President Mills, It’s Time to Resign

This week’s Chronicle of
Higher Education
has a story
on diversity in higher education that begins,
“Despite decades of antidiscrimination
policies and affirmations of equality, there’s still little racial and ethnic
diversity at the top at many of the colleges.”

And last year, as legal
challenges to affirmative action were building, the Board of Directors of the
American Council on Education issued a firm
entitled “On the Importance of Diversity in Higher Education”
that justifies affirmative action on the grounds that it “enriches the
educational experience” and “challenges stereotyped preconceptions” before
concluding, “the diversity we seek and the future of the nation do require that
colleges and universities continue to be able to reach out and make a conscious
effort to build healthy and diverse learning environments that are appropriate
for their missions.”

A few months earlier, President
Barry Mills of Bowdoin College issued a statement on liberal education that
included the following

As for affirmative action, my own view is that this is a
necessary practice that has opened the doors of educational opportunity to many
who never dreamed of being able to attend college–folks representing part of
“the 99%” in America who are looking to better their lives and the lives of
their families. I will be writing more over the coming months on the importance
of considering race and economic means in the admissions process.

Now, there are
factual objections to each of these statements.  The Chronicle
story, for instance, opens with the assertion that “The Ivy League’s senior
leadership is overwhelmingly white and heavily male,” but only a few sentences later notes that in
executive, administrative, and managerial positions, women hold
majority of such jobs at five of the eight Ivies” (five of the eight Ivies have
female presidents, too).  Likewise, the ACE rationales for affirmative
action are debatable, as recent and oft-discussed research by Richard Sander
and others have demonstrated.  And Mills’s assertion–because of
affirmative action “many who never dreamed of being able to attend college” can
now do so–is patently ridiculous, for most colleges in the United States are
not selective in admissions.

But it’s time to drop
these factual and logical objections and opt for a simpler, more direct
response to certain campus leaders who insist on the necessity of affirmative
action in admissions and hiring.  History has shown that reasoned
arguments against affirmative action make no difference to people who support
it.  They are committed to it for reasons that often go beyond empirical
and logical grounds, including liberal guilt and white guilt, and guilt that
searches for expiation through policy is never going to be satisfied.

The overheated
condition of race matters in the U.S. calls for a different approach. 
When white male President Mills pledges to press for race-based affirmative
action, the right reply is this: “Well, then, sir, you must resign your post
immediately and call for Bowdoin to hire a racial or ethnic minority in your
place.”  Keep it simple and direct.  Every white
male board member
of the ACE should receive a message to step down. Let’s
ask white male campus leaders to stand up for their own principles and do the
thing they want everybody else to do.  When white women acquire a
disproportionate number of jobs in campus leadership, yet still call for more
diversity, they, too, should be asked to withdraw.

This is the logic of
affirmative action, and if diversity proponents who are white follow it to its
conclusion, they should relinquish their positions as soon as possible.


  • Mark Bauerlein

    Mark Bauerlein is a professor emeritus of English at Emory University and an editor at First Things, where he hosts a podcast twice a week. He is the author of five books, including The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: From Stupefied Youth to Dangerous Adults.

    View all posts

10 thoughts on “President Mills, It’s Time to Resign

  1. Oh come on. No good leftist ever thinks any of these things they advocate for the rest of us would ever apply to them. After all their motives are pure, they are on the right side, so none of this should ever be applied to them, only those nasty right wing types, you know, the rest of us.

  2. Why bother with diversity when they are going to indoctrinate them into the church of state anyway?

  3. As long as we give them the cover of calling it “guilt” it will not stop. It is nothing so admirable if misguided.
    It is a very successful strategy on the part of those already on top to cut down on the competition that could potentially replace them. Illegitimate power has never favored true meritocracy. Why should one expect it to begin doing so now?

  4. So, i you don’t like your government management system now, just wait. A White/Conservative cannot get promoted in our govt. The interview is slanted and excludes any byt the “class” of people they desire to promote. Get the race/bad attitude/diversity you pay for. Not vin this lifetime!

  5. As long as they are correct-thinkers, what difference should color or sex make? I’ll start caring about race- and gender-based quotas when the pinheads at the top start talking about diversity of thought and ideology.

  6. I’m a graduate of Bowdoin College. Well written Mark. A positive future for all “minorities” is derived from each of us in “power” to enjoy, interact, encourage, and invite into our lives those out of our safe parameters. If someone feels they need more representation, you’re spot-on to suggest they resign. Affirmative action had it’s place years ago, bringing both more opportunities for those who needed it, a natural and unfortunate stigma on their groups, and unfair discrimination against non-minority individuals. It’s a formula with which we all need to struggle. For my part today, personal application and personal human contact is much more important than macro policies that almost always shuffle people’s lives around incorrectly, unfairly, and quite often end with wrong result.

  7. One other point: if racial diversity is critical to higher education, shouldn’t schools be discouraging interracial sex and promoting anti-miscegenation laws? What happens to diversity once everyone is Tiger Woods?

  8. You need to lead as an example, resign immediately. Don’t let the Tea Party call you out as a aging, white liberal hypocrite!

  9. No, no, no. This is a classic instance of “do as I say, not as I do.”
    In general, these are the same who advocate smaller cars or no cars at all (but own several, including an SUV), small houses (but live in 20,000 sq ft compounds), or living a eco-friendly lifestyle (but rack up millions of frequent flier miles jetting to conferences).
    They want YOU to make the sacrifices. They’ve done their part by thinking good thoughts.

  10. Governor William J. Lepetomane said it best when he said, “We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen!” Diversity for thee, but not for me.

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