Monday, March 21, 2005

The Wages of “Diversity”

In the world of politically correct academics, racial and ethnic good feeling is something that is created by having a lot of “programs” and “initiatives” that promote “diversity.” It’s something you get when you have a lot of affirmative action hiring, lots of “diversity” programs on campus, lax admissions standards for minority students, “sensitivity training” all around, and an administration that’s especially responsive to the demands of minorities.

If it really worked this way, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside would be Utopia.

A recent article in the Journal-Sentinel described Parkside as a “campus honored for diversity” and noted that it “has the highest percentage of minorities of any UW campus and in recent years has won state awards for its diversity efforts.” Rebecca Martin, UW-Parkside provost, uses all the right politically correct language, saying that “diversity is critical to us at all levels in terms of students, faculty, staff and curriculum . . . . It’s a clear part of our mission.”

The Journal-Sentinel article points out that:
The Office of State Employment Relations has honored the school with two diversity awards since 2000, one for its mission statement and hiring practices, the second for its Diversity Circles, which are discussion groups aimed at attacking racism.
So how are things going in Utopia?

The campus has been hit by a spate of complaints from minority faculty. Two of them have filed discrimination charges in the last 20 months, and allegations about the racial atmosphere are rife. For example:
“It’s not a scientific exercise, but something you just feel,” said associate professor Simon Akindes, who is black and originally from the West African nation of Benin. Many minority faculty believe administrators cut back the teacher education department’s funding and staff because the department had the largest percentage of minorities and the curriculum had a multicultural focus.
And Rose Mary Moore, a retired black faculty member said “Of course it’s race. They have difficulty dealing with people other than themselves.”

So what has gone wrong in Utopia?

Sensible people – which includes a clear majority of people who don’t work in academia – can quickly see that when claims of victimization are rewarded, they will proliferate. If any university administration habitually acquiesces to the demands of the “diversity” crowd, those demands will be escalated.

Supply curves slope to the left. Reward people designated as “victims,” and there will be a plentiful supply of victims.

For example, one of the incidents often cited is the fact that in the fall of 2003, a Black Student Union movie poster for “The Ghosts of Mississippi” was defaced with a racial slur.

In response to that incident, there was a student demonstration.

Given that such “hate crime” incidents usually create a sympathetic response from university administrations, it’s not surprising that they are often hoaxes, perpetrated by the supposed victims.

But if the perp was in fact a non-minority student, that wouldn’t be surprising. Nobody likes the “teacher’s pet,” and making minority students the “teachers’ pets” on a modern university campus is likely to create resentment. So is subjecting non-minority students to a diet of “multicultural” courses and workshops that strongly imply that they must be racist, even if only “unconscious” racists. And if the students in question happen to be Republicans, the “unconscious” part is omitted.

Likewise, it’s perfectly possible that minority faculty on a politically correct campus might perceive some genuine contempt or hostility.

The key thing about politically correct affirmative action is that the people who do it are supposed to engage in Orwellian double-think. On the one hand, they are supposed to discriminate against white males to hire more minorities and women in traditionally male fields. On the other hand, they are supposed to then immediately forget that they have done so, and begin to think of these affirmative action hires as fully equal to other faculty who got no such preferences.

I’ve talked with liberal faculty who defend affirmative action hiring, but who discuss their affirmative action colleagues in a patronizing and condescending way. They believe in “diversity,” and they want a nice quota of “under represented” groups in their departments, but they can’t really forget that they applied laxer standards when they hired those colleagues.

This sort of thing can be really tragic in the case of a minority student or faculty member who never asked for nor received any special preference, and who met the same standards as whites. Such people suffer under the presumption that they too were affirmative action hires or admissions.

Thus one gets a downward spiral. As administrations promote more and more “diversity,” demands escalate. As minority students and faculty more and more find that they prosper by playing the “race card” they spend more and more time and psychological energy doing exactly that, as opposed to scholarly work that meets the same standards that apply to whites. When academic reality finally catches up with them – and as the Ward Churchill case shows, it can take a long time – this creates yet more grounds for grievance.

And all the while, the (mostly) white liberal administrators, for reasons both of ideology and bureaucratic interest, do nothing to stop the spiral.

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