25.7.14

THE NEWS ISN'T QUITE THAT BAD.

Wisconsin's W. Lee Hansen, whose contributions to public policy include a hitch with the Walter Heller era Council of Economic Advisors, and whose contributions to economic education include suggested proficiencies for majors, recently took issue with a diversity task force report that appeared to be calling for race-normed grading.  Two of his colleagues, Donald Downs and David Canon, ask observers to chill.
As professors at UW-Madison, we can vouch for the fact that there has been no effort to impose diversity-based grading in the past five years. Had such effort emerged, there would have been an immediate strong response. Certainly no one in our department has encountered such pressure. Five years is a long time.  If marching orders had been issued, those of us on the front lines would have heard about it by now.

Our interpretation is that the part of the “inclusive excellence” framework that referred to diversity grading is just another one of hundreds of documents/memos/plans that routinely get ignored in a big organization like ours. It was never an actual University policy that was approved by the Regents and it certainly was never imposed on the faculty.

But herein lies one of the problems that lurk inside the Pandora’s Box of many diversity plans. The people who write such plans are often true believers whose words exceed their grasp. And such words are often draped in bureaucratic language that can be subject to multiple explanations. Furthermore, such programs can foster institutional pressures to conform—never a good idea at a university. The drive for diversity must never trump or compromise the traditional commitment to academic freedom and standards.

And Hansen is right when he points out that the “Inclusive Excellence” framework presented to the Regents in 2009 and the UW System’s web site on the topic does indeed contain the language on proportional representation in grading. And, Hansen is also right that the faculty have not been conscientious enough in scrutinizing, overseeing, and critiquing questionable programs and features of programs. In this respect, he has performed his traditional service to the University. And we hope that his claim will put us on guard not to let diversity grading take place down the line.
Let's cut through the fog of bureaucracy. "The people who write such plans are often true believers whose words exceed their grasp."  Deanlets and deanlings, endlessly meeting, retreating, and strategizing?  "And such words are often draped in bureaucratic language that can be subject to multiple explanations."  Because consensus means none of us is as dumb as all of us?  "And, Hansen is also right that the faculty have not been conscientious enough in scrutinizing, overseeing, and critiquing questionable programs and features of programs."  Because faculty governance has broken down, or because administrators have become accustomed to going around faculty governance?

How best to preclude diversity grading?  Insist that the common schools do their job properly.

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