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Saturday, December 26, 2015


People don't realize this, but "diversity" was the catch-word involved in the abolishing of affirmative action. In the Bakke case from around '78, the SCOTUS ruled that you couldn't favor applicants by race, explicitly. However, you could construct a freshman class (or a 1st year med school class, since Bakke had applied to UCD Med school) and take into account all the different ways people are different from one another: what state they came from, whether they are rural or urban, whether they had special talents or characteristics, etc... This emphasis on diversity honored the notion of academic freedom: that the university might want to enhance the education of everyone by bringing different kind of people together.

I remember because I was a student at UCD at the time, and my father who taught there as well explained the case to me.

"Diversity" wasn't targeted at urm groups anymore (underrepresented minorities), but a university certainly could use it that way as well. Well, of course, universities began to use "diversity" only to mean urm groups. Because the problem was never to get enough White Idaho farmers or Jewish violinists to go to Harvard. Also, although international students automatically bring diversity (of culture, language, race, religion, and a whole host of other factors) somehow only domestic diversity counts.

(Logically, an all black school is not racially "diverse." By the same token, an individual cannot be diverse, only a population.)

So "diversity" is a blunt and inappropriate tool if what you are looking for is a racial mix reflective of US domestic populations. The reason is the tension between the original AA goal of compensating for past discrimination and the goal of diversity, which in actuality targets only two minority groups but sounds like it should strive for a much wider panoply of people. My department, for example, has faculty from Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, the US, etc... but yet we still aren't very diverse in terms of the representation of the under-represented US populations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

True, and important, and people forget.

I am for affirmative action, not "diversity."