Letters to the Editor

This is Viewpoints for Monday, December 4, 2017

Private jets are parked at Scottsdale Airport in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Private jets are parked at Scottsdale Airport in Scottsdale, Arizona. AP

Rebuttal to Williams

In response to Professor Walter E. Williams’ opinion piece on Nov. 23 entitled “Diversity Obsession” I hardly know where to begin in my disagreement. He thinks our institutions of higher learning should “ask just what is diversity and whether it is a good thing.” He wonders if college administrative leaders know what their institutional vision of diversity is.

In my capacity as assistant dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Mercer University School of Medicine, I spend a lot of time pondering these and other questions regarding diversity. It is clearly written in our diversity statement that “The School of Medicine adopts a definition of diversity that embraces race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, social and cultural attributes, rural or metropolitan background, and disability.”

Unlike what Williams asserts our definition of diversity is not just limited to race. Our statement goes on to explain that “The definition of diversity also includes life experiences, record of service and employment, and other talents and personal attributes that can enhance the scholarly and learning environment. Mercer University School of Medicine believes that an environment of inclusiveness, equal opportunity, acceptance, and respect for the similarities and differences in our community is essential for excellence in the fulfillment of our mission.”

Williams is also uninformed about the research that exists promoting the benefits of diversity in medicine. The Association of American Medical Colleges recently published an Analysis in Brief entitled “Trends in Racial and Ethnic Minority Applicants and Matriculants to U.S. Medical Schools, 1980–2016.” This document states, “Research shows that physician diversity adds value to the health care system by expanding access to health care. Racial and ethnic minority physicians are more likely to practice primary care than their white peers. Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native physicians are also more likely to practice in medically underserved areas.”

Additionally, Williams ends with statements that make it seem as if colleges may admit black students who are destined to fail. He urges black parents and students not to fall victim to the “diversity hustle.” Surely he knows that institutions of higher learning have specific criteria for admission. The idea that somehow a student can get around these criteria based on race alone is false. Colleges and universities do not want to admit a student that is not able to academically perform, no matter what diverse criteria they may fulfill. Unimpeded matriculation is the ultimate goal. However, every student will not attain a 4.0 grade point average. In any cohort there tends to be a bell shaped curve distribution of performance. This doesn’t mean that the students on the lower end were any less qualified at the time of admission nor should it be assumed that black students admitted to an elite college will be the ones on the bottom.

The one thing that Williams wrote that I can agree with is the fact that it is the problem of the college to fulfill their own racial diversity needs. At Mercer we recognize that and have many initiatives underway to continue to better fulfill our commitment to train culturally competent health-care professionals to meet the health care needs of Georgia’s medically under served.

Patrice Walker, M.D.

Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Assistant Professor of


and Gynecology

Mercer University School of Medicine

Tax break debate rebuttal

Your recent article (Don’t call it tax reform; it’s just tax cuts) unfortunately got it wrong regarding tax treatment for the, non-airline aircraft in “general aviation,” contained in the tax proposal recently passed by the Senate Finance Committee.

First and foremost, contrary to your article’s misleading headline and claims, there is no so-called “tax break” for general aviation in the bill. The fact is, the legislation simply clarifies long-standing tax law, stating that when these aircraft are operated by their owners, with the assistance of an aircraft-management company, the flights are subject to the fuel tax, and not the airline ticket tax.

Moreover, with regard to the amount of taxes paid by general aviation, the article ignores the fact that, all around the world, it is recognized that the big airlines — not small airplanes — drive the costs for running aviation systems, so those using small airplanes pay a proportionate tax share for system use. It makes intuitive sense that a 777 going from Los Angeles to JFK imposes different costs on our own aviation system than a small twin engine airplane going from Dubuque to Grand Rapids.

So, what is the article’s focus on these baseless, distracting debates really about? In recent months, such mischaracterizations have been on the rise, as the big airlines and their surrogates push their long-standing plan, contained in U.S. House legislation, to wrest control over the nation’s air traffic control system, so they can control taxation, access and other policies to their advantage.

Unfortunately, this scheme, often called ATC “privatization,” would be a big win for the airlines, but a loss for most everyone else. Consumers, and the small communities that rely on general aviation for all manner of services, will likely be left with fewer choices, reduced competition, decreased access and higher costs for flying, as the airlines increasingly run the system for their own benefit. That’s why businesses, consumer groups, community groups and a host of other voices across the country have spoken out against the House proposal.

Instead of getting mired in these same, old, tired debates, we should get down to the business of passing legislation that secures long-term funding for continued upgrades to our aviation system, and ensures that the Federal Aviation Administration has the resources needed for its critical safety, infrastructure and other programs.

Dan Hubbard,

Senior Vice President, Communications

National Business Aviation Association

Washington, D.C.