Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Intellectual Costs of Diversity by ROBERT WEISSBERG

The quest for campus diversity seems to be everywhere–the website currently lists 75 schools where students are clamoring for diversity. Barbara Wilson, the interim Chancellor of the University of Illinois even called diversity central to the university’s mission and such embarrassing nonsense is typical. People familiar with today’s academy know full well why otherwise sensible folk have, after centuries of neglect suddenly discovered the lofty benefits of diversity—the threat of campus mayhem (see here regarding its alleged benefits). It is inconceivable that Ms. Wilson honestly believes that spending millions to hire black faculty enhances the university’s reputation for scholarship and teaching or that recruiting more academically challenged black undergraduates will improve classroom discussions. Such groveling clearly resembles big-city firms paying off the Mafia to keep the peace; in a word, extortion.
This is a costly enterprise: newly established faculty positions that can only be filled by blacks, more bloated bureaucracies whose only purpose is supervising affirmative programs, and more legal staff to obscure the university’s illegal racial preferences.
Unfortunately, such budgetary items are the least costly items in this crusade. Far worse, and almost invisible to non-academics is the intellectual price of diversification and these costs far exceed constructing diversity’s Potemkin Village. Put bluntly, interim Chancellor Wilson and her ilk willingly engage in a horrible trade-off of undermining intellectual excellence to placate those racial egalitarians who equate skin color with knowledge. A frank translation of her celebration of diversity is that skin color and genitalia outranks scholarly accomplishment.
Let me catalogue a few hidden intellectual costs. Most obvious are the thousands of smart undergraduate white males who grasp that setting aside faculty slots for the disadvantaged (including women) means that the already small number of academic job openings, particularly in the no-growth social sciences and humanities, will be even smaller. So, why waste a decade and thousands of dollars on graduate school to pursue a non-existent tenure track position or having to settle for a low-paying, no benefit adjunct post? Better to find employment in the private sector, think tanks or government or, if the life of the mind is an irresistible lure, specialize in diversity-proof fields, e.g., teach statistics. Think of these never-to-be-hired high IQ white males as collateral damage in the war to achieve “fairness.” Just as harmful is the narrowing of permissible scholarship and teaching. Rule Number One in today’s academy is never offend grievance groups and truth is no defense. A savvy careerist in the social sciences and humanities must relentlessly self-censor and just to be sure, avoid teaching potentially troublesome subjects (e.g., urban politics). This also includes scrutinizing in advance all assigned reading to insure that they do not even cite anything “controversial” such as The Bell Curve. A wise professor will become an expert liar, for example, with a straight face enthusiastically insist that crime is caused by poverty, racism, inequality etc. etc. regardless of the plain-to-see contrary evidence.
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