Archives for December 2018
Dear Harvard Admissions Committee,
Congratulations! It is my pleasure to applaud you for accepting the minimum quota of minority students in the undergraduate school. Harvard University proudly considers itself a diverse college by enrolling 22% Asian American, 15% African American, 12% Latino, and 1% Native American in the Class of 2022. Although the numbers are still significantly low for African Americans and Latinos, I sincerely trust that Harvard University will aim to increase those numbers overtime. However, you’re not done yet. It is one thing to admit students of color, but it is a whole other hurdle to retain those students of color once admitted.
This issue is particularly personal in my case, as I apply for graduate programs through the 2019 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. I have the unique opportunity to receive emails from top International Relations and Public Policy grad schools across the nation, each inviting me to apply to their programs. Now that my graduate education is funded by the Pickering Fellowship, I have the privilege to thoroughly research each school’s curriculum and campus environments. The top IR and policy schools consistently rank schools like Harvard and Columbia at the top. Yet, I can’t help but feel hesitant to committing my fellowship to an Ivy League school.
These Ivy League schools certainly flaunt their ability to create a diverse campus, but they often neglect to produce an inclusive environment. Diversity and inclusion are not the same concept. Diversity gives you the statistics, but inclusion leads to the four-year graduation rates and post-grad employment. Luckily for me, I have a guaranteed job after the completion of my master’s program to join the Foreign Service. Thus, my main focus is: Which school will I thrive in and feel a sense of belonging? Even in my undergrad experience at a public university, my happiness and success stemmed from joining the Hispanic Business Student Association in my freshman year. I felt a huge sense of family and belonging with other Latino, first-gen students in addition to other students with diverse backgrounds who engaged in inclusivity. Unfortunately, I now hear stories from current Ivy League grad students who repeatedly warn me about the lack of inclusivity and overload of elitism in the student body. Even a Latina Pickering Fellow claimed her grad school experience was miserable and she would have matriculated anywhere else to avoid an Ivy League institution, due to systemic flaws in retaining students of color.
So what would improve the undergrad or grad school experience for students of color? More specifically, how can Ivy League institutions such as Harvard convey to prospective minority students that they are invested in their long-term success at their school? I would recommend Harvard University invest in a summer enrichment program for students of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented backgrounds for the difficult transition to higher education. These types of students, like me, do not have a vast network or inside knowledge of graduate school in our back pocket. Most of us are simply determined to pioneer the path to higher education and not fall behind. Thus, Harvard should invest in a 1-2 day program to build a support system among other students with similar backgrounds and give them a chance to network with Harvard advisers or faculty members. Students would benefit from their first year with an established network and feeling of community before they even begin classes. This initiative is just the beginning of a long road of reform if universities are truly committed to retaining the minority students they try so hard to recruit.
This type of programming is a worthy investment if Harvard University hopes to retain their bright and diverse student body.
A senior International Relations and Global Studies major at the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing her Master of International Affairs with a focus on East Asian and Security Studies through the Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship.
Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in South America, with an estimated population of 31,568,179. Since it’s colonization in the early 1500s and independence in 1821, the country has fluctuated between prosperity and political turmoil. Oil was discovered in Venezuela in the early 1900s, and today the country has one of the largest known oil reserves in the world. Before the country began exporting oil, its underdeveloped economy was primarily supported by agricultural production of coffee and cocoa. However, oil very quickly came to dominate Venezuela’s export revenues and economy as demand in the US and Europe skyrocketed.
Since 2014, Venezuela has been plagued by hyperinflation, extremely high crime and poverty rates, food shortages, a collapsing healthcare system, and dropping oil output. In just five years the economy has shrunk by half and inflation is nearing 1 million percent – placing nine out of every 10 Venezuelans in poverty. Conditions have worsened in the past two years, prompting an outpouring of refugees into other South American countries. According to the United Nations, 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country over the last four years – about 7 percent of the population (Lederer, 2018). Many more remain displaced within the country.
On September 8 of this year, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration held secret meetings with Venezuelan rebel military officers over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow Maduro (Londoño & Casey, 2018). While the White House has since backed away from these talks, the report ignited a debate among foreign policy experts about a potential US military intervention in Venezuela. Those in support are guided by a duty-based ethical framework, arguing that diplomatic efforts have failed and that the US is compelled to uphold democracy and human rights there, even if by force. Those against intervention utilize a utilitarian framework to argue that intervention is unwanted by both Venezuelans and Western democracies – the US should instead push harder for diplomatic, financial and humanitarian measures in the country.
Shannon K. O’Neil is a senior fellow for Latin American Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. As the debate over a potential US military intervention in Venezuela grows, she has emerged as a leading voice in the opposition. In an article for Bloomberg, she points out that, because Venezuela is twice the size of Iraq with only a slightly smaller population, intervention there would have to be much larger (over 100,000 soldiers) and more expensive than previous US Latin American interventions. What’s more, the history of violent US interventions in the region means that US troops would likely be unwelcome in Venezuela. Stabilizing the country’s government and repairing it’s failing economy and infrastructure would likely result in a prolonged intervention. She writes that “some one hundred thousand Venezuelans are armed, loosely organized into “colectivos” that are likely to go rogue if and when the government collapses.” In short, O’Neil finds that a US intervention in Venezuela would be expensive and unpopular for both the US and Venezuela when further sanctions and humanitarian aid would be substantially more efficient and “do the most good” by upholding human rights in the country – as opposed to forcefully replacing a government and potentially exacerbating Venezuela’s downturn.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank. He argues that US policymakers should never allow economic strategy to guide military response as it would during a potential intervention in Venezuela. He concedes that the regime in Venezuela “deserves to go,” but it is only one of many brutal dictatorships in the world – why shouldn’t the US intervene in those states as well? He continues, explaining that justifying war in Venezuela on the basis that fewer “might” be killed via military action than in its absence would be “grotesque.” An American intervention would also entirely undermine the legitimacy of whatever government came to replace Maduro’s.
While it is true that no actor can possibly know the full extent of the consequences of their actions, that should not justify ignorance of consequences in decision-making. Those arguing against intervention point out that intervening in Venezuela would be extremely unpopular among the US public. While the US utilized Cold War dynamics to justify intervention in the past, interventions since have been much more expensive and much less accepted. Intervening militarily would divert valuable resources from conflict elsewhere and risk American lives. What’s more, Donald Trump campaigned on a “pro-America,” inward-looking platform. To conduct a large Latin American military intervention would likely be politically very dangerous for his administration. The human toll in Venezuela of a US-led military intervention cannot be overlooked. There is no way to know that a military intervention would save more lives than it cost, much less to know if the result would be a stronger and more prosperous Venezuela.