Thursday, October 27, 2005

Diversity Follies at Marquette

Early last week, Provost Madeline Wake released her official policy on “diversity.” It begins by lamenting that Marquette has a “current 10.6 percent diversity” which is “out of step with local and national demographics.”

The missive, right up front, admits that the spirit of quotas pervades this effort. The explicit assumption is that if X percent of the population is black, Marquette’s faculty should be X% black.

It also claims “our students miss out on the richness of a more diverse faculty. We will not increase faculty diversity if our hiring pools remain most white Americans [sic].”

It then continues:
Effective October 1, 2005, new full-time faculty hires will not be approved unless there is a diverse candidate in the pool. “Diversity candidates” is defined as different from White Americans and includes those from under-represented groups, such as, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans as well as foreign born individuals, such as those from Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia.
In short, no department at Marquette will be allowed to hire anybody unless there is “a diverse candidate in the pool.”

In an e-mail to us, Wake explained that the groups listed are just examples, and that (say) Asian Americans, and people from Western Europe and Latin America also count.

In an explicit admission that it won’t always be possible to have a “diverse candidate in the pool,” the memo adds:
In view of the difficulties of recruiting for some disciplines and the prohibition of requiring a candidate to disclose race or nationality, there is a process for rare exceptions. Dr. Keenan Grenell, Associate Provost for Diversity, will assist in seeking diverse candidates for any pool. If the search coordinator requests an exception to the directive, the request must be accompanied by letters from the dean and from Dr. Grenell attesting to the effort to develop a diverse pool and recommending the exception.
How will this play out in practice?

The “increase the pool” mandate is highly questionable. At least in Political Science, virtually all entry level jobs (and literally all at institutions of any standing) are advertised through a service run by the American Political Science Association. Anybody who is looking for a job will be watching those listings.

Of course, this varies by discipline. Peter Jones, Chair of the Math Department notes:
. . . we are actually hiring in Math Ed this year. It will be difficult, as the pool is small. Last year, the median number of applicants for all such positions was 16, I believe. There is no central clearing house in math ed, so “widening the pool” is not at all a waste of time. Any help that Dr Grenell can give us to identify qualified candidates will be valuable, since the pool is so small.
Of course, the fact that the pool is so sparse suggests a very high probability that it might contain no “diversity candidate” at all. In a narrow subfield, with only a few qualified candidates in the entire nation, Grenell is likely to find the same thing the Math Department found: black, Hispanic or otherwise “diverse” candidates are rare.

Trying to “Increase the Pool”

For one hire in the 1980s, the Political Science Department tried the “increase the pool” tactic, writing to predominantly black colleges that have Ph.D. programs in Political Science, and encouraging applications. Reading some of the candidates credentials, we felt sorry for the applicants. But we ended up making an offer to a black candidate who was getting a doctorate at the University of Michigan (one of the top programs in the country). He, however, accepted an offer from Washington University in St. Louis.

Which brings us to the most fundamental problem.

The inclusion of a “minority candidate” in the “pool” can, of course, often be achieved. In job searches that draw over a 100 applications (quite common, at least in Political Science) there will certainly be some “minority” candidates – especially when foreign nationals count.

But the question is: will there be one that is really competitive?

The reality of racial preferences (for which“diversity” is a euphemism) is that any blacks and Hispanics with decent credentials are very much in demand — and are in demand at schools that have more money and more prestige than Marquette. Thus, anybody who makes it to a “short list” or even to the interview stage is overwhelmingly likely to be overpriced and under qualified.

Consider, again, the field of political science. In the 2002 “placement class” (those looking for jobs in 2002) there were exactly 32 blacks (or 4% of the group). There were 729 whites (88% of the group). The rest were Hispanics, Asian Americans and American Indians. (Linda Lopez, “Placement Report: Political Science Ph.D.s and ABDs on the Job Market in 2001-2002,” PS, October 2003.)

Yet since blacks are about 12.3% of the population, Wake’s logic is that they ought to be 12.3% of all academics, and indeed 12.3% of all academics at Marquette.

Of course, Marquette might, via a Herculean effort, induce a large proportion of the available black Ph.D.s to come here, and actually fulfill the Wake quota. But this can only be done by luring those people away from other universities. In other words, we can become more diverse at the expense of making other schools less diverse.

Given this reality, might an overpriced and underqualified minority get hired anyway?

This is where the disingenuousness comes in. Marquette won’t admit that they want white Americans (especially white American males) discriminated against. After it was first issued, the Wake memo was modified to say that “We will continue to hire the most qualified candidate from the applicant pools. . .” Here is the first version that was sent out, and here is the second with the extra sentence.

But in fact they do want whites to be discriminated against. Wake’s constant carping about how we have “too few” minorities (based on some percentages) sends the unmistakable message: “hire a minority, and never mind if he or she isn’t as good as the white candidates.”

Of course, it’s not hard to increase the “diversity” numbers if you don’t care too much about quality. When Princeton hires a black faculty member who is about as well qualified as the average white Marquette hire, Marquette can hire a black faculty member who is about as well qualified as the average white hire at Lower Slobovian Junior College.

Of course, that person will have to live with the stigma that comes with being a “diversity” hire. We have found that even politically correct white liberal faculty view affirmative action hires with something little better than contempt. They will say the hire was “necessary” to promote “diversity” but they can’t seriously pretend that the person is a real professional peer. Minority faculty seem to sense this.

Of course, a black or Hispanic hire who is an affirmative action hustler richly deserves this stigma. But what if some very good minority candidate, perhaps for family reasons or because of Catholic beliefs, especially wants to be in Milwaukee and teach at Marquette? Suppose they really are as good as the average white hire and aren’t demanding special treatment. They will be very much the victim.

Is This Really About Diversity?

In spite of the pious rhetoric of the “diversity” crowd, this campaign really has nothing to do with real diversity. If it did, there would be an effort to hire more conservatives in most departments in most universities. In Marquette’s Political Science Department, for example, everybody who teaches International Relations or Comparative Politics is left of center – some moderately so, and some extremely so.

In places such as the English Department and the School of Education the ideology is uniformly left of center, in the latter case so much so as to be oppressive to conservative students.

Our sources tell us that there is one, and only one Republican in the Philosophy Department.

Given that slightly over half of Americans voted for George Bush in 2004, the most radically under represented group on college faculties is Republicans.

Of course, liberal academics will say that conservative Ph.Ds are hard to find. This is doubtless true, but qualified minority Ph.D.s are hard to find too. That is considered a problem to be overcome.

The truth is that the “diversity” crowd cares nothing about real intellectual diversity. They don’t see it as a problem if everybody in the Education School opposes school choice, or if the entire English faculty is feminist and analyzes every text they come across in terms of “patriarchy.”

At best, the “diversity” crowd simply wants to be politically correct and be able to say they have their quota of minority colleagues. At worst, they want to use “diversity” as an excuse to solidify the hold of the left in academic departments.

How Will it Work in Practice

This whole business could be relatively benign. In a search were there are 100+ candidates, and a typical “short list” (candidates who receive intense consideration) is eight candidates, why not just make the “short list” nine people, and add a “diversity” candidate — thereby fulfilling the requirement? Nobody has to take the “diversity” candidate very seriously beyond that point.

Of course, blacks and Hispanics are not only rare among people with Ph.D.s, they are unequally distributed across disciplines and across subfields within disciplines. And not all job searches get 100+ applicants. Thus in a lot of cases there might not be even one black or Hispanic. Marquette’s History department, for example faces this problem. According to Inside Higher Ed
For example, [History Chair James] Marten said that his department is currently conducting a search for a historian of Germany. That particularly field, he said, attracts “very, very few” minority scholars. “I’m very supportive of the policy, but we need to be realistic,” he said.
One “wild card” in all this is the inclusion of foreign academics. This might actually have something to do with real diversity. The truth is that the average black Ph.D. who grew up in the United States isn’t really very diverse. He or she likely will have virtually the same political views as white liberal and leftist professors, but will prate about being a victim of oppression and perhaps intimidate recalcitrant students more effectively than white leftists can. Foreign candidates, especially if they are from places like East Europe, are probably more likely to be conservative, pro-American and Christian than the average American Ph.D.

Another “wild card” is the issue of gender. Wake explained to the Academic Senate that, in departments in which women are “under represented,” a woman may qualify as the “diversity” candidate. As Wake put it in an e-mail to us: “I did say at Senate that gender will not be an automatic ‘diverse’ category, but that in departments in which there is a severe under-representation, a case may be made.”

The phrase “a case may be made” is a bit chilling, because it implies that for many, and probably most hires no department can just go about recruiting the best available candidates. Rather, there will be a constant hassle where the department has to placate Keenan Grenell with regard to the inclusion of a “diversity” candidate in the pool, negotiate with the Provost with regard to whether a woman qualifies as a “diverse” candidate, and just generally deal with a big distraction when they should be trying to hire the best person available.

How will departments react? According to Inside Higher Ed, Martin described what Marquette’s History Department did:
In another search, he said, the department was able to tweak the job description in a way that may attract more minority candidates. The job is for teaching U.S. foreign policy, which is another field in which there are relatively few minority candidates. Marten said that the department added immigration and ethnicity as areas on which the faculty member might teach (and he noted that “doubling up” on areas of teaching expertise is common).
In an e-mail to us, Martin explained that the word “tweak” was the reporter’s, not his. And he defended the changed line definition.
We had always hoped to combine a position with someone who could do immigration and ethnicity (we actually had someone teaching immigration history years ago); I merely meant that we took the opportunity of an open position in 20th century US — a position that will demand that the candidate be able to teach foreign policy — to suggest a second — or equal — field in immigration and ethnicity. . . . And it’s a quite traditional field in US history.

I do think — and this is what my comments were aiming at — that combining the foreign policy field with immigration/ethnicty will offer a chance to attract African American, Latino, or Asian American scholars working in immigration issues as they relate to foreign policy.
Martin, in other words, is arguing that it was possible to redefine the line to attract more minorities without sacrificing intellectual integrity.

His argument seems reasonable enough, but one wonders how often this will happen, and how often it will involve departments not hiring people to teach the courses they need taught, but rather offering the courses they need to offer to attract “diverse” job candidates.


At best, Wake’s “diversity initiative” will simply require departments to jump through the right bureaucratic hoops before they end up hiring the best candidate. Or, with the more liberal departments, discriminating against while males in the way they have been doing since long before Wake became Provost.

At worst, though, it risks distorting the whole hiring process.

This particular initiative, like such things as “assessment” and “strategic planning” projects an image of an administration out of touch with the core mission and Catholic identity of Marquette, running after every fad and fashion that afflicts academia. Jesuit higher education did not become great that way, and it’s a lot less great in recent years, for just this kind of reason.


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