Wednesday, September 03, 2003

You got your 13.8%, stop whining 

Highered Intelligence also covers Peter Wood's report on the Almanac of Higher Education.
The faculty member whose politics trend Left can take solace in knowing that 47.6 percent of his peers describe themselves as "far left" or "liberal," and only 17.7 as "conservative" and .3 as "far right." The prospects get even rosier in public universities, where 54.1 percent who are far or not-as-far left, and 13.8 percent conservative.
Oh no, Kevin, there's no problem with left-wing faculty is there? Particularly in the one-member, one-vote faculty unions, nope. No problem.
These labels translate fairly seamlessly into social attitudes. More than half of faculty members in American colleges and universities (55.3 percent), for example, agree that "racial and ethnic diversity should be more strongly reflected in the curriculum." Think about that. In most colleges and universities, the curriculum is already a charm bracelet of ethnic-studies courses and special pleading on behalf of minority subcultures, but the majority of the faculty nationwide are saying "not enough."

Faculty members hitched to the "diversity" agenda can take comfort in group solidarity. Some 67.9 percent want their college to "hire more faculty members of color" and 51.6 percent want their colleges to hire more women faculty members. Only 28 percent say that "promoting diversity leads to the admission of too many under-prepared students." ... Of the 40 or so topics covered in the survey, only one registered over 90-percent agreement: 90.7 of faculty members agreed that "a racially/ethnically diverse student body enhances the educational experience of all students."

That's a breathtaking level of agreement on what amounts to an ideological claim. The real diversity that results from attracting students regardless of their parentage may enrich the experience of some students, but "all" students? Even the academic hacks hired to conjure evidence of diversity's pedagogical merits at the University of Michigan stopped short of such implausibility. In fact, except for some slipshod surveys put together by diversity advocates, there is no empirical evidence that "diversity" on campus creates any educational benefit, but we do have good evidence that it fosters animosity, self-segregation, and group resentment. Turn a few pages and you discover that 90.7 percent of faculty members who think diversity is such a good thing compares with the 5 percent of the general public who believe, "Colleges and universities should admit students from racial minority groups even if they have lower high school GPAs and standardized-test scores than other students." The truth is we can't have it both ways, at least at this moment in the nation's history, and the professoriate has collectively staked a position radically outside what is acceptable to mainstream society.

As John Rosenberg has noted often on Discriminations, it may be that white students learn more by bringing in viewpoints of minority students, but it's less clear why that would go in the other direction. It simply seems they haven't thought that out yet.

Michael says the problem is in the labeling process. If you keep referring to minority students or minority faculty, of course you have to be for more minority admission or hiring. You can't paraphrase Jack Nicholson and say "Sell diversity somewhere else, we're full up here."

This is why it is so important to foster a race-neutral discourse, to push and encourage the discussion of merit independent of race. We need to work to create a discourse in which it is possible to ignore race. But it's tricky... you can't be too reactive. If all you are doing is reacting against the idea of race, calling it bad, then you're strengthening its position in the language. What is needed is something more subtle, more insidious. What is needed is a movement to wipe the idea of race out of our language, out of our collective consciousness. We need to view the idea of race the same way we view the notion that the world is flat.
But according to our diversity trainer last week, this is a flawed concept. Race-neutrality is denial, and not that river in Egypt, either. We have to leverage our differences.

But academics buy into this, seemingly without question. Should you think these are fine opinions from the enlightened, Wood points out that we're not looking so spiffy.

Some 83.9 percent chose to pursue an academic career because of the "intellectual challenge," but 41.6 percent have published nothing in the last two years and only 13.3 percent had published more than four "professional writings" in that time. If publish or perish were really the rule, the academic cemeteries would be crammed.