5.6.05

PORCINE COSMETOLOGY. University Diaries finds either a climbdown or an obfuscation by Oregon president David Frohnmayer, providing more material for Herrn. Schneider u. Schwarz.

Cultural competency, Frohnmayer said, is a straightforward concept.

"To me it means that we are able to effectively reach all of the students who have demonstrated their competence to be in the university but for whom, because of cultural background, traditional techniques of teaching may not be as effective as others," he said. "A good teacher is always open, I hope, to ways to increase teaching effectiveness."

Who says it has to be about cultural background? Are we talking about differences in learning styles? Is this the latest iteration of the role model argument? And if the objective is effective teaching, why the focus on queer theory and the entire universe of alternative lifestyles in the draft plan? Why not put some Turing and some Keynes on the reading lists? Strikes me as a lot of trouble to just find one more way of determining that a tenure-tracker's teaching is below average.

On the opposite coast, Harvard's president, Larry Summers, continues his climbdown, with results noted by Heather Mac Donald (via Power Line; see also Discriminations.)
Though the administration announced the outcome in advance—it wanted, at a minimum, a call for a new high-placed diversity bureaucrat and for more affirmative-action hiring efforts—the creation of task forces, complete with paid staff, is by now an ironclad ritual whereby colleges and universities demonstrate their deep concern for pressing issues.
The existing programs haven't worked. Let's have more of them. See why I call it the Diversity Boondoggle.

First, its purpose is to recommend the identical set of actions that the institution, whether academic or corporate, has already been doing. Every college in the country has been frantically pursing “diversity” in hiring and admissions for decades. The task force itself commends the diversity policies of 17 rival colleges—the mere tip of the iceberg—without drawing the obvious conclusion.

The second obstacle follows from the first: there is nothing more that can be done. If untapped pools of highly qualified female and minority candidates existed out there, schools would have snapped them up long ago—if not your college, then its dozens of competitors, just as desperate to placate the quota gods. (The one course of action that might, in the case of black and Hispanic faculty recruitment, bear long-term results is the one that elite college personnel are least likely to choose: intensive mentoring of young students and the jettisoning of all “progressive” pedagogy in the schools.)

Precisely. One has to develop the feedstocks at one end of the Ph.D. pipeline in order to take delivery of Ph.D.s at the other end. Harvard and similar institutions, by the way, did snap up many such colleagues at the beginning of the affirmative action era. Wayne State, a Detroit area public research university, was at one time a source of such faculty; the Wayne administration did everything it could except raise salaries and admission standards to obtain a comparably diverse faculty after those raids occurred.
The only new hires that diversity initiatives generate are in college administrations, already overloaded with sinecures. The Harvard task force demands the creation of a most remarkable new position, a Senior Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development.
That sounds like the same sort of thing Oregon might currently be considering. I have some lurid samples of what the local office of Faculty Development does: although the people who run it are good people, their efforts do everything except the most logical way to develop a faculty, which is to provide the proper inducements for people to do their jobs well.
And just in case the lesser functionaries in the provost’s office still don’t appreciate the exalted status of the new Senior VP for D, the task force provides that “she” (the report’s choice of words) “be given priority in terms of office space.” So much for non-hierarchical, anti-patriarchal collaborative sharing of collective resources. Naturally, the Senior VP for D will “also be supported by a group of dedicated staff.”
But there won't be any paper for the diversified faculty members to produce class handouts, or any additional classes on the works of inter alia Turing and Keynes. There's a lot more in the article; I'm just hitting the low spots. Here's more porcine cosmetology, in this case renaming the diversity incentive fund. It doesn't matter what you call it, any institution of higher education has one.
In an unusual collision with the truth, the task force acknowledges that “there was a sense that candidates hired with support of the [existing] funds are somehow less qualified.” Someone slipped up big-time here, because admitting the poisonous stigma that affirmative action efforts impose on their “beneficiaries” is something that diversocrats must never ever do. But the task force’s encounter with reality is brief. It appears fully satisfied with the idea that renaming the Outreach Fund will eliminate the stigma of race and gender preferences.
Heh.
Harvard’s millions will guarantee that it can rout all competitors for female nuclear physicists, but its competitors will undoubtedly up their own antes to stay in the game. There must be better ways to spend the millions of dollars that schools will dedicate to poaching “diversity” trophies from rival institutions—buying books for libraries, for example, or grooming scholars in neglected fields such as the American founding, or producing operas on campus, or capping tuition hikes.
All totally pointless, as the return on investment in a degree from a name college is lower than the return on investment in a degree for a comparable state-located or less well-known college.
Harvard has just dumped $50 million down a bureaucratic sinkhole tells you all you need to know about why attending Harvard for eight months costs more than most families earn in a year. Eventually, students and parents may start asking why anyone would want to.
It's called a market test, baby.

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