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The annual lecture series, established by Dr. Raymond Hakim in honor of his late wife, Catherine McLaughlin Hakim ’70, focuses on issues of sociology, social justice and public policy.

On Thursday, April 4th, Emmanuel College welcomed to campus Dr. Natasha Warikoo, Stern Professor in the Social Sciences in the Department of Sociology at Tufts University, to discuss her studies on racial and ethnic inequality in education – and how to rethink college admissions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action decision.

Sponsored by the Department of Sociology, the lecture series commemorates the relationships McLaughlin Hakim built during her time at Emmanuel: studying under longtime sociology professor Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SNDdeN, taking part in the folk-dancing with her friend Diane Ayache ’63 - who was in attendance Thursday - and attending an MIT mixer where she and Dr. Hakim met.

Hakim said he approaches the lecture series each year with a mixture of emotions: “The sadness, related to my sorrow at the passing of my wonderful wife, Catherine,” he said, “at the same time I know she is very proud to have this series of lectures in her name at Emmanuel. She loved Emmanuel and the study of sociology, which she actively participated in.”

Joining him in attendance were Catherine’s sister, Anne Marie McLaughlin Tuite, a graduate of the Class of 1964, and her daughters Christine and Suzanne.

“I very much appreciate the family being here for this,” Hakim said. In addition to the lecture series, Emmanuel has a sociology research scholarship and summer science research scholarship in McLaughlin Hakim’s name.

Dr. Raymond Hakim (left) and Dr. Natasha Warikoo speak at the reception following Warikoo's lecture on college admissions and the Affirmative Action decision on Thursday, April 4th.

Dr. Warikoo’s lecture led attendees to consider the history, positives and consequences of Affirmative Action over the years. Her lecture pointed back to a broader issue that the country faces as a whole: viewing the college admissions process and attending a particular college as a measure of worthiness and merit.

“Which college you go to, when we look at the data on income into your 20s and where people went to college, it doesn’t seem to matter as much where the rank is,” Warikoo said.

For one of her books, A Race at the Top, Warikoo went backwards to a high school in an attempt to understand how the college admissions process impacts high school. To do so, she went to an affluent town where students are aspiring to attend the most selective universities.

“The ways we talk about race, meritocracy, deservingness, privilege and disadvantage really shapes how these young people see themselves and others,” Warikoo said.

As a result, it creates beliefs about who deserves higher education and who doesn’t – and Warikoo found that hard work and high achievement for aspiring college students can lead to a sense of entitlement, despite the parents’ efforts or assets that led to that achievement.

One parent told Warikoo that moving to their community put students at a disadvantage, because there are “so many bright kids” there – but there are bright kids everywhere, Warikoo said.

“There’s all this tension about achievement, but what they don’t realize is everyone’s getting a medal, they’re just fighting over gold, silver, or bronze.”

Warikoo also suggested some pathways to move forward as she and many others wait to see how the Affirmative Action decision begins to impact the racial composition of colleges in the U.S in the future.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that they will try to maintain the racial diversity to a certain extent, but in states with bans that’s not what happens,” Warikoo said.

Ideally, Warikoo said, the way we view admission into college needs to shift and stop being treated as an evaluation of worthiness and merit. Instead, she added, colleges should focus more on looking forward and admitting students that align with their mission and the ones who are likely to meet that mission in the future.