Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ideological Tests at the U Part 3

For all of those who have been following my reporting on the U of M School of Nursing's Essay Question. I finally have my answers.

Well-- no, not really. But I did get back a couple of documents from the Nursing School last week. I had requested "all data related to the decision to change the Masters of Nursing Program admissions essay question to one regarding Illegal Immigration".

Here is the question on the admissions application:

Statement: "It is appropriate for the state government to provide funding for health care and education of illegal immigrants."First, take the perspective of someone who agrees with this statement and provide rationale that supports agreement.

Next, take the perspective of someone who disagrees with this statement and provide rationale that supports disagreement.

Finally, indicate the position - either agreement or disagreement - that YOU support given what you know at this time. Provide rationale for your position, considering the validity of the rationale you provided previously for agreement and disagreement.

I wanted to understand how the decision was made to include such a controversial question and ideological test in their admissions process. (Thanks to the Nursing School staff who got this information to me very quickly and easily beat the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in turnaround time for a Data Practices Request.)

First, I received meeting minutes from March 23, 2009. The only part pertaining to the question was this:

Online application updates. The fall 2010 applications are being updated and Mary Rowan requested feedback from the group regarding the MN essay questions and whether or not they need to be changed since there seems to frequently be redundancies in responses. Cathy Juve suggested adding a question similar to the ethics essay required on the DNP (Doctoral) application. Reneed Sieving motioned that the second question on the application be changed to be more of a point-counter point essay. Cathy Juve seconded, all approved. Laura Ducket and Mary Rowan will craft an appropriate question.

Lastly, I received a brief email exchange between Mary Rowan and another staff person at the Nursing School. Apparently the Illegal Immigration question is also used for admissions to the undergraduate Nursing honors program.

The only concern expressed in the emails is that somebody who applies to that program could possibly also apply to the Masters program and may have the same question posed twice. There was no concern that the question could be construed as an ideological test. No concern that the issue of illegal immigration is a political issue that has no relation to the practice of nursing.

I find great irony in the fact that an admissions committee- who feels so strongly about the need for a student to be able to argue both sides of a controversial issue, who feels so strongly about the ability to debate and provide valid rationale to support their views, who feels so strongly that nursing school is about turning out future leaders-- would spend no time--zero, zilch, none--in debating the merit and the potential problems that their new essay question poses. I guess their students need to be able to demonstrate intellectual curiosity, but they do not.

I could go on with this exercise and take it to the President's office, but I know he doesn't care. I'm quite confident that he would think that this question is just dandy. I'm sure if I dug around I'd find similar ideological tests are being required all over the University. I mean- a President who boldly defends a Professor who desecrates Catholic Eucharists and then blogs about it using University time and resources, (which is a clear conflict with Board of Regents policy) ain't going to care about the fact that the nursing school is--whether intentionally or unintentionally-- testing students on their political views for admission to the program. Nope.

A public University, my beloved alma mater, it makes me sad. I would hope when President Bruininks finally steps aside next year that perhaps things can change, but I'm not holding my breath.

So what to tell my conservative friend who wants to reapply to the program but can't bring herself to providing her true opinion on illegal immigration for fear that the admissions committee won't like her answer?

I can offer the advice of my mother, (another U of M almuna) "find other schools to apply to, forget it." Or I can offer the advice my husband, (also a U of M alum), "Play the game, just play the game. Tell them what they want to hear."

Hence why my dear husband has a M.D. on his wall and I'm a housewife.


Jim said...

Meanwhile, in sneaky jerk land, they're trying to get cap and trade passed as early as Friday.

Preppy 101 said...

It is hard to believe that they didn't discuss anything about the repercussions that might come along with changing the questions. It appears to be a group of mindless robots in those meetings. She could apply, give her honest opinion, hope for integrity and objectivity from the selection committee, and have a Plan B.

Keep us posted on what your friend decides to do.