Diversity Policies Are Corrupting the Sciences

Anyone who believes that the hard sciences could never capitulate to identity politics in the way the humanities and softer sciences have should not read Heather MacDonald’s report just posted at City Journal. It’s too infuriating, and the impacts could be devastating.

MacDonald surveys the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and accrediting organizations such as the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and finds the quota police alive and well within them.

The NSF, for instance, “dumps millions of dollars into implicit-bias activism,” a pseudo-scientific effort to explain lack of proportionate numbers of women and certain minorities in STEM fields on the grounds of racism and sexism. It has other programs that “pressure actual science grantees to incorporate diversity considerations into their research.” Such programs aim to set “inclusion and equity” at “the very core” of STEM science.

The NIH puts similar burdens on the field. Its training grants for postdoctoral education for physicians are threatened with funding cuts if the programs don’t support “a sufficient number of ‘underrepresented minorities.'” It also wants to see proportionate representation in the sample of medical subjects, so that (in MacDonald’s example) the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota must reach out well beyond its surroundings to draw in different identities, a costly and time-consuming practice.

Accreditors play their part by criticizing academic departments if they don’t have enough underrepresented groups. They don’t bother, however, to consider the number of available job candidates in those groups. MacDonald doesn’t mention this, but the percentage of doctorates in STEM fields granted to African Americans each year is under four percent. The applicant pool isn’t nearly large enough for departments to reach proportionality in the demographic make-up of the professors (using the population of the surrounding geographic area as a base measure).

MacDonald summarizes the problem perfectly: The use of a school’s immediate surroundings as a demographic benchmark for its faculty is a significant escalation of the war between the diversicrats and academic standards.

Escalation is the right word. It’s as if the official bodies that monitor scientific research are searching for mechanisms that will ramp up the pressure on individuals and institutions to include underrepresented minorities in their work in one way or another.

These tactics are backed by funders who explicitly set aside money for “gender- and race-exclusive science training.” University departments and schools, too, are creating their own diversity enforcers.” Schools are adjusting the way they teach and evaluate minority students and job candidates, for instance, developing “culturally sensitive pedagogies” that downplay knowledge and skills and upgrade, in the words of one program, awareness of the “racialized and gendered construct of scientific brilliance.”

The results are already showing. From 2013 to 2016, MacDonald notes, “medical schools nationally admitted 57 percent of black applicants with a low MCAT of 24 to 26, but only 8 percent of whites and 6 percent of Asians with those same low scores.” Allegations of racism, sexism, microaggression, and bias continue, despite nearly everyone in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) complying with diversity ambitions. As one practitioner quoted by MacDonald puts it:

The sheer effort that is expended in complete good faith at the graduate, post-graduate, and faculty level chasing after a declining population of minority applicants is astonishing. URMs [underrerpesented minorities] are encouraged to apply, indeed begged to apply, to medical school and post-graduate medical training programs. Everyone at this level is trying incredibly hard to be generous, fair, forgiving, thoughtful, kind, and encouraging to these applicants.

This is the general circumstance that coincides with the ceaseless talk of systemic and individual discrimination. The insertion of diversity criteria into the practice of science relies upon presumptions of bias, but one would have to search far and wide to find any scientists who wish to keep women, African Americans, and Hispanics out of their classrooms, departments, and research projects.

A few years ago, I was in a small meeting of college leaders and a few people who run organizations devoted to improving diversity in higher education. One person in the room raised the charge that professors prefer to hire people who are just like them, which was just a way for him to assert that white males want to hire white males. I asked him if he had ever served on a hiring committee. He hadn’t–he wasn’t a professor. I told him with a laugh about standard efforts and intentions of everyone in the room to favor any underrepresented minority candidates we could find. He wasn’t impressed, though. The fact that African Americans and Hispanics are still underrepresented in the departments makes our efforts and motives inadequate and perhaps suspect, too.

