Diversity–The Vague, Ever-Expanding Cloud

Doubling down on its ever expanding commitment to “diversity,” the University of Virginia Board of Visitors has just created a new standing “Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.” The new committee’s first meeting, held on September 12, considered the results of a study on the wages of female faculty,

The study, by Economics Professor Sarah Turner, found that “the average salary of female faculty members at the University of Virginia is about 2.7 percent less than the average salary of a male faculty member.” Although her study took into account “the different roles of field of specialization, rank and years at the University in determining compensation,” Prof. Turner admitted that it “[u]nfortunately … fails to compare productivity across different fields of study.”

Comparing female and male faculty salaries without considering productivity is about as useful as comparing the wages of any groups of workers without considering the number of hours worked. More fundamentally, however, what does “the average salary of female faculty members” have to do with “diversity”? Depending on the cause of any significant differential, it may have something to do with discrimination, but what is its relevance to “diversity”?

The subject matter of this first meeting, in short, unintentionally but devastatingly reveals the vague, formless indeterminacy of the “diversity” that the committee is charged to promote. Despite this confusion the creation of the new committee was accompanied by all the familiar choruses from the “diversity” hymnal that has become the current catechism of campus political correctness.

Let’s look closely at some of the verses.

  • First the name, Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

As practiced by universities, “diversity” means admitting and hiring individuals who would not have been admitted or hired had their race or ethnicity not been taken into account. That inescapably means others were not admitted or hired — in effect, they were excluded — because of their race or ethnicity.

  • “Diversity” was defined in a statement accompanying the creation of the new committee: “race and ethnicity, age, gender, disability status, sexual orientation, religious and national origin, socioeconomic status and other aspects of individual experience and identity.”

The problem with this definition is not the definition itself; it is the fact that the definition bears no relationship whatsoever to “diversity” as actually practiced by the University (discussed most recently here),  which is limited to preferential treatment based on race and ethnicity. For example, UVa has a large and active Office of African American Affairs headed by a Dean and staffed by an associate and assistant deans, but there is no equivalent Dean of Jewish Students or Poor Students or Disabled Students, and no admission preferences are extended to them. Indeed, I suspect the University is so uninterested in any category other than race/ethnicity that it collects no information about the other areas of “diversity” that it claims to honor and has no idea of how many Methodists or Muslims or Missouri Synod Lutherans it has in attendance.

  • It was left to University Rector (head of the Board of Visitors) George Martin to utter the paean to “diversity” that is at once the most ubiquitous — show me a defense of “diversity” anywhere that doesn’t repeat it —and most barren of substantive content: “In this global economy, diversity is not a goal, it is a reality. Our students will compete in a global economy and we will better equip them to do so if they have a more diverse experience at the University.”

Insofar as any university’s goal is to help the United States compete “in the global economy,” however, it should admit the brightest, most potentially successful students it could find. Today that almost certain would mean admitting far more Asians than current quasi-quotas allow. Of course helping the United States need not be any university’s overriding goal, but in any event it is not at all clear how admitting more blacks and Hispanics than would be admitted without “diversity” preferences provides much help to the other students to compete in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, etc.

Finally, when UVa graduates, when any U.S. graduates, find themselves competing in and with Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa they are going to encounter a vast amount of the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and other religious bias, and hostility to gays, etc., that is now virtually extinct on American campuses. I would not suggest that universities encourage or even tolerate these biases simply because, as Rector Martin says,”in this global economy” they are “a reality,” but it is delusional to think that the hothouse care, concern, and sensitivity now all but universally bestowed upon members of politically correct groups on campus prepares them and their non-preferred peers for anything other than a rude awakening once they dip their toes into today’s “global economy.”

John S. Rosenberg

John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.

One thought on “Diversity–The Vague, Ever-Expanding Cloud”

  1. Excellent through and through, but I particularly liked the dig at that ubiquitous diversity defense, namely that without it, American college grads won’t be able to compete around the world. Does anyone really think that UVA students couldn’t possibly figure out how to deal with customers and suppliers in other countries unless they get to see a few more students on campus who are from “underrepresented” groups? Against that notion I would note that the extremely un-diverse Japanese have for a long time excelled in international business.

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