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Back planned science campus

The mayor’s recently announced plan to build a government-sponsored, engineering and science campus in New York challenges us to deliver training and jobs to the many talented young men and women of color that our economy has left behind. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is to be commended for launching the ambitious Applied Sciences NYC initiative that seeks to partner with an engineering school and establish a science and technology campus here.

The Bloomberg administration projects that the new institution will generate billions of dollars in economic activity, spin off hundreds of new companies and create nearly 30,000 jobs.

This addition to New York’s economic and intellectual capital will only reach its full potential, however, if it directly addresses the glaring opportunity gap facing women, African Americans and Latinos in science and engineering.

According to the National Science Foundation, just 6 percent of graduate engineering students are African Americans or Latinos. Women hold just 24 percent of the jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — a shameful statistic that has not budged in a decade and that U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank has rightly described as “unacceptable.”

It is encouraging that the mayor has included some conditions to support the involvement of women and underrepresented minorities. But the initiative as it is proposed presents a rare chance to level the playing field even more.

The schools that hope to benefit from this partnership with city government should be required to demonstrate their commitment to expanding opportunities to all New Yorkers.

The institutions applying to build a science campus here should be measured on their track record with minorities and women in areas such as student recruitment, graduation rates and job-placement; their hiring and promotion of faculty and staff; and their success in turning academic breakthroughs into spin-off companies owned by minorities and women.

Bringing diversity to this project — and all of New York’s economic development — will keep our city on top for the 21st century and beyond.

John Liu

City Comptroller

Manhattan

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