Those of us who believed that the empirical demand would preserve the sciences from progressivist coercion were naive. The diversity mandate is too strong. It has no scientific or intellectual rationale; the justifications that proponents offer are less than flimsy, but they don’t care. There used to be a lot of talk about the cognitive and disciplinary benefits of diversity (people with different backgrounds and experience will bring new ideas into the room), but even diversiphiles seem to have grown tired of those weak supports. They mutter truisms such as “Diversity is our strength” with a listless air. For them and for everyone else, diversity doesn’t mean anything anymore except more women and underrepresented minorities in the jobs–which is to say, less white and Asian men. It’s a crass ambition managed in a crass manner. But this is where we are.

Mark Bauerlein

Mark Bauerlein

Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory.

13 thoughts on “Diversity Policies Are Corrupting the Sciences

  1. In this time, people who don’t know the name Trofim Denisovitch Lysenko cannot line up fast enough to kiss the nether parts of the Leftist tyrants.

    But consider the majestic Cape Buffalo versus the Rinderpest virus, or the brain-burrowing worm, or even just blood-sucking ticks. Sapped of vitality, it slows… meanders… stumbles… finally keels over to be gnawed by carrion eaters.

    Any system that cannot sustain itself will in the fullness of time collapse or be devoured by competitors…

    Others wiser than I have pointed out the sneering hypocrisy of the cynics’ false agendas. It matters not. The Catechism of the Delusional has captured the imagination of the last four generations. Only pitiless reality can crush the trundling behemoth; logic has no place to lodge a foothold.

  2. “From 2013 to 2016, MacDonald notes, “medical schools nationally admitted 57 percent of black applicants with a low MCAT of 24 to 26, but only 8 percent of whites and 6 percent of Asians with those same low scores.””

    I’m more concerned that they are admitting whites and Asians with scores in that range. Certainly there are enough non-black candidates with good MCAT scores to require at least a 28 from them?

  3. The article is most chilling. As someone who graduated medical school more than forty years ago, I can only support Mr. Perry’s advice to avoid certain minorities in their choice of physician. I’ve seen first-hand how affirmative action has put the public at risk.
    How very sad that truly competent Black and Hispanic physicians will always be under suspicion that they are the undeserved recipients of an advanced degree.

  4. Most people who strongly favor required diversity in science come from the social justice part of the spectrum, where by definition you can simply be declared great and capable. However, science (STEM in general) requires not only a commitment but talent, and an amazing amount of work. Scholarships help but often only bump up the numbers; they are not a guarantor of scientific contribution. Memorizing a couple pages of talking points on say water resources does not a scientist on this subject make.

    The root problem about diversity in science, normally a good thing, is that the strongest advocates simply don’t know what genuine contribution science means. This is possibly a consequence of our post-truth based society.

  5. It’s fine. Schools should ban all white people and stop having any standards at all. Just hand out degrees based on color and gender.

  6. If I were in a strange city in the 1930s, knew no one, and desperately needed excellent care, do you know what I’ve had done? I’d have found a phone book, located the listing for specialists in the area I needed, and made an appointment with one having a obviously Jewish name.

    Why? Because in the early twentieth century universities heavily discriminated against Jews, particularly in law and medicine. So many barriers were put in their way, that those who made it through medical school had to be the best. By picking a Jewish doctor, I’d almost certainly be getting someone talented.

    And what’s likely to be the wisest move for someone in a situation much like that but in the 2030s? Names would help a little, because this seeker of medical care would want to find someone male. But a seeker would also need to go online for pictures and family ties. The best chance of getting a top doctor would be to pick a white CIS male with a non-Hispanic surname. Like the Jews of a century earlier, they’d have made it through a system that was heavily biased against “people like them.” In short, if you want to find the best, look for the most disliked at any particular moment in history.
    —–
    There’s another factor that rarely intrudes into these discussions. Years ago, I had a neighbor who was all for legalized abortion, she told me, because she didn’t want her lazy son to have to compete with Asians for admission into a top school.

    Something much like that is true here, particularly with diversity-chanting professors who have lazy sons and daughters. They want the reduce the competition that their children will face and the best way to do that is keep out other whites, particularly talented white males, and to favor minorities as untalented as they can get away with.

