Culture, Education Taking a Closer Look at Diversity on College Campuses

Mar 15, 2019 by

There is a penchant on today’s college campuses for sacrificing hard questions at the altar of political correctness. The university’s repudiation of the Socratic method and preoccupation with genderless pronouns, microaggressions, and safe spaces is not benign. The university should be a sacred place where no question, regardless of its potential to offend, is deemed off-limits.

Diversity is one of the most provocative issues of our time. Strangely, at a time when we are seeing an increase in student body and faculty diversity, we are also seeing a disturbing trend toward less tolerance for alternative points of view. The issue is not whether a diverse faculty is desirable but the price we are willing to pay for it. Universities should seek to develop critical thinkers rather than converts for a cause.

A few years back, one of my students posed a thought-provoking question. Female and African-American faculty members were underrepresented in her college, which was recruiting for a new department head. She inquired whether the college should hire an African-American female for this position who, although qualified, may not be the most qualified applicant, based on objective metrics.

To address her question, I asked the class to assume that the minority candidate was objectively ranked first among the applicants and then inquired how many students would support hiring her. One hundred percent of the students agreed that she should be hired. I then inquired how many students would support hiring her if she were objectively ranked second. Support for the candidate dropped to 85 percent. The same question was put to the students assuming the minority candidate was ranked third, fourth, and finally fifth among the applicants. Student support dropped to 65 percent, 35 percent, and 10 percent, respectively.

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