The Coming Implosion After Diversity’s Victory

After the protests at the University of Missouri, enrollment dropped by 13 percent.

Conservatives, libertarians, traditionalists, and classical liberals need to get clear on something: the ideological contests are fading. What Irving Kristol famously said in his 2001 Bradley Lecture, “We in America fought a culture war, and we [conservatives] lost,” applies well to higher education. Conservatives fought wars over multiculturalism, Western Civilization, affirmative action, the Academic Bill of Rights, and political bias in hiring, and we lost every time. The educators have no reason to debate ideas, much less ideology. None of those old issues are up for discussion.

(It should be said that Kristol noted that conservatives still had some influence in one theater of American life, religion, but that exemption is irrelevant to the 21st-century campus.)

You can tell ideology is a settled matter by the way in which faculty and administrators handle the core terms—diversity, inclusion. No moral or conceptual examination of those terms ever takes place. Liberals and leftists mouth them without even pondering what they mean save for the simple-minded aspiration of “more women in science” or “more blacks among the leadership.” The only rejoinder conservatives have is, “What about the diversity of thought and opinion?” to which the educators respond, “Oh, yes, that’s good, too,” then proceed on what they were thinking before. When it comes to diversity, everyone’s a bureaucrat.

Related: Diversity Policies Are Corrupting the Sciences

Which brings us to the real issue: personnel. We have sunk to an intellectual level that we might call purely managerial. Thirty years ago, we had a genuine battle over the curriculum in which ideas and values were weapons (though not the only weapons). Should there be a Western Civ requirement? Are there great women writers out there, unjustly forgotten and waiting to be rediscovered? Do minority students want to see minority authors on the syllabus, and would they become estranged if they didn’t? Should we read Ezra Pound despite his vile biases?

These questions sparked vibrant debates—but not for very long. Liberals and leftists on the humanities faculty didn’t have to stick with them. They already filled most of the slots, had the most influence on the scholarly presses and journals, and controlled hiring committees. Why quibble with Roger Kimball and Dinesh D’Souza when they didn’t even have academic posts?

The professors didn’t need to win the debate. In fact, off-campus they underwent numerous embarrassments from the University of Delaware orientation fiasco to the Sokal Hoax to the Duke lacrosse case. But those setbacks didn’t alter the course of things. Academics might not stand up to criticisms hurled by David Horowitz, but they didn’t have to since they could return to their offices and classrooms and continue running the departments. All they had to do was ensure that they remained in place and hired people loyal to their vision.

Now, diversity means just that: getting more underrepresented people in place. That’s all. The campus managers don’t think about what will happen then. Diversity among the personnel—that is, more proportionate representation of all “underserved” identities—is an end in itself. If you asked a dean what diversity is for, what purpose it serves, he wouldn’t have an immediate answer. He spends so much time in a habitat of tautology (“diversity is good for . . . diversity”) that the very question stumps him until he remembers blather from the Old Times about diverse perspectives and educational benefits and repeats it like a ventriloquist’s dummy. But don’t try pressing him on it. He doesn’t want to talk about it. The self-evident good of diversity has long been established, and he clings to it like a Catholic does his rosary.

Related: Evergreen State Gets an ‘F’ in Lessons Learned

Again, he doesn’t want to talk about it. All he must do is craft policies and procedures to get more non-white-males into the professoriate. Through this essay in Quillette, I came across an exemplary specimen. The University of California-Santa Cruz requires all persons who apply for a faculty appointment to submit “a personal statement on their contributions to diversity.” The requirement doesn’t stipulate that the candidate must fall into a historically underrepresented group. That would be illegal. Instead, it wants candidates to demonstrate that they have the “professional skills, experience, and/or willingness to engage in activities that will advance our campus diversity and equity goals.”

Obviously, the first barrier here is indeed ideological. Diversity and equity are loaded terms, however much the campus discourse presents them as universal goals as objective and indisputable as education and skills. Nobody who wants a job at UC San Diego is going to write an essay submitting those terms to skeptical analysis. This is one area of reflection in which the powers that be prefer not to see any critical thinking at work. You must, instead, absorb diversity as a condition of entry, as much a part of your professional make-up as scientific method and speaking a second language.

UCSD doesn’t stop there, however. It adds “Guidelines for Writing Statements,” three sample statements in the fields of Biology, Physical Sciences, and Engineering. (I presume it chooses those fields because the humanities and social sciences are so fraught with identity concerns that applicants who have undergone undergraduate and graduate training in those fields need less guidance.) This is where we see nature of diversity sink so deeply into the identity of the applicant.

