This Chronicle article covers a recent symposium on that most horrific of problems, an inadequate level of diversity. The focus of this particular symposium was insufficient diversity in the legal profession. A revealing quotation: "Our profession is among the least diverse in the country," said Conrad A. Johnson, a panelist and clinical professor at Columbia. "If we maintain the current status quo, we will find ourselves falling further and further behind if our goal is to obtain parity with the general population." Why should that be a goal of law schools or of the legal profession? If someone wants a good estate planning attorney, he doesn't care about the ancestry of the best estate planners he might choose, much less the diversity of the whole legal profession. The law profs who fret about "parity with the general population" have a central planning mentality that's common among academics, but is completely irrelevant to decision-makers in the real world.
In this eye-popping Minding the Campus essay, KC Johnson writes about a recent federally-funded conference that’s as clear a case of wasteful special interest group spending as you’ll ever find. I doubt that there is any constitutional justification for the National Science Foundation at all, but certainly not for it to spend tax dollars on a conference devoted to how minority political science professors can get tenure.
The Chronicle reports on the settlement the Naval Academy has been forced to make with the English professor it retaliated against after he criticized its "affirmative action" program. To call this an "embarrassment" is putting it mildly. The decision to go for a "diverse" student body rather than the best qualified is bad enough; to retaliate against a professor for speaking out is worse yet. After all of this, though, will the Naval Academy change anything?
Thanks to a tip from our CUNY affiliate, NAS published an article exposing the gaffe of a Brooklyn College faculty member, Jocelyn Wills, who wrote in an email, "Please spread the word among your colleagues and friends on Faculty Council, that we need to correct the lily-white imbalances of the Dean's Search Committees, all four of them." NAS pointed out 4 problems with such a statement: 1. It is blatantly racist against white faculty members. 2. It assumes that racial balance should be the norm. 3. It calls on colleagues to discriminate based on race. 4. It disrespects the non-racial merits of the people Wills wants to help. The day after this article was published, the New York Post covered the story in "Lily-White Prof-Panel Slam," which notes that Wills resigned after she was elected to the search committee.
In today's Pope Center piece, I respond to a recent NYT article by Richard Kahlenberg in which he argues against legacy preferences in college admissions. I think the case against legacy preferences is sound. I part company with him, however, on how to remedy the situation (I don't favor either legislation or litigation) and argue that his attempt at distinguishing legacy preferences from racial preferences (which he doesn't criticize, I suspect because to do so would cost him powerful allies) is a failure.
An Argus volunteer gave us an update on the latest efforts to enforce "diversity" on faculty members at Virginia Tech. Last year Virginia Tech required faculty members to prove the value of their "contributions to diversity" in order to be eligible for promotion and tenure.
I could be wrong, but in the wake of all the mudwrestling that's followed the NAACP's recent branding of Tea Partiers as racists, I think that the ideological fulcrum of the "diversity" debate has significantly shifted ground. For once, the response by public figures has been direct and emphatic, instead of the usual backpedaling after some vague, apologetic mumbling about the need to "include" all groups, the value of a diverse work force or the wish to avoid offending anyone, etc., etc., etc. The public rejection of the NAACP's allegations, moreover, has been bi-partisan, including prominent Republicans such as Sarah Palin and no less than Vice President Biden and President Obama on the Democratic side of the aisle. Hopefully, this means that absurd or silly allegations of racism will no longer compel politicans and bureaucrats to jump through the hoop as they've done so frequently in the past. Especially encouraging, though, is this piece by Virgina Democrat James Webb in today's Wall Street Journal. Webb argues that although "diversity" policies had their origins in the laudable and necessary efforts to redress the unique injustices suffered by black Americans, they have long since become obsessed with skin color or ethnic background, often with unconcealed hostility toward whites. Thus, newly arrived immigrants often benefit from these policies, even though their own experiences don't remotely resemble those of blacks. It doesn't stop there either, since in many academic institutions, "diversity" and "inclusiveness" now extend to ever -expanding categories of sexuality, life experiences or those with physical disabilities. A particularly hard sell for me has always been affirmative action for "women" within the diversity rubric, as though the largely white, middle-class feminist movement could claim grievances comparable to those suffered historically by blacks. Yet many academic job postings routinely specify that "women and ethnic or racial minorities are especially encouraged to apply." That doesn't compute. Anyway, Webb says it's now time to end racial preferences, stop discriminating against whites, and simply treat everyone equally under the law. Amen.
Princeton's Russ Nieli has an illuminating essay on Minding the Campus entitled "How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others." It absolutely knocks the stuffing out of the contention we hear so often from college administrators that their reason for using certain preferences is that a more "diverse" student body will enhance learning and break down stereotypes. If they actually wanted to do that, they would look for students who really do bring different beliefs and perspectives and would drop the bias Nieli shows against students from military families, those who have been active in groups like 4H, and so on. They aren't looking for Justice Powell's phantom "educational benefits of diversity" but are merely looking to fill quotas. Nieli advocates that elite colleges get over their diversity mania and follow what he calls the Cal Tech model: focus on enrolling students who are the most academically talented and the most eager to learn.
Jennifer Gratz, plaintiff in Gratz v. Bollinger in 2003, testified in court last week against AB 2047, a new bill that if passed, will overturn Proposition 209 and allow racial preferences in California university admissions. When asked, "If you had to bet your $5 on which kid was going to be more successful...one kid white, one kid of color, which kid do you think you should bet on?" she replied, "I wouldn't bet on either kid based on their race, I would look at the kid as a whole." Her interviewer pressed, "I regrettably come to the conclusion that race does still matter in terms of the ability of young people to succeed," to which Gratz answered, "I think the question should be: how do we get to the point, then, where it does not matter? And the government sticking its nose in the issue of race and determining based on someone's race who gets into a university, and picking and choosing winners and losers based on skin color, does not get us there." Watch the exchange in the 5-minute video below (via ACRI):
Proposition 209, the law prohibiting racial preferences at public universities in California, is under attack. Last week the California Association of Scholars (CAS), an affiliate of NAS, filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit against Prop. 209 by an organization that, as NAS president Peter Wood said, "has deployed questionable tactics against civil rights initiatives in every state where they have been proposed." CAS, along with Ward Connerly and the American Civil Rights Foundation, will be represented by attorneys with the Pacific Legal Foundation. There is also a bill called AB2047, which would effectively overturn Prop. 209 and is now in the hands of the California Senate. CAS president John Ellis has sent a letter to the Senate chair, Gloria Romero, urging her and her colleagues to vote down this law. Links Press Release on CAS and BAMN lawsuit CAS Letter to State Senate Chronicle of Higher Ed Pacific Legal Foundation Press Release
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Roger Clegg addresses the question of discrimination against Asian students. Of course, selective colleges don't say, "We're against those geeky, overly studious Asian kids. Let 'em go somewhere else!" Rather, they just don't want to have "too many" of them, so as to have enough room for all the "under-represented" groups, whose students are presumed to add so much interest to the student body. The result is the same, though: some students are rejected on account of their ancestry.
I was recently asked to respond to that question for The Chronicle Review, prompted by a recent study finding that many college students who drop out say that the reason they did so was too much pressure to work to earn money. Roger Clegg and I were the Grinches in the piece. There was a tight word limit on comments and there are some points I think worth adding. First, how do we really know why a student drops out? It is easy and I would think tempting for a student who just couldn't or wouldn't handle the academic work to save face by stating that financial pressure was the reason for leaving school. Second, instituting class-based affirmative action wouldn't do anything for poor people (or more accurately, poor people who have children who can get into college) as a group. The tendency of leftists to look at the world in terms of groups (and also to judge policies by their intentions) gets in the way of understanding the true impact of affirmative action. Suppose that all the selective schools decided that they wanted a quota of, say, 10 percent SES (socio-economic status) admits. That would be a small percentage of the total number of students from lower income households who go to college, and those given this preference would undoubtedly be the best of those students -- kids who probably could handle the workload at the non-selective colleges where they'd otherwise enroll. At the same time as a few students are admitted on SES grounds, equal numbers of non-poor students will have to enroll at a less selective institution. Going to a more selective school might be of a slight benefit to those few who are chosen to fill SES quotas (or it might actually prove harmful on "mismatch" and cost grounds), but it doesn't make the mass of poorer people one bit better off.
