Benton and Affimative Action : LUSENET : ER Discussions : One Thread

In "Walk in the Woods" Peter implied that he was accepted into med school through affirmative action. However, I thought I remembered Peter telling Dennis Gant in season 3 that he never checked "the box." Is this a continuity problem or am I missing something?

-- Ames (, February 15, 2001


Oh yeah! I remember that too when he said that. But maybe he got an interview and upon seeing him, they took him through Affirmative Action. (I'm not sure how the whole process works.)

-- LeeS (, February 15, 2001.

Benton said he never checked the box. This would mean that he got through the first part of the process on his own merit. However, remember the scene with Carter where he was separating the med school applications into two piles: interview and no interview? He made the cut without benefit of affirmative action, but once he showed up for the interview, he didn't need to check the box. If the interviewer was under instructions to weigh minority applicants differently, he could do that, and Peter could never be completely sure that his race was not a factor. For a proud man like Peter, that would hurt.

-- Melinda (, February 15, 2001.

i was quite pissed at peter in this episode b/c as director of diversity, he seems to think that diversity means only black or latino students.... did he miss out all the asian students who were given interviews? Asian are minorities too, so it's not like the selection commitee was going against diversity...anyhow, what do you guys think about peter's decision to give that black student an interview? Somehow, i don't think it is fair...

-- anna (, February 16, 2001.

Sorry -i know that this is very off topic, but Anna, you have the same email adress as the person who runs 'Carter Chen ER'. I have been trying to email you for a whille. Is there something wrong with your inbox? Email me!

-- Ritaann (, February 16, 2001.

I was reading a treatise on affirmative action by a black law school professor the other day. He said that he too refused to check the race box when applying to schools, but that he knows for certain that at least one school, and probably others, found out somehow that he was black. I'm sure there are plenty of ways that schools can find out this information, even if you don't reveal it. All it would take is for one person who writes you a recommendation to spill the beans and say "he's an exceptional minority candidate". So the two different episodes can be reconciled. The med school could have found out Benton was black through many other avenues.

-- Laura Lindstrom (, February 16, 2001.

The whole problem with the premise with stating, "minorities need help. Minorities need preferential consideration..." does not account for the fact that many Asian candidates, are, by and large, better prepared, smarter, and more focused than many of their white colleages.

I think, if we are to use divises like Affirmative Action correctly, then use it to help achieve "diversity" on the Football fields and basketball courts.....places where whites are represented very poorly, indeed!!!

-- Andreaux (, February 16, 2001.

Anna, I wouldn't be too pissed off about the Asian question. A few years ago at Stanford, they were turning away Asian students, not because they weren't making the cut, but because they were ruining the curve for everyone else. The ethnic diversity Stanford was getting worried about were not enough white people!

-- S. Trelles (, February 16, 2001.

I don't know the legalities of all of this, but I really felt for Benton in this epi. It is clear that the candidates they inteviewed were not impressive. They may have had the grades, but that doesn't mean they would be the best candidates. Maybe Benton was highly impressed with William White in the short time he talked to him and thought "why not at least interview him". Sometimes the best people don't have the best grades. I felt bad for Benton when he found out he had been brougbt in through AA. This is all a very sticky situation and I really don't know what the best way to handle it would be.

-- amanda (, February 16, 2001.

No, we're not. We're not minorities because, by and large, we do well for ourselves, and minority status is reserved for people who don't. It has less to do with race or gender and more to do with socioeconomic status and perceived victimization. People who do well for themselves cannot be victims, ergo they cannot be a minority.

Now that I've stirred the pot a bit.. ;)

Back in the 1990s, a number of universities used a preferential admissions process to try and get what some anonymous administrator had determined was a "socially correct" balance of races. The result was that if you self-declared as a black or Latino, you were treated preferentially to an Asian or Jewish candidate; in one case (it may have been at Stanford; S., stop me if this sounds familiar), Asian students filed complaints because despite having sky-high GPAs and impeccable records, the bar for them had been set so high there was no hope of them being admitted -- yet other "visible minorities" were being admitted with (in some cases) significantly lower scores. In one case a lawsuit was filed by a student who was rejected because of this policy, which has thankfully since been tossed.

This is a contentious issue, but because I'm the kind of person I am, I believe very strongly in merit- and achievement-based admissions rather than anything else. When I'm screening applicants, I don't even look at the names until after I've made up my mind, and I deliberately don't look at the self-declaration information. The whole thing bothers me because it feels like inverse racism -- it's judging people based on the color of their skin rather than on the caliber of their minds or the content of their character. (No points for spotting the reference.) The fact that it's being used to provide an advantage to people who were historically disadvantaged does not outweigh the negative implications, in my mind..

For whatever it's worth, there are some medical schools out there who are now admitting candidates who do not come from the highest ranks of their classes; I work with some of them. My feeling is that we're getting a better crop of physicians as a result, and I'm enthusiastic to see what happens when they finish residency and head out into the real world. (Who the hell wears a Smashing Pumpkins t- shirt to an interview? You may have good grades, kid, but you sure as hell aren't very smart..)

