Academic Diversity - or the lack thereof Posted by: McQ
on Friday, June 15, 2007
We often hear how universities and colleges are 'liberal bastions'. We also hear about how concerned they are about 'diversity'.
David Freidman points out that almost always academia is worried about the wrong type of diversity:
In the employment context, a diversity hire is someone hired in part because he is black, or she is female, or ...
What I find particularly irritating about this usage is that those who adopt it are typically opponents of actual diversity. In the academic context, what matter are ideas. Two professors with different gender or skin color but the same views provide less relevant diversity than two professors of the same gender or skin color but sharply opposed views.
Supporters of “diversity” try to obscure this by arguing that a different racial or gender background leads to a different viewpoint. There may be cases where this is true, although it is hard to see its relevance to most academic fields. But in such cases, favoring prospective hires whose work shows a different and original viewpoint is surely more sensible than favoring members of minorities in the hope that they will turn out to provide a different viewpoint.
So you get the picture. Actual diversity, if academia actually believed in it, would extend to, or in fact primarily focus on ideas. Hiring, then, if diversity were actually a priority, would mean a wide and deep diversity of ideas and points of view.
Instead, however, his observation of what constitutes diversity in academia is as follows:
In fact, at least in my observation, the people and departments most inclined to favor “diversity” in the conventional sense are among those least likely to want to hire professors whose viewpoints differ from the consensus. What they want are people of the desired gender or skin color who agree with them.
He proposes a thought experiment:
My standard thought experiment to demonstrate this is to imagine that, at some late stage in the search process, it is discovered that a prospective hire regarded as a strong candidate is a supporter, an intelligent supporter, of South African apartheid. Does the probability of hiring him go up or down as a result? I can predict, with little data but some decades of experience of the academy, that in any elite university and almost any department it goes sharply down. Yet that is a viewpoint to which almost no faculty member or student has been, or expects to be, exposed. Someone who actually believes in intellectual diversity should thus regard the additional fact as a plus, not a minus.
Go to Friedman's blog to read the rest of his thesis and thoughts on the subject. I think he has an excellent point. And it fairly well explains "liberal bastion" doesn't it?
My ’diversity’ of ideas while still in college got me labeled a ’racist, fascist, disgusting pig, who carried the weight and burden of all sins committed by all white men throughout time.’
Man that was fun! I used to ask my ’opponents’ the following ’if I had been the one to use the language you just used, what would happen to me?’ There was no need for them to answer that I would have been kicked out of school... but hey, they win in the end because I’m successful and pay a boatload of taxes.
I notice he isn’t touting intellectual diversity as a criterion for academic hires, but observering that persons who support diversity in the affirmative-action sense are often hostile to dissent and divergent opinions.
I mention that because I was going to sail in saying that any and all requirements for diversity of whatever sort ought to be scotched. I’m no more interested in listening to, say, a token creationist - or even a token Republican - than I am in taking notes from someone hired just because she’s female or black. Not that I’m technically a student, but in the spirit of thought experiments, I mean.
So, respecting Friedman’s thought experiment: Although I don’t think the hypothetical candidate’s support of South African apartheid should of itelf be a deal-breaker, I shudder to think that heterodoxy of that order should necessarily factor in as a point in favor of hire, just to assure that students get exposure to such opinion. In fact, it’s godawful that professors have leave to expound their opinions on such matters, one way or another.
All that being said, it’s a damn shame that, thanks at least in part to "diversity" hiring quotas, American universities have been given over to the sort of corrosively leftist and intellectually bankrupt saps that we... um... hear tell about.
I emailed this out to some of my friends last week.
Mark Moyar looks like the perfect fit to teach history at Miami University: first in the history department and summa cum laude at Harvard; Ph.D. at Cambridge; speaks French and German; two successful books and a third on the way ... But wait a minute - what’s this on his resume about teaching at the Marine Corps University and the George Bush School of Government and Public Service? And whoa, don’t choke on your green tea, but look at the title of his book: "Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965." Choose your children’s college carefully. Go this link and watch the video trailer. http://www.indoctrinate-u.com/intro/
"Not that I’m technically a student, but in the spirit of thought experiments, I mean."
(*furrows brow, purses lipsin thought*) Ah, but in a larger sense, aren’t we all students? And, at the same time, we are all professors. We learn from one another.
*small, self-satisfied smile(or smirk), puffs thoughtfully on standard professorial pipe as he nods, thinking to himself,"G** I’m smart!"*
Would or should it matter what discipline the diverse idea is in? should the apartheid-lover be accepted in the Math. dept. and rejected in another? Would a believer in intelligent design be unacceptable in the Biology dept. but acceptable in the Engineering dept? When does diverse become deranged?
You wrote: "So you get the picture. Actual diversity, if academia actually believed in it, would extend to, or in fact primarily focus on ideas. Hiring, then, if diversity were actually a priority, would mean a wide and deep diversity of ideas and points of view." (I see your point now, defend Ward Churchill on the basis of his different point of view. You guys are so clever in the way that you support liberal approaches without saying you are liberal.) What a crock. The very idea that ALL academia should be the same (diverse) is the problem. I like an America that has Oral Roberts University and UC Berkeley.
Political opinion and stands on issues of the day should play no role in an academic hire. Rather, expertise in the field, quality research, and demonstrated teaching ability should count. After all, you don’t want to say "let’s see, we need a holocaust denier here to get diversity..." And why would someone’s political view on South Africa affect how one teaches biology, religion, or most other subjects? Trying to achieve diversity of color or gender should only play a role if you have people of roughly equal qualifications. But whether or not someone is conservative, liberal, pro-war or anti-war or anything like that should not play a role in considering someone’s academic credentials. Condoleezza Rice is not a brilliant academic because she’s black, but because of her work.
CU isnt trying to fire Churchill because of this POV, but because he is a fraud.
example:artwork. academic malfeasance. He has lied about his Indian origins. There is no proof of his claims to have been a sniper in Viet Nam-he was assigned to the motor pool. There more but the artwork alone should be enough to terminate him.
Timactual, you are right if you look at the major research universities and others. I know of someone denied tenure because she spent too much time on her teaching and not enough on her research. However, get beyond the elites and the major universities and get to the working class and rural colleges where pay and prestige are low, research output low to moderate, and teaching not only requires much more time (e.g., 4 classes a semester instead of 4 classes a year, teaching throughout a discipline rather than in a speciality), but is much more valued within the institution. You’ll also see that the working class and rural colleges are not into those games of political correctness or post-modern ideological games since the students are often first generation, practical, and to the point. It’s a different world, take it from someone who has been involved in both, elitism gives way to dealing with the real world. Ivory towers give way to sturdy concrete foundations.