judged is distracting and upsetting to the test-taker, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of underperformance.

Appallingly, the LSAT (for instance) still asks the test-taker to self-identify by ethnicity. This exercise exacerbates the problem of stereotype threat.

There is no excuse for this practice. If the Law School Admissions Council believes it has a compelling interest in collecting demographic information, it should do so in a less disruptive way. For instance, test-takers could self-identify by race when they register for the LSAT, typically months before its administration. Alternatively, the question could be asked at the end, rather than beginning, of the test.

There are some easy, cost-free steps to improve the credibility and fairness of standardized tests. Until we take them, it’s hard to justify throwing more tests at students.

Jon Fougner ’05

Feb. 27

The writer is a former director of business development for the News.

News should expand coverage of Latino groups, conferences

To the Editor:

For the past two weekends at Yale, Latino undergraduate organizations have hosted large and significant conferences. The first was the East Coast Chicano Student Forum now in its 35th year, held Feb. 16-18 and organized by MEChA de Yale, the Chicano student organization. MEChA de Yale is one of the nation’s oldest MEChA chapters and has been promoting diversity and diversity awareness since its inception 38 years ago. During ECCSF, MEChA welcomed 150 students from schools along the East Coast to discuss topics pertaining to the conference’s general theme: “Past, Present, and Future: The Chicano Narrative.” Several panels discussed the new wave of immigration reform movements, the history of the Chicano movement, LGBTQ Chicana/o issues and globalized Chicano activism in the form of scholarship, film and active protest. This past weekend, the Yale Mexican Student Organization hosted its Convergencias symposium, also welcoming students from all along the East Coast. It was created to discuss the current challenges in Mexican democracy and leadership and included in its impressive lineup of guest speakers — several prestigious scholars, journalists, politicians and government officials.

As significant as these events were, the headlines of the News made no mention of them. For two weekends in a row, the population of Latino university students on campus increased substantially; topics of grave importance to the current status of Latinos in the United States and Latin American politics were discussed and not one News staff reporter was present, in spite of proper notification. The News functions as a public record of all campus happenings, informing students, faculty, administrators and alumni of all critical issues and events on campus. To omit two La Casa-sponsored conferences in a month from the public record essentially omits these events and the two student groups (which represent a large portion of the Latino undergraduate population) that organized them from the public history of Yale.

While the News should be acknowledged for its recent efforts to increase the discussion on topics of diversity and race with its series “Exploring Race at Yale,” it should be imperative for the News to report on those forums on diversity that already exist on campus. Race, culture and diversity at Yale — these are topics dealt with on a daily basis within many undergraduate organizations. Ignoring those discussions that arise organically from students and which have been nurtured year after year by the Cultural Centers and their member organizations, limits the intellectual scope of the newspaper and the community it serves.

By ignoring notices of major La Casa- sponsored events, thereby eliminating those events from the wider campus discourse, the News’ staff finds itself guilty of perpetrating the very same self-segregation it condemned in a recent News’ View (“Self-segregation thwarts campus unity,” 2/9). Unfortunately, this harms the entire campus community as it withholds information about important issues of diversity, race and culture and the groups that work so hard to encourage such discussions.

Irma Dania Mejia ’08

Feb. 27

The writer is a former moderator of MEChA de Yale.