Diversity, Science Faculties, and Circular Reasoning

According to a short news item in Inside Higher Ed today, “The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of American Universities have issued a new handbook with detailed legal resources to help colleges recruit and retain faculty members and students in science fields. The handbook notes legal challenges to some forms of affirmative action, but suggests that many practices that promote diversity are on solid legal ground.”
I criticized bean-counting for science faculties in a recent essay for “Minding the Campus”, pointing out both the legal objections and the lack of a policy justification for race-conscious hiring. I’m heartened that the handbook, which will be released later this week, apparently takes the legal issues seriously and may even warn schools away from the worst abuses. But what about the policy justification for striving toward “diversity” in the first place? Well, here’s what the press release for the handbook says, with my comments in brackets:

“Science and engineering are national assets that drive innovation, economic strength, leadership and our national security,” the AAAS-AAU handbook asserts. [Okay.]
The nation’s international economic competitiveness “depends on the U.S. labor force’s innovation and productivity,” the report continues, citing National Science Foundation findings. [Again, okay so far.] “A diverse, globally oriented workforce of scientists and engineers” is essential to ensure continued U.S. economic leadership. [But why “diverse”? Why not just “The best possible”?]
“Achieving a more diverse faculty and student body at our universities will enrich their programs of research and scholarship and lead to profound educational advantages for all students,” said Robert M. Berdahl, president of the AAU. [Again, what is the evidence for this?] “It is important that we understand the legally sustainable efforts our universities can undertake to achieve diversity, and apply that understanding diligently.” [Once again, the conclusion has been assumed.]

Now, really. There is not one word in those three paragraphs that provides any justification for considering race and ethnicity in hiring science professors. Not one word. To the extent that diversity is mentioned at all, its value is simply asserted, not argued for, let alone shown.


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