The NAS has long and wisely opposed the use of racial, ethnic, or other criteria unrelated to merit in (among other aspects of campus life) student recruitment and admissions. Those who support this view will find troubling the following requirement embedded in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 1,990-page health-care bill, which as I write she is trying to bring to a vote, and which fomer Lt. Governor of New York Betsy McCaughey, writing in The Wall Street Journal, has unearthed:
Secs. 2521 and 2533 (pp. 1379 and 1437) establishes racial and ethnic preferences in awarding grants for training nurses and creating secondary-school health science programs. For example, grants for nursing schools should "give preference to programs that provide for improving the diversity of new nurse graduates to reflect changes in the demographics of the patient population." And secondary-school grants should go to schools "graduating students from disadvantaged backgrounds including racial and ethnic minorities."
The academic community en masse should, but of course won't, reject such heavy-handed and unfair federal manipulation of student admissions in the name of diversity. This bill - among its other ill effects - will only add to division and lowered academic standards throughout our educational institutions.
Today's Inside Higher Ed has a piece on a new book lauding "affirmative action" (that is to say, selective racial preferences). My good friend Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a strong opponent of preferences posted a comment and all hell has since broken loose. My thoughts: I haven't yet read the new book, but what I wish the people who keep demanding racial preferences at elite schools would explain is what is so darned important about going to one of those "elite" schools. The courses aren't taught any better just because the faculty is loaded with "academic stars." If anything, it goes the other way. Students at schools where the professors actually handle most of the teaching are likely to get more out of a course than at schools where the profs are mainly preoccupied with their publications. I don't think the mania for admissions preferences is really about the students. Rather, it's about the academic administrators. It makes them feel good about themselves to believe that their little social engineering efforts matter a lot. When mean people like Roger Clegg say that they should drop racial preferences, that's like telling them to stop playing make believe and grow up.
A reader commenting on my post "Teaching Can Be Dangerous" wrote:
Speaking of politicization, I have a friend who is applying to a PhD program at Berkeley. He sent me the “personal history statement” that is required from all applicants: “Please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include information on how you have overcome barriers to access in higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups.” This is apparently part of the general Berkeley graduate school application; i.e., it’s not just for political departments like social work. So if you want to be a graduate researcher on, say, the biology of sponges, you have to explain how your research focuses on underserved populations. (I suppose sponges don’t get nearly enough attention.) If this question isn’t a political loyalty oath I don’t know what would be. I hope NAS will look into this and see if it indeed is a required part of every Berkeley graduate application in every subject.
I did look up the Berkeley application for graduate admission, and the cited question is indeed part of the general app (see page 29). It is, as the commenter points out, a political litmus test, and it sounds very much like Virginia Tech's College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences requirement that faculty members prove their service to "diversity" as a condition for promotion and tenure. It's also interesting that the question is phrased in terms of "barriers to access in higher education," when the very question itself is posing a barrier to Berkeley admission for those who do not pledge their allegiance to political correctness.
Alana Goodman, a student at the University of Massachusetts, has published an excellent article, "Institutionalized Racism in Student Government," in the Collegian, the schoool's student newspaper. Here's an excerpt:
As we prepare to swear in our elected representatives to the SGA Senate next week, UMass students should be aware that 13 percent of our SGA Senators will not have even competed in Tuesday’s elections. Instead, they will be appointed to their positions before the election results even come in, solely on the basis of skin color. This portion of the Senate is appointed by a registered student organization (RSO) called the African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American (ALANA) Caucus (no relation to this columnist). Only minority students who fit one of those four racial categories– or other students who the Caucus approves as “minority allies”– are considered eligible for these Senate seats. [...] This practice has been going on for years, and in addition to its sleaziness it’s also illegal.