Saturday, January 06, 2007

Diversity on Campus

Yes, exactly what is the benefit?

It's a question someone should answer, and answer in ways that justify all the money, time, and discrimination that go into creating a "diverse" campus.

13 comments:

John S. said...

Interesting. I think diversity, in the guise of multiculturalism fantasies, is one extreme, and uniformity, in the guise of the melting pot fantasy, is another. No easy answer for me. I am just fearful people believe one answer is better. It seems more complex to me than that (I always say that, huh?). What do you think? Is one better than the other, is an equal mixture best, is an untellable mixture of the two even better to think of it, or, finally, you are not sure but do have a preference for one over the other in some degree or another? Can diversity become detached from multiculturalism and can uniformity include heterogeneity (without exploitation of course). Though we can be logical and seperate them, often these are the terms, words, people use. Right?

Darren said...

I reject the premise that the melting pot represents uniformity.

But back to the topic at hand. The most spoken word by any university official anywhere in the land is "diversity". I'm just asking what its benefit is. Seriously, honestly asking.

And let's be blunt. By "diversity" we mean "different skin colors". Because the university officials that say the word "diversity" more than any other word certainly aren't looking for diversity of thought or opinion.

John S. said...

“I reject the premise that the melting pot represents uniformity.”

I confess, I baited you on that one, I knew as much. Just avoiding my assumptions now. I agree wholeheartedly. I also disagree with the premise diversity represents multiculturalism—though you never used the word I know, do not get me wrong, just thinking aloud in type.

Before going too far I guess, is the “university official” some symbolic Jeremy Bentham or an actual individual? You do not like the university official too much—she is rather villainous. In addition, does the university official really use such word—diversity—the most or is it the fear she does (exaggerated), which still gives it great power I confess.

“And let's be blunt. By ‘diversity’ we mean ‘different skin colors.’”

Okay. Maybe. I am not so sure of such, but do agree it plays a large part—I am just not so willing to reduce it to only such. Much diversity talk revolves around homosexuals, many of whom are of the majority Caucasian race. I am not so sold on the notion our iniquitous university official is “certainly” not “looking for diversity of thought or opinion.” I would agree a bias is present in general and a loss of objectivity among many obvious. Problems, which need fixing, I agree.

“I'm just asking what its [diversity’s] benefit is. Seriously, honestly asking.”

So am I. I, and I honestly have not thought much about it, feel diversity is good, however, my conception of the term is obviously different from yours and the university official. I see diversity as retaining one’s own SENSE and sharing of a PERTICULAR culture—neither of which necessities only one. The problem has more to do with the term culture I guess. Too many assume, I am guessing, it means superiority to, i.e. high culture or primitive/archaic culture (at the very least it means more than different, it means apart from). Likewise, it assumes people are highly incapable of straddling more than one culture (I think we have learned I do not buy into the monolithic power on singularities). Multiculturalism seems to have reduced the notion of diversity meaning one or the other or one at the expense of the other (culture).

As for the benefit of diversity. I believe it provides an individual with better tools to think—for critical and higher thought. Exposure to diversity, to other cultures, ways of life, thoughts, ideas, etc, opens up a mind to other possibilities, to better structure their own thought, or to reevaluate it. Appreciation is also another characteristic I feel is important. Satisfaction of seeing first hand and understanding something or someone different. The last two, I agree, are the most subjective. I find value in such, but others may not.

Finally, I think the issue for you may be more about forced diversity and how it benefits people, particularly students. Correct? For me, it seems to foster tools for thought. But, I think I read a post somewhere (here?), integration, as far as racial diversity goes, fostered an environment not so productive for stimulating a fruitful learning environment. How authoritative such study is I have no idea.

Cowboys game on, go Dallas!

Anonymous said...

All I can tell you is that I love teaching on a diverse campus. It's literally 1/3 White, 1/3 Black, and 1/3 Hispanic.

A wonderful mixture and we learn a lot from each other.

If you don't want diversity, there are plenty of places in America to live... that's for sure.

One is PA - I used to live there. I am much happier in Houston.

Mike said...

Darren:

Good question. May I extend your comment just a bit? Not only does the contemporarily accepted definition of "diversty" encompass skin color, but sexual preference/orientation other than heterosexual, and political views on any topic that run left of center at least and far left of center at worst.

Your question is particularly apt in that I have not been able to find, despite many years of social experimentation by a great meany academics and social scientists, that mere exposure to the aforementioned is in any definable way, beneficial to the individual (of any color) or to society at large.

This, of course, should not be taken to mean that I advocate the repeal of the Civil Rights Act, Brown vs Board of Education, etc. I most certainly do not. But advocating for fair and equal application of the law and equal opportunity does not and should not translate to an unquestioning acceptance of "diversity" as an indispensible social good.

May I suggest that much of this is a result of our culture of mediocrity? Not only in our colleges, but throughout the culture, that which once would have been considered substandard is now considered acceptable. What was once merely average is now excellent. When this social atmosphere prevails, true excellence is feared and must be challenged. Thus may university officials and recruiters spend much of their time and focus on acheiving "diversity" as an end unto itself, and thus do few, if any, of their peers question that pursuit.