The biology applicant, we learn, spent a year in El Salvador teaching science, math, and English to teachers in a small town when he was 21 years old. I presume he is a white male because he never identifies his race or sex. His identity, therefore, works against his prospects, and so he underscores how much his immersion in Central America affected him more than has any experience he has had in the United States.

The physical sciences applicant has a stronger opening: “As a Latino immigrant who lived in . . .” It ends with a reinforcement of that ineradicable identity: “. . . my desire and responsibility to contribute as a Latino scientist, educator, and activist.” We must assume that UCSD has no problem with a scientist pursuing political goals.

The engineering sample has a more mysterious identity, but one still far from the American white male. The applicant notes that she comes from “a country close to the Middle East region,” and that she pledges to “establish a role model as a woman scientist and engineer for young generations.” In other words, she will advance diversity simply by being what she is.

Related: Why Pomona Students Are Afraid to Say What They Think

All three letters recite diversity initiatives the applicants envision (a web portal for female undergraduates, outreach to local high schools with large Latino populations, workshops on “Creating an Inclusive Classroom,” etc.). But the real value of the statements, which UCSD offers up as meritorious, lies in the personal characteristics of the applicants. I can imagine a hiring committee member reading them and nodding with perfunctory approval at the activities proposed by the applicants but coming to attention when the identity make-up of the applicant is determined and discussed. At least that’s what Human Resources at UCSD wants them to do.

We must change the demographic. That’s the commandment. More women and people of color in the ranks. We see little evidence that managers and bureaucrats on campus have any other thought in their heads now. Diversity doesn’t amount to anything more than that. It’s a crass ambition, but a potent one because dissenters from it have no effective argument against it. It’s very bluntness and simplicity make it incontrovertible.

There is only one thing to say. It’s the advice I gave to a former student of mine after the fact of her job interview last year. She had secured the interview with a smaller state university on the east coast in the field of rhetoric and composition. She’s solidly liberal but very white. She spoke to me after the interview was over because it didn’t go well. After a pleasant back-and-forth with the chair of the committee, a second member hit her with the D-question:

If you come to University of _____, how will you contribute to and enhance diversity on the campus?

The applicant stumbled a bit because her first thought naturally went to her own identity—a white female, economically privileged. That canceled her out. She tried to fashion some answers about her experience teaching diverse students in Southern California, but it was clear that the air in the room was heavy.

I couldn’t fault her for not being quicker on her feet. I never faced any such questions when I hit the job market 30 years ago and wouldn’t have a satisfying answer today. The question did what it was supposed to do, though: focus the hiring on the identity of the applicant, not on her competence as rhet/comp teacher and researcher.

When I asked her about the profile of her interrogator, she told me the woman was herself white and middle-aged. My immediate suggestion: “Then you should have said to her, ‘If you want to contribute to diversity at University of ______, shouldn’t you resign your position and demand that a woman of color replace you?”

After all, if diversity is just a matter of demographics, liberal professors and administrators can solve the problem. All the white males and many of the white females should leave and ask that persons of color be hired. If the educators object, “But we have bills to pay and careers to pursue,” we answer, “But aren’t you asking white job applicants to find careers elsewhere and pay their bills in another way?” If the professors say, “But there aren’t competent people out there,” we answer, “Are you saying that people of color can’t do the job you do?”

The administrators and liberal ‘go-alongs’ are in a corner, and they know it.


  • 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.

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41 thoughts on “The Coming Implosion After Diversity’s Victory

  1. READ The Pilgrim’s Regress

    Yes, a religious work, but also one of the best tear-downs of ‘modern’ philosophy and progressivism. Written in the 30s – still frighteningly relevant. *Every* single time I read a similar essay or accounts of similar experiences, I re-play the chapters on “The Clevers” in my mind.

    It was the mud and the blood.

  2. Oh my goodness.
    Merit. Merit.
    Why not hire the best person for the job??
    My heart hurts for the future of education.

  3. You introduce the hiring policy of University of California Santa Cruz, then starting in the next paragraph refer only to UCSD without ever expanding it (it is an abbreviation for University of California San Diego). Did you mean to write UCSC in the latter paragraphs?

    1. The author was referring to UC San Diego. He neglected to spell out the name of that school before referencing it as an acronym, so that’s fixed now.

      1. Did you ask the author about that? Because the way his argument is laid out, it makes more sense to me that he’s talking about the same diversity statement requirement described in the previous paragraph, which is ascribed to UC Santa Cruz.

      2. I read it again. Here is what it says: “Through this essay in Quillette, I came across an exemplary specimen. The University of California-Santa Cruz requires all persons who apply for a faculty appointment to submit “a personal statement on their contributions to diversity.”

        University of California – