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Italian Americans seek affirmative action, and get it, at CUNY

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Diversity of many different coming-froms is much more interesting when its based on culture, language, knowledge and art, rather than less thought-based categories.

Sometimes that opportunity means extending a helping hand to those who posess special knowledge or fluency in the symbols of a cultural system that would add to the alphabet soup of college.

Universities are first and foremost libraries, where books contain all sorts of symbols. Students come with different skills for both reading and writing these symbol-holding books. In study, they learn to read and write, having started-out with unique clues.

It only makes sense that Italian Americans should be extended a helping hand to get to college, where they can develop depth of mind, with pride in roots, and eyes to the starry sky. They are one of the empire state's largest ethnic groups, and our next governor will be Italian American.

CUNY has responded to complaints that Italian Americans are denied opportunities and are under-represented as members of university administration, faculty and student bodies.

The New York Times writer Lisa W. Foderaro wrote a piece called Unlikely Group Charges Bias at University, Italian-Americans Want More Affirmative Action at CUNY in which she describes a new law suit filed by members of Calandra Italian American Institute at the City University of New York against the institute for failures in representative hiring for Italian Americans.

It's not clear that means Italian-speakers.

Whatever the merits of the concepts involved or the specifics of the Italian grievance, the idea that Italians are asserting identity and community in multi-cultural society is a good thing, because smaller close-knit human groups maintain knowledge of hearth and heritage that makes us all better human. That is, when we share.

University is where tribes and madmen come to share knowledge and put their symbols down on books to add to the library of woman and man.

Italians have some of the best books. If you have a whole lot of Italian Americans at CUNY, they'll peruse the libraries, and insinctively search-out those books that might go neglected. [Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum is burning in my mind lately.]

I know that a lot of us micks that went to public schools in New York end-up auto-didacticalicious (self-taught), because we go to the libraries selfishly, to discover all the great books that contradict the teacher.

Italians have that in buckets and spades. The Irish books (English and Gaelic, etc) inevitably lead you to the Italians books and the Black books (so many languages, so many art forms) and the Jewish books of course, and the science books, and the philosophy books. College is awesome, in that older sense of awe.

Classrooms are great too, in that older sense of greatness. Nothing better than taking a Neo-platonism class with an Italian American student that is passionate about the proper pronunciation of the Italian names, the glorious Italian names of human civilization that burn bright like stars protected in the university round towers.

Let them in. Get them in.

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