18.7.11

EXPENSE-PREFERENCE TRUMPS EXCELLENCE.  Diversity is a form of narcissism, argues Heather McDonald.  Like any other use of scarce resources, it has opportunity costs.
UC San Diego is adding diversity fat even as it snuffs out substantive academic programs. In March, the Academic Senate decided that the school would no longer offer a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering; it also eliminated a master’s program in comparative literature and courses in French, German, Spanish, and English literature. At the same time, the body mandated a new campus-wide diversity requirement for graduation. The cultivation of “a student’s understanding of her or his identity,” as the diversity requirement proposal put it, would focus on “African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Chicanos, Latinos, Native Americans, or other groups” through the “framework” of “race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, language, ability/disability, class or age.” Training computer scientists to compete with the growing technical prowess of China and India, apparently, can wait. More pressing is guaranteeing that students graduate from UCSD having fully explored their “identity.” Why study Cervantes, Voltaire, or Goethe when you can contemplate yourself? “Diversity,” it turns out, is simply a code word for narcissism.

UC San Diego just lost a trio of prestigious cancer researchers to Rice University. Rice had offered them 40 percent pay raises over their total compensation packages, which at UCSD ranged from $187,000 to $330,000 a year. They take with them many times that amount in government grants. Scrapping the new Vice Chancellorship for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion could have saved at least one, if not two, of those biologists’ positions, depending on how greedily the new VC for EDI defines his realm. UCSD is not disclosing how much the VC for EDI will pull in or how large his staff will be: “We expect that [budget/staffing] will be part of the negotiation with the successful candidate at the end of our search process,” says Senior Director of Marketing and Communications Judy Piercey. Since the new UCSD vice chancellor will be responsible for equity, inclusion, and diversity—unlike the Berkeley vice chancellor, who is responsible only for equity and inclusion—the salary at UCSD will presumably reflect that infinitely greater mandate.
There are laws of conservation in economics, and California's feeding frenzy for diversifying its faculty simply contributes to the feeding frenzy already under way.
The one observable activity performed by these lavishly funded diversity bureaucrats is to pressure academic departments to hire more women and minorities. (Even that activity is superfluous, given the abundant pressure for race and gender quotas already exerted by campus groups, every accrediting agency, and external political bodies.) Should a department fail to satisfy—as it inevitably will in every field with low minority participation—only one explanation is possible: a departmental or campus “climate” hostile to diversity, which then requires more intercessions from the diversity bureaucracy. The fact that every other college and university in the country is scouring the horizon for the identical elusive cache of qualified female and minority hires is not allowed into the discourse. Even less acceptable is any recognition of the academic achievement gap between black and Hispanic students, on the one hand, and white and Asian students, on the other, which affects the pool of qualified faculty candidates in fields with remotely traditional scholarly prerequisites. Student admissions offices are under the same pressure, which in California results in the constant generation of new schemes for “holistic” admissions procedures designed to evade the ban on racial and gender preferences that California voters enacted in 1996.
Nothing new there either: some of the older heads at Wayne State told me stories of colleagues that became attractive to Harvard departments once affirmative action became public policy after a fashion, but an academic imperative.   At the time I was too polite to ask whether any of those individuals had interviewed with Harvard in the same job year they hired out at Wayne.

No comments: