Marquette Warrior: Racial Preferences At Marquette — and Elsewhere

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Racial Preferences At Marquette — and Elsewhere

On the History News Network, a discussion of Robert KC Johnson’s article titled “Marquette’s ‘Diversity’ Initiative.”
Inside Higher Ed this morning has a troubling article on a new “diversity” initiative launched at Marquette. Provost Madeline Wake has announced that no new hires will be approved unless one “diverse” candidate is in the final pool.

“I’m not looking for less qualified candidates, but I want a good faith effort to get people in the pool,” said Wake. But for all practical purposes, the policy will set up a two-track search process, one in which quality is subordinated to the applicant’s race or ethnicity.
Of course, these kinds of affirmative action preferences are common in academia.

Oscar Chamberlain posted the following message:
University of Wisconsin system used — and perhaps still uses — a variation on that system that strikes me as better.

There was no separate search; they simply went down the list for the first minority (however defined) who was qualified and put them in the final three.

In practice it actually went pretty well. Given the oversubscribed job market going to down the list a ways for one member of the pool generally did not reduce quality. And any such favored minority still had to compete with the other two people in the final pool. . . .
Jim Williams chimed in with a message about the SUNY system:
SUNY Geneseo’s provost required the History Department in our current search for a U.S. historian to eliminate any specializations so as to attract as diverse a pool of applicants as possible. This of course sacrifices the department’s need for breadth of coverage to the institution’s need for diverse faculty.

If we have an acceptable “diverse” applicant, we will probably have to interview that person/those people — but at the provost’s expense. The provost also has the right to choose the person to be hired from our ranked list of the top 5 applicants — or even from outside the list; if the provost doesn’t select our #1 or #2 candidate, she will be looking for a new History Department chair.
Robert KC Johnson replied:
Both the Geneseo and UW news is depressing-although, I suppose, not surprising.

To take the UW approach as described by Oscar, I can see where that would work fine for some topics in History. But what about, say, German history, or Medieval Europe, where it’s quite possible to imagine an applicant pool that’s nearly all-white. A minority candidate could be the best — but if there are only 3 or 4 minority applicants in a pool of 80, the top minority candidate could also be the 40th best. And so wouldn’t a subtle pressure exist in a UW-like situation not to craft lines that are not sure to yield a sufficient number of minority applicants?

And the Geneseo provost’s action is almost as bad — it seems to imply that diversity should be a more important goal than curricular or pedagogical integrity of a discipline.
John H. Lederer replied:
If racism consists of the belief that one’s skin color determines one’s character, ability, or professional competence, is there any large institution in the US that is as determinedly racist as higher education?
The answer is an obvious “no.” The reasons are a combination of liberal ideological hegemony and administrative careerism, but the fruits of the policy are as poisonous as was the old-style racism.


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