Will there be a reasoned defense of diversity in response to your question? Peer reviewed and replicated studies? Doubtful, but you can count on emotional and irrational responses that brand you racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. for merely suggesting that diversity might not be the ultimate condition to which man must aspire if we are to reach "self actualization" and "social justice."

Darn it. Now I've started it...

John S. said...

Mike,

I fail to see how suggesting diversity may induce higher/critical thought may be "emotional and irrational responses that brand you racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. for merely suggesting that diversity might not be the ultimate condition to which man must aspire if we are to reach 'self actualization' and 'social justice.'”

Sure, I may be wrong (I usually am), but I did none of the aforementioned.

“May I suggest that [what?] much of this [what?] is a result of our culture of mediocrity?”

Huh? What in the world is culture here? Who is mediocre? I know I may be, but who do you think is? Who is “our”?

Finally, you question whether exposure to diversity is beneficial. Elaborate please. I firmly believe, even if I disagree, the issue is not over exposure, but of necessity and value—augmented further, of perceived coercion. Darren’s post, wherein he never reveals his position (masterful by the way—good blogging!), is the questioning of a supposed liberal intellectualism persuading (on what authority I do not know) the need and exalting of the value of diversity. He, as a rational person, questions such. Good for him and good for the blog. I, not so rational, ask what in the world he (you) thinks diversity, and, subsequently (through my own babble), culture is.

Darren said...

40, it's not that I don't enjoy the benefits of diversity, but you yourself defined the term racially. Is race really all that determines whether or not we're "diverse"? And what are its objective benefits to society that are so compelling as to require government protection?

Again, allow me to be blunt. I'd enjoy the company of a black conservative to that of a white liberal any day. Because I'd prefer the black person's company in that instance, am I celebrating diversity?

See, to me, diversity is what happens between your ears, it's not the color of your ears.

Darren said...

I thought it would be a fun exercise to go to the web sites of just a few top tier universities, type in the word "diversity" into their search engines, and see what turns up. At random I chose Stanford (CA), Harvard (Massachusetts), and the University of Michigan (somewhere in the midwest). Each search turned up tens of thousands of references to "diversity" at the university's domain. The most interesting, and applicable to my question, is from the UMich President's speech of November 8, 2006 (text at http://www.umich.edu/pres/speeches/061103div.html). I consider her view representative of the view of "university officials".

*****
Diversity matters at Michigan, today more than any day in our history.

It matters today, and it will matter tomorrow. It will always matter because it is what makes us the great university we are.

I am deeply disappointed that the voters of our state have rejected affirmative action as a way to help build a community that is fair and equal for all.

But we will not be deterred in the all-important work of creating a diverse, welcoming campus. We will not be deterred.
*****

Diversity, then, means using race-based criteria (affirmative action) to "build a community that is fair and equal for all." Except, of course, for those who were discriminated against in the name of affirmative action.

Go read her entire speech. It's amazing. It's full of how great diversity is, how important it is, how strong it makes the University of Michigan. But nowhere does she state, not once how diversity does these things. It's an article of faith for her.

Yet again I ask, what is the benefit of diversity that justifies the money, time, and discrimination it requires? (Money? See how many universities have a Diversity Office or a Dean of Diversity or some similar such title or organization. UVA has a particularly storied office.)

rightwingprof said...

"the University of Michigan (somewhere in the midwest)."

Yes. In Michigan. That would be the state that wraps three shores of Lake Michigan, which would be one of the Great Lakes.

Darren said...

I'm glad you cleared that up for us, rightwingprof :-)

Now everyone should go take a gander at this post:
http://nalert.blogspot.com/2007/01/multi-culturalism-leads-to-social.html

Darren said...

Here's a great op-ed out of Hartford, CT, discussing why diversity based on how we think is far more important that what the author calls "the holy trinity of race, gender, and ethnicity."

http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/op_ed/hc-bergman0107.artjan07,0,6712545.story?coll=hc-headlines-oped

Anonymous said...

If a student had handed me an essay that said "Diversity is important now because it will be important tomorrow," I would mark it off as vague and make him rewrite it. What a bunch of politically correct nonthink speech. From what I have seen going into college and what my kids have seen at college, grants and scholarships given for diversity are treated like Free Parking money in Monopoly. It means nothing other than a free paycheck. And while some kids make good use of it, there are far too many grants that are based just on ethnicity with little thought of follow up. They give kids money, the kids mess up and move on. What a waste of money. If you are going to start some sort of grant programs and insist on making it based on ethnicity, which I still think is biased, then at least follow up. It makes a mockery out of the whole program.

Darren said...

EllenK, I think you stumbled into more truth than you know. You see, according to the actual rules of Monopoly, there is no such thing as "free parking money". The free parking space is just that, free parking. It's all those house rules that have developed over the decades that created what you described.

Interesting parallel, no?