-- Mike Sugimoto (, February 16, 2001.

I thought this was a great subplot for a show that's running out of ideas. Benton's finally getting some sensitivity in this season. Maybe he'll reconsider Carter's criticism about his ways of determining med school admitances.

-- Elaine (, February 16, 2001.

Great points, Mike. It would be like, putting Chris Dudley and Luc Longley on the All-Star roster, just to say....."Hay, we care about here are some big-clunky white guys for ya!!!"

Maybe the admittance of more black physicians will mean more physicians who can speak Ebonics with their patients!

-- Andreaux (, February 16, 2001.

Affirmative action, in the words of Lyndon B. Johnson, was meant to even the race because for so long minorities have been held back by both legal and social barriers. Affirmative Action in conception was giving consideration to a minority candidate who is just as qualified as other candidates. As a pre-med major in college, I think that affirmative action in conception is just as important today because socioeconomic factors still determine how well a person does in school and on the MCATs. And socioeconomically minorities (including Southeast Asians and South Asians) just happen to fall into the lowest percentile.

-- Kanha Vuong (, February 16, 2001.

Did Benton start medical school in 1993 or graduate then?

-- violet (, February 18, 2001.

Since he wasn't a med student when the show first aired (in 1994), then 1993 must have been his graduating year.

-- Cecelia (, February 18, 2001.

They tell you that you don't have to check the boxes for race or gender but your name typically gives away your gender & your extracurricular activities may give away your race. Or your sexual orientation in some cases. It's almost impossible to have a 'color- blinded' application for graduate school. You have to decide if you want your application to be race/gender-neutral vs no extracurricular activities or what that other writer said about policing your letters of recommendation to make sure they don't out you.

What a lot of people don't recognise about affirmative action is that once you are in the school it's not like you get tested differently or take easier classes. Sometimes your situation is much more challenging. My medical school had some "special" students who didn't quite make the grade requirements but for whatever reason the admissions committee thought they deserved a chance to prove themselves. If the rest of us could do poorly in 2 classes & maybe get to repeat something, the "special" students got 1 strike only. If they did poorly in just 1 class, they were history.

The other thing people don't like to talk about is the "affirmative action" given to relatives of alums or people who give large sums of money to the school. I read that if you have no relatives as an alum of an Ivy League school, your chances of getting accepted were around 30%. If you had a relative as an alum, your acceptance rate was over 60%. This is all regardless of your other qualifications. Nobody wants to talk about that.

Peter has been somewhat of an ass about this subject to Gants & others. It serves him right a little to have to deal with this issue from the other side. I must say that none of those idiots dressed in t-shirts & the like would have been accepted. I also know of no one, myself included, who said they wanted to 'help people' & all that bullshit during their interview.

-- (, February 20, 2001.

I know this is rapidly going off-topic, but, Mike, people who do well-off for themselves can be victims. Many of the Asians who were interned during WWII had successful businesses and were climbing the socioeconomic ladder. Same with the Jews who were terrorized during the holocaust.

-- Yonemoto (, March 18, 2001.

Here at Yale, where I teach, we always know when graduate student applicants are Latino or Black even though all of the box-checking forms are separate and we don't see them. We also know for most of the undergraduate applicants. We know because of clues either in their essays, where many students mention their background, or in the letters or recommendation, or sometimes because they attended historically Black schools, or from their surnames, and increasingly, from their first names. Someone named Kamari Washington, for example, is probably Black, while Jose Ramirez is most likely Latino -- although that varies a bit. Another factor in undergraduate admission is the high school you come from. Given residential segregation -- if you graduate from an inner-city Hartford, CT high school, for example, you are probably Black or Latino because the city is that segregated. The term "minority" does not really refer to any-group-but-WASPS for the purposes of affirmative action; it means historically underrepresented minorities. This is mainly Latinos and Blacks, and then to a lesser extent a few other groups. For example, in the case of Asians, some of the later Vietnamese or Laotian or Cambodian refugees might come under affirmative action where Japanese-Americans or Chinese-Americans might not, because so many of the SE Asian refugee groups came from former tribal societies like Hmong, etc. and are seriously disadvantaged when trying to fit into an industrial country like the US, unlike the so-called "model minority" other Asian groups. But most Asian-Americans and most European ethnics like Italian, Jewish, Irish, etc. -Americans might be minorities, and might even have a history of being discriminated against, but are not affirmative action minorities. Many universities are moving toward a color blind admission process that takes into account economic status, though. Peter Benton's now-discarded idea that affirmative action played no role in his getting into college and then medical school could not have been anything but self-delusion.

-- Linda-Anne Rebhun (, March 18, 2001.

well, since we're already off topic. Kind of. I thought handicapped or disabled(like hearing impaired) also fit under affirmative action. If anyone knows I would like to know. Since being hearing impaired myself I often wonder if if gotten as far as I have because of it.

-- James (, March 18, 2001.

To stir the pot even further: What about women? Ahem. "Historically underrepresented," y'know.

-- Cecelia (, March 18, 2001.

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