Friday, April 23, 2010

The Blessing of Bigots...

Presented for your approval is an unmodified letter from the graduate school that recently rejected me from their program. I have made no changes to their letter.

I will let the Graduate School know you want your file retained for review in January for 2011-entry. 

We do not do final rankings or waitlists for the AEM UP program, so that information is not available.  From what I can tell, it looks like one of the primary reasons for your not being admitted had to do with your interviews.  There was concern about your science grades, but the interviewers reported having a difficult time pulling answers from you and that you had a “circular speech” style.  Linear, clear, quick, critical speech and thinking is an absolute must for nurses and there was some concern about your communication skills.  It was noted that you would likely make a good nurse, but that you may not be suited for the leadership role you would be ultimately be expected to assume as a CNL.  So, I think it ultimately came down to “fit” for the program, nursing and CNL, a not really your academic record.  Also, we only had about 8 seats left in the program by the time you were interviewed, so the applicants who met every single admission requirement andhad stellar interviews were selected for admission. 

I hope this helps you understand our decision.


Well? What to say? Let me begin with why I applied to this school's program. I am not a scientist; I am a student with a writing background, an ethics minor, with a long history of blue collar work, and a firm belief in working as a nurse for the sake of helping people. Nursing is not an job, it is a passion; it is a duty filled with hard work, emotion, and difficult choices. I believe in the power of narrative, that nurses should be able to talk to all people on all levels. On paper, the school I applied to wanted students with life experience, who came to the choice of nursing not out of necessity for a career, but wanted to do so out of a sense of compassion and duty. 

But why the claim of bigotry? I don't pull out the race card very often, but when sitting with my interview group and looking at the photographs of previous classes, it is apparent that the school wants a certain type of student--White, early twenties, women, or men who are tall, aryan, and fit the new Christian army model. As an Asian with a handlebar mustache, I don't look like them. I don't think like them. I don't talk like them. But that doesn't mean I would not be a successful student in their program.

What is "Circular Speech?" This is something that I find to be a nebulous answer to me as a request for a critique. There is time to give direct "Yes or No" responses. And there are times to tell a story. If someone wants to know about me and how I think, especially as a candidate, a story is how I will convey my information. The path won't be linear. The critical thinking skills are there, which the letter implies are absent. But it makes me question their intent--do they want people who are successful nurses, or exceptional middle managers? A successful nurse should be able to communicate with a wide variety of patients, from the youngest of children to the senior citizens of all walks of life. This is an accomplishment I have met with much acclaim. But since I didn't get on my knees and give these administrators blowjobs I am out of luck.

I am a story teller, and I believe that nurses should be able to convey information to patients in a variety of methods. When asked about my leadership style, I told them that I don't believe in being a dictator, that I don't believe in strolling blindly into a situation and delegating tasks to individuals with more experience than me. I believe in discovering peoples strengths and weaknesses and finding out what they want from a leader. Do they want an advocate or an administrator? A dictator or a delegator? But of course this didn't matter.

Let me present a hypothetical. Let's say that an individual who didn't speak English as their first language was interviewed as a candidate. Try as they might, they may fumble over their words, use cultural idioms that don't make sense to Americans, and struggle with the linear answers required of them. Why, because different cultures process information in a different manner. I come from a tradition of story tellers. The aphorism, the fable, and the morality play have been how I learn. When talking to my former patients about the complex experiments they participated it, I could prattle on and on about binaural processing, signal to noise ratios, noise cancellation, phase differences, or I could break it down to something very understandable, "You're going to listen to the sounds of Pong for science, but it gets tricky. Here's what we are looking for..."

One of my interviewers stated she had not reviewed my file in three weeks. How do I respond to any questions from a person who makes a statement like this when they haven't taken the time to find out about me as an applicant? From the look on her face, she made me seem like a burden. I hate nothing more than to waste someone's time. If she had taken the time to read my essay, to look at my MAT scores, to see the diversity of my resume, and the letters of recommendation, I think they would have found me a unique applicant that broke their mold that would have expanded the needs of their program. 

So what does institutionalized prejudice look like? It looks like this. It's hard to see, as most glass ceilings are, but when you hit it it hurts as much as it hurts when you slam into a brick wall. If you have not experienced racism or discrimination first hand, then the subtleties of the letter may be elude you. But the case of bigotry rings strong in my ears.

What will be interesting is how the deans of the graduate school when I send the above and my commentary. 

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