    That also explains why schools that discriminate in favor of less talented blacks and Hispanics also discriminate against talented Asians. The misfortune argument doesn’t hold water. Blacks must be favored, it is said, because they’re still traumatized by slavery, which ended over a century and a half ago. But Asians get no such leg up, even though some of them had close family members murdered during the horrors of the Pol Pot genocide. Suspicious, to say the least.

    In short, diversity isn’t about helping disadvantaged groups get ahead. It’s about so glutting our educational system with incompetence, that all the career advantages flow to to highly advantaged whites (i.e. professors) whose sons and daughters will never be kept out by quotas. It’s about keeping the talented and hard-working son of a white car truck driver out of medical school, so he’ll not be a competitor to the lazy and not-so-bright son of a medical school professor, particularly one on the admission committee.

    That is also why researchers who’ve discovered that admitting less qualified minorities actually hurts those minorities can get no traction with these diversity mongers. For the mongers, the best of all worlds is for that quota-admitted minority to drop out in his third or fourth year of law or medical school. Why? Because they care little about seeing more black lawyer or doctors graduate. If they wanted that, they want to see those students attending schools that better match their abilities. It’s that these academic gatekeepers want to keep out the gifted white son of a truck driver. The black dropout exists to prevent the white from graduating. That’s what is happening, so it only makes sense to assume that’s what is intended to happen.

    As you might suspect, I pay little attention to what people say, but watch closely what they do. Behind behavior that is inconsistent and hypocritical lies the truth. And what I see is that diversity is a tool well-connected whites are using to serve their own self-interests.

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

  7. The University of Mississippi Medical Center has blocked this website from access both via the network connection and the wireless connection.

    How dare anyone criticize admissions criteria to medical schools!?

    The ACGME definitely is being infiltrated by identity politics and many schools too have adopted this policy.

    1. Are you thinking of the pedestrian bridge that collapsed at Florida International U. some months ago? Somehow they’ve managed to make that very simple design into something requiring very precise construction, and one error caused this mess.

  8. Sadly, this is all too true. And what is worse is, the scientists have bought into the diversity agenda, or at least accepted it, even those who have doubts. They really do want to hire more women science faculty, up to a point, and minorities. They do want more minority students to succeed in science.

    One thing I will say for this is that they see the future student demographics, and are alarmed. The pool of white students, of white male students especially, is declining. If minority students don’t study science, who will fill the classes and research labs? There is also concern about the future of American society. If the increasingly minority population doesn’t succeed in science (and other intellectually demanding fields), what is going to happen to the American people? (Yes, a great many university faculty do actually still care about such a notion as the American people.)

    I don’t think the diversity efforts of the NSF, the NIH, and other funding agencies are succeeding very well; I think they are damaging to science, and to the supposed beneficiaries. I would like to see the latter get ahead the old-fashioned way, i.e. by achievement (with a more level playing field than in the past). But I do partly understand the rationale for what the science bureaucrats (and increasingly, to repeat, the science faculty) are doing.

    1. Most people who strongly favor required diversity in science come from the social justice part of the spectrum, where by definition you can simply be declared great and capable. However, science (STEM in general) requires not only a commitment but talent, and an amazing amount of work. Scholarships help but often only bump up the numbers; they are not a guarantor of science contribution. Memorizing a couple pages of talking points on say water resources does not a scientist on this subject make.

      The root problem about diversity in science, normally a good thing, is that the strongest advocates simply don’t know what genuine contribution science means. This is possible a consequence of our post-truth based society.

      1. Well, I think you underestimate the genuine support for this stuff among real scientists. Most of them may not be greatly enthusiastic, but they may have a certain level of genuine support, or at least willingness to go along without being too unhappy about it. I can tell you, in real meetings of real science faculty where this stuff comes up, almost nobody comes out against it. Nobody will say that hiring more women or minorities is not a priority or something desirable. That may not be what they are thinking, but they will not say it. The goal may not be to hire incompetent people, or people who are not really quite good, but the edge may go to less than stellar, or less than the best people. Or, extra money may be put into someone’s initial research funding, or finding a position for a spouse, than if the candidate were not from a favored group. Believe me, I am in a pretty good position to know what I’m talking. Unfortunately, what I say is true.

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