2.6.05

COMPLICITY IN YOUR OWN DESTRUCTION. Thus does Professor Plum comment on the Oregon diversity initiative. Herewith some of his comments [in bold] on the Chronicle story.
The president of the University of Oregon has backed away from some of the more controversial parts of a proposed five-year diversity plan after some professors balked at it. Because of their objections, the plan will be sent to a committee of faculty members for further consideration. [Yeah, they will merely use more palatable language.]
Oregon's president, one David Frohnmayer, is making a strong case for membership in the deck of cards, but the updates from the last year will be dealt with first. Here is some material for his dossier, which will be forwarded to Herrn. Schneider u. Schwarz in due course.
Mr. Frohnmayer said in an interview on Thursday that administrators had “taken a step back from the draft plan, given the extent of the response.” [The proper response in a free society would be to throw them out the window.]
Ah, that Silent Generation obsession with process.
“We’re wedded to the objectives of the plan, but not to particular steps in any lockstep way,” he said. “We’re a community that lives to move with a greater sense of consensus.” [What a load of infected treacle. Only an idiot would fall for this mealy-mouthed cant]
Community, consensus, blah blah blah. (The Professor is being too kind. This is precisely the kind of talk that fills the minutes of faculty senates everywhere.) The unstated premise is that it must be the right community and the proper consensus, which is to say, complicity in your own destruction. I'm coming to that. But first an understanding of what will happen next, when the plan (which conveniently for the administration is being unleashed at the end of the academic year, when serious faculty are thinking about the research they haven't been able to do because of the usurpations of the administration) goes to the faculty senate.
Mr. Frohnmayer has sent the plan to a committee, which is made up mostly of professors, and asked them to develop a new document that more people at the university can agree upon. “It was prominently labeled as a draft,” he said. “It was never meant as a fait accompli. This was a first attempt to develop a dialogue.” [Yeah, sure. When they realized that some professors might make a scene, and embarrass them, they backed off. But then we always knew that bullies were cowards.]
Is this a special ad-hoc committee full of the administration's toadies? That's a popular dodge for going around usual channels? Or is it a standing committee on curriculum, which is likely to reach a consensus agreeable to the administration? Dialogue, piffle. Process, nuance, self-destruction. Don at Left2Right sees what is at work.
I won't bother spelling out what's repulsive about these proposals. I suspect only the authors of the Plan, locked in endless committee meetings, could have failed to notice. But I wouldn't be insistently dour.
He has an interesting take on why the plan is a bad idea.
Regardless, those of us who favor affirmative action and diversity need to be loud and clear in denouncing travesties like the Oregon plan. So please, consider it well and truly denounced by this academic leftist.
So, from a different perspective, does Number 2 Pencil. Do read it all, and savor this. (In this excerpt the bold is from the Oregon plan. The bulleted list is just additional confirmation of its lameness. The Fisking is in plain text.)
• Cultural sensitivity and knowledge are necessary but not sufficient for individuals to behave in a culturally competent way. What gets rewarded gets done. Funny, when we try to use that as a defense for NCLB, or for teacher merit pay, or any other system that recognizes good work over bad work, we hear that it's not fair to use the carrot-on-a-stick method to improve education.
And why economics departments tend not to test pc-positive. Ms Swygert links to an open letter to Mr Frohnmayer signed by 24 professors (fields not provided) raising objections to the plan. Key paragraphs from this, which will also be reviewed by Schneider u. Schwarz:
1). The Orwellian insertion of the undefined political notion "cultural competency" into every aspect of administration, teaching, and performance evaluation throughout the University.
Ayup.
2). The dramatic interference into the faculty search and recruitment which, apart from violating academic freedom, will have a devastating effect on the quality of research and teaching at the university.
But the devastation began long ago, with the open complicity of the faculty. (I will get to that.)
3). The spending of vast additional sums of money on diversity-related bureaucracy, requirement that at a minimum the university has a vice provost for equity and diversity as well as four assistant vice-provosts, creation of a "Diversity Institute", seven new funded centers and directors, more special math and English classes reserved for minority students, the creation of new departments of Ethnic Studies and Women's Studies, a minor in Queer Studies, ... . The list goes on and on.
Meanwhile, there are no resources for the things that really matter.
But it is already clear from the above that many faculty will see the document as an attempt to create an atmosphere of fear, hostility, and political intimidation throughout every aspect of the University. Already, many of the best faculty are talking about leaving. Many others will boycott these draconian measures or will go for help to the legislature and the press. At a time when salaries of state employees have been frozen because of budget problems and morale on campus is already low, it is outrageous that the university is spending millions on projects like this.
Right. What was that William Buckley quote about organized labor having to fear a principled Republican, which is to say not much to fear at all? (It's from the 1950s and in Quotations from Chairman Bill.) There's something similar here. Academic administrators wet their beds over fear that the University of Phoenix (talk shop for three hours a week and call it college) will draw off their students. What they most have to fear is an administration in a famous university that will take a principled stand against coreless curricula and diversity boondoggling, but the recent mau-mauing of Harvard's President Summers suggests that they also have not much to fear at all. Never mind some of the outrage captured at Inside Higher Ed.
"Who do you think you are?" Boris Botvinnik, a math professor, asked. "You would like to tell us what to do in terms of research in mathematics? We'd like to have a nice atmosphere of diversity on campus. We hire the best people available, and this is the only way to keep the level of the department high."
(Thanks to Blogs for Industry and Joanne Jacobs for following this story.)

Professor Botvinnik, (any relation to the Grandmaster?) the damage has been done long ago. I want to expand on this observation from yesterday, "Administrators are capable of engaging in expense-preference behaviors that are compatible with the worldviews of sufficiently many campus politicians that those campus politicians acquiesce in administrative power grabs..." A poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller, the one that begins "First they came for the communists" comes to mind, for the structure, not for the comparisons. (Let's keep things in perspective. Pastor Niemöller was prisoner of a totalitarian state that required the combined weight of the Soviet Union, the British Empire, the United States, Tito's partisans, and the Free Poles and Free French to crush it. Academic administrators tremble at the thought of losing a student to the University of Phoenix and grovel cravenly when the most junior of legislators calls.) But why the structure? Herewith an indictment of all too many campus politicians, too many of whom have been for a long time complicit in the destruction of their curriculum, their departments, and their integrity.

First they came for the smokers. And you went along with it. Smoking, after all, is a dirty habit encouraged by misleading advertising. What is a little marginalization of people who have dirty habits, never mind if the smoking policy is an administrative ukase? It's all for the Greater Good.

Then they came for the Greek-letter organizations. And you went along with it. The Greek-letter organizations are islands of exclusion, colonies of village idiots who remind you of your high-school tormentors, and controllers of a sexual cartel that never granted you a certificate of convenience and necessity (are you following this, Thomas Frank?) and the opportunity to pay them out was too tempting, never mind the damage that this does to the concept of freedom of association.

Then they came for your positions. And you went along with it. The policies of identifying diversity hires, or terminating a search because the pool of applicants was insufficiently diverse, or of setting up area studies departments to appeal to scholars who had the kind of diversity you valued, and who gave you an opportunity to make a statement for your form of social justice (that will have to wait) was with your connivance. And you were receptive to the idea that for hundreds of years, the universities had been practicing affirmative action for white guys, so arguments based on merit or the lack thereof were so much special pleading. Besides, those hires and those departments were for the students you weren't terribly interested in dealing with anyway.

Then they came for your curriculum. And you went along with it. Standards were just another path-dependent social construction, and there was no reason for a teacher of mathematics to take any courses in the math department, or for a future marketing executive to understand psychology or a pre-law to understand the classical allusions.

And now they have come for you. And you are surprised. Grandmaster Botvinnik would tell you that ten or twenty years ago you asked them to. Former faculty senator Karlson warned you, and you thanked me for stating opposing views so eloquently. But you did nothing to improve your position.

No comments: