An Amazing Diversity Plan at Madison

A remarkable article on the University of Wisconsin (Madison) appeared yesterday on the John William Pope Center site. In it, UW economics professor W. Lee Hansen writes about a comprehensive diversity plan prepared for the already diversity-obsessed campus. The report, thousands of words long,  is mostly eye-glazing diversity babble, filled with terms like “compositional diversity,” “critical mass,” “equity mindedness,” “deficit-mindedness,” “foundational differences,” “representational equity” and “excellence,” a previously normal noun that suffers the loss of all meaning when  printed within three words of any diversity term.

But Professor Hansen noticed one very important line in the report that the faculty senate must have missed when it approved this text: a call for “proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high-status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.” So “representational equity” means quotas at all levels. And let’s put that last one in caps: GRADES WILL BE GIVEN OUT BY RACE AND ETHNICITY.

Professor Hansen writes: “Professors, instead of just awarding the grade that each student earns, would apparently have to adjust them so that academically weaker, ‘underrepresented racial/ethnic’ students perform at the same level and receive the same grades as academically stronger students.

“At the very least, this means even greater expenditures on special tutoring for weaker targeted minority students. It is also likely to trigger a new outbreak of grade inflation, as professors find out that they can avoid trouble over ‘inequitable’ grade distributions by giving every student a high grade.”

So diversity, quotas and social transformation of the campus are more important than learning anything.  The faculty senate, professors, administrators and students who signed off on this are either OK with the plan, or haven’t been paying attention.


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

53 thoughts on “An Amazing Diversity Plan at Madison

  1. “Affirmative action grading” has gone on for generations, in tandem with affirmative action admissions. Otherwise, most black and Hispanic AA admissions would flunk out, which once was the case.

    And how could things be otherwise, if the same classroom contains one group, who average IQ is 105 (Chinese) another whose average IQ is 100 (white Americans), another whose average IQ is 89 (Hispanics), and a fourth whose average IQ is 78-85 (American blacks)?

  2. What is the purpose of “equality” when certain ethnicities are rewarded dispropotionately on the basis of a demographic characteristic?

  3. The usual procedure is to create a committee, and charge them with working up a proposal. Then the proposal is circulated and feedback is requested and ignored. (My comments on this one were partly ignored and partly misrepresented in the reply document.) Then they go ahead with whatever they planned. I am not a professor, but I suspect that some aspects of the plan will be dead letters on arrival. If the wrong percentage of races enrolls in the class in the first place, it isn’t anything the professor can deal with–so the U must obviously hire more outreach people. Aside from more noisy posturing and higher tuition, I don’t expect a lot to change.

  4. Well. They have now cheapened their degrees to toilet paper and probably will lose accreditation. No one will accept the toilet paper as a degree.

  5. I am American Indian. The idea of giving out ‘good grades’ to ‘minorities’ is repugnant! It devalues every institution of higher learning in the United States of America. When will these idiots in academia realize, this helps NO ONE!

    While I was in college, the only ‘racism’ I ever experienced was from liberal faculty. I ran afoul of a liberal professor in the Biology Department. He did not agree with my conservative and libertarian values. This was a professor notorious for his grading based on whether or not he ‘liked’ you.

    Two students could give the same answer and he would give one person, often a minority student, full credit while taking away full points, often White students, for the same answer.

    Liberals don’t help minorities, they hinder them and enable them! This bullsh** is just killing America! Disgusting.

  6. Based on the context provided in some of the comments, the author and most of the commentators are misreading the report to fit their political bias. The report does not appear to say that grades should be adjusted to make outcomes equal across race. It is merely restating the obvious, that ultimately unequal outcomes are the result of unequal treatment by society as well as the institution. The institution has an obligation to inquire the degree to which its practices may be contributing to that, such as cultural bias or failure to provide support for students who went to substandard high schools or who have to work during school to pay their university expenses.

    It is Mr. Leo who is being politically correct here. He apparently thinks a university shouldn’t examine the reasons that grades may not be distributed equally across race.

  7. In the future, will it be illegal for prospective employers to determine which (of the many possibilities) curve was used to grade the applicant?

    Serious question.

  8. This will be devastating particularly to Black students and graduates. How is an employer to choose between applicants having high grades and not in a favorite category versus someone with similar grades “earned” through racial adjustment. To ask the question is to answer it unless the government takes the next step and explicitly orders quotas in hiring.

  9. UW is well on its way to becoming 15th string state. Send your children to that mindless bastion of Leftism and expect them to be working at the jewelry kiosk at the mall, if their lucky, after graduation.

  10. Why not just give every attending UW-Mad City straight A’s?
    Why should those who can’t be bothered with showing some effort be discriminated against? Why not just give everyone a trophy just for participating?

    Oh …. my bad …. that is AYSO soccer that our precious snowflakes just had to play.

  11. I suspect that this is merely formalizing what liberal professors have been doing informally for a very long time.

  12. This probably will be an exercise in unintended consequences — It would be hard to design a policy that more effectively encourages employers to hire whites and Asians over other groups than this diversity plan. “Sure, he has an honors degree from Wisconsin, but you know that this Asian guy over here had to work twice as hard for his. Let’s go with the Asian guy!”

  13. In related news, the UW-Madison has contracted with the Charmin toilet paper company to produce its diplomas. Undergrad and Masters diplomas will be single ply. PhD diplomas will be double ply.

  14. I hope the bridges these kids end up building and nuclear reactors they end up operating have been briefed on their responsibilities to cut the historically disadvantaged some slack.

    1. Oh, it’s fine. You can’t build those things in America anymore. The Environmental Impact Statement would take years, and then some environmental group would just sue to stop your project anyway.

  15. Thank you for covering this. As an employer, I now know that at UW-Madison grades are worthless as an indicator of knowledge learned.

  16. I have made a note to be certain that in the future I never hire an attorney, doctor, engineer, accountant, really anyone (except an athlete) who graduates from University Wisconsin.

  17. Thanks for the heads up on your program. I now know your diploma is meaningless and won’t hire anyone from your school.

  18. Something to think about when you see that diploma hanging on a professional’s wall. Did he or she get those honors because of ability or because of quotas. Your surgery or your litigation won’t care whether some second,-rate group-normed incompetent had to overcome adversity to get that far.

  19. Or the standards have already become so low for all of the above that they were unable to understand the ramifications of this and signed off on this because they did not want to show their inability to do so.

  20. Ooops! My apologies. It’s Prof. Hansen’s many colleagues I meant to criticize. Prof. Hansen is one of the good guys, one who believes that, given a fair shake (as opposed to quotas), every group can do well.

    It’s many on the UW-Madison faculty who hold a lower view of black ability that the 19th-century Klan and are thus the real racists.

    This is NOT to say that the current faculty views are any worse than those held by their 19th-century colleagues. A belief in black inferiority is deeply embedded in American academia. Tourgee’s efforts in Plessy met with failure and the judge who wrote the opinion in favor of segregation was a Harvard-educated New Englander who cited as precedence the 1850 segregation of Boston’s schools.

    In academia, racism reigns supreme. It’s merely acquired a new cloak.

    –Mike Perry

  21. One can be sure that these feel good programs will keep planes in flight and make surgeries even more guilt-free among the other corrections society will no doubt benefit from.

  22. Albion Tourgee was a lawyer, judge and life-long opponent of racism. It was he who fought legal segregation by bringing Plessy v. Ferguson before the US Supreme Court.

    I recently adapted parts of his bestselling 1879 novel A Fool’s Errand into a young adult novel (and class reader). I retained the drama of a daughter riding at night over Klan-infested country roads to rescue her father from the Klan and removed now-obscure descriptions of 1870s national politics.

    Tourgee lived in North Carolina and served as a judge for some 14 years just after the Civil War, so his novel is based on real events loosely fictionalized. At one point he notes that the real fear of the Klan and its supporters was that, if not kept down, many of the newly freed slaves would do far better that their white neighbors, building up large and successful farms and riding horses while their white neighbors remained mired in poverty. That, he notes, is one reason for what the Klan did.

    Fast forward to today, where those who claim to oppose racism assume that, in the absence of quotas that include inflating the grades of some minorities, blacks will do badly.

    You might want to ask yourself who are the greatest racists: 19th-century Klansman who feared black success in the face of stiff obstacles or 21st-century professors like this W. Lee Hansen, who assume that blacks are incapable of succeeding on their own.

    –Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride: Rescuing her Father from the Ku Klux Klan

  23. Unbeleiveable. As a professor at a law school, which provides students’ exam papers to me for grading with only a random student number (ie blind to identity) , I have found that when the students name is revealed for final grade entry, that the students’ grades usually represent about wht I expected –based upon the students performance and attentiveness in class. the students whoworked harder and participated in class did the best. this is regadrdless of race, ethnicity, sex, or national background. Students earn their grades by performance. there is only one test at the end of the semester. I have found no common thread based upon rae, ethnicity, sex or natioal origin. Meritocracy. I also recieve very high marks from student evaluations for fairness. Basing a grade on performance is the only possible critierion. If some have to work harder to achieve, so be it, and those individuals benefit from knowing that hard work pays off. I would never grade a paper based upon anything other than the quality of an answer. I honestly don’t care what the students background is, whether fourth generation law student, or first generation american. This proposal is offensive to the education profession and reveals the soft bigotry of low expectations that that seems to exist in so many educational bureaucrats. Stop meddling. Create expectations and watch your students grow and succeed.

    1. Mr. Blackwell,

      I small story to illustrate your point: My daughter went to law school (quite the academic – 177/180 on LSAT) and I teased her that it would be tough to get “A’s” in law school because all the kids were smart. She answered, “There may be kids smarter than me and they will get better grades, God love ’em, but I will not be out worked.” She finished third in her class and scored the highest in the state on the Bar Exam.

  24. Actually the damning phrase about equity in grades is not in the report itself. The full Diversity report is here:

    On page 15 of that report, under section F, there is a link to “Inclusive Excellence” (7th line of the first paragraph). This link takes you to a university Academic Affairs web page which generally explains “Inclusive Excellence.”

    If you go up to the top and click on the link for “Defininitions” you get this webpage:

    It is on this webpage where the paragraph about Inclusive Excellence in grades appears:


    Equity Mindedness: Refers to the outlook, perspective or mode of thinking exhibited by practitioners and others who call attention to patterns of inequity in student outcomes, and are willing to assume personal and institutional responsibility for the elimination of inequity. This includes being “color conscious,” noticing differences in experience among racial-ethnic groups, and being willing to talk about race and ethnicity as an aspect of equity. Equity perspectives are evident in actions, language, problem-framing, problem-solving, and cultural practices. (Bensimon, 2008)

    Deficit Mindedness: Deficit thinking “posits that students who fail in school do so because of alleged internal deficits (such as cognitive and/or motivational limitations) or shortcomings socially linked to the youngster-such as familiar deficits and dysfunctions” (Valencia, 1997). In other words, deficit thinking “blames the student” for unequal outcomes.

    Representational Equity: Proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades. (Bensimon, 2008)

    1. The problem with this language is that it presumes that universities have the ability to compensate for 12 years of underperformance in elementary and secondary schools as well as potentially dangerous, crime- and poverty-ridden social environments within which too many minority youth grow up. College-ready students and their professors have the right to expect that any student in their class has attained basic college-level knowledge and competencies. However, this is rarely the case in non-selective colleges, and unfortunately the largest number of underprepared students in this particular historical period are African American and, to a lesser extent, Latino, students. To demand that universities remediate problems in the elementary and secondary schools and in the larger environment is unreasonable and ultimately undermines the higher education project. It ends up benefiting no one. The U.S. has a system of 2-year community colleges that are far better equipped to educate students who arrive with significant deficits in their educational preparation.

  25. As an alum of UW at Madison I feel speechless at the destruction of a once great university. This can’t be serious! Scott Walker should make it a big issue in the campaign.

  26. Diana Moon Glampers . . . came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

    The Handicapper General has moved into Madison.

  27. Leo’s conclusion that this report requires that “GRADES WILL BE GIVEN OUT BY RACE AND ETHNICITY” has absolutely no basis in fact. In reality, there’s nothing controversial at all about this report. We should all be concerned if members of minority groups are underrepresented among elite status programs and achieve lower grades, and true equality in our society will be achieved when these disparities no longer exist. But it’s ridiculous to conclude that racially-based grade inflation will be the means used to achieve equality (rather than real equality), and no one I know has ever endorsed this idea, let alone imposed it on a university.

    1. “…… the distribution of grades.” Is probably where he misunderstood the statement to mean distribution of grades.

      1. Bravo Mr McCabe! Well done response.

        I believe Mr Wilson would also say: “100% chance of rain” (it turns out) does emphatically *not* mean there’s a 100% chance of rain! You right-wing rabid conservatives are always exaggerating this kind of thing. Please take a course on modern academic doublespeak to learn how to properly participate in our erudite conversations. Either that, or go crawl back under the rocks whence you all came.

    2. 1. The sentence, “proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high-status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades” comes from a definition of representational equality.

      2. The definition paraphrases research by Estela Bensimon.

      3. The research emphasizes that the outcome of education should be representational equality – in other words, how can we help ALL students succeed so that the distribution of grades doesn’t in any way fall along racial or ethnic or socioeconomic lines (with well-to-do kids getting As and poor kids averaging Ds, for example), but cuts across them? Do we need study groups, special college prep, summer programs, or what?

      4. Nothing in the report, the definition, or Bensimon’s research in any way shape or form advocates giving inflated grades to non-white students in the name of “equality.”

      1. “with well-to-do kids getting As…” — you mean like George W Bush (of ahem, more than modest means) getting Straight C’s! Oh Puh-Lease.

    3. Par for the course, you completely miss the basic understanding of human nature in the quest for “making a better world” or whatever.

      “True equality in our society will be achieved when these disparities no longer exist.”

      Great. And what is the easiest way to reach that goal? By making sure all are performing to an equal level? Or just by making sure “these disparities no longer exist”? It is not a semantic difference. The natural human/bureaucratic inclination toward filling in the boxes in the easiest manner possible means it is a LOT easier just to iron out the “differences” by bureaucratic fiat than to radically change the behavior of both faculty and students. Thus the latter will prevail under this regimen, no matter what the wonderful intentions that are set out with…….. again. This is what humans do. Always.

      And so we will set about having to re-learn this lesson once again… until the end of time, apparently.

    4. Satire is getting harder and harder to discern these days: “[T]rue equality in our society will be achieved when these disparities no longer exist.”

      Hahahaha! And we’re all slugs and one-celled Amoebas…

    5. What is the meaning of “proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including . . . in the distribution of grades”?

      It looks very much to me like a “basis in fact” for Leo’s conclusion.

    6. I understand. Some non-whites and non-Asians (all whites are privileged but not all privileged are white) must be given As and Bs to reinforce or rather enforce the bell curve.

      The problem though, is the bell curve will disappear and be replace by the bicycle racers hemet.

    7. It looks to me like you’ve never worked in a government bureaucracy – which is what a public university is. All goals set in such entities are met, by hook or by crook. So indeed there will be race/ethnicity based grade adjustments whenever it turns out that the goals will otherwise be failed. Which will be mostly, in real life.

      And since it is easier to “adjust” a poor performer’s grade than to improve his performance, adjustment it will be.

      As for “true equality,” that’s measured by equal opportunity, not equal results. A policy which contemplates & measures for equal results is inevitably fraudulent and ultimately tyrannical. Read your Orwell.

    8. No, we should not be concerned if some ethnic groups are better students on average than other groups. In fact, that’s the expected result when, e.g., less-qualified blacks are accepted. IMHO we should be concerned if any student isn’t being well-served by his/her college. Sadly, an unintended consequence of affirmative action is that many black college students cannot cope with the demands of the college that accepted them and thus fail to graduate.

    9. Hey, John K. Wilson, still around, are you, and still a talking point machine of Marxist deception?! Still as reliable as ever!

      The best response to JKW was provided by Mary McCarthy, when she said of Stalinist propagandist Lillian Hellman that every word she said was a lie, including “and” and “the.”

  28. Such guaranteed participation and guaranteed grades will hurt very, very badly those that are ostensibly intended to be helped. Anyone not lily- white or Chinese or subcontinental Indian will be perceived as an “affirmative action baby”. This will create deeper poverty traps from which it will hardly be possible to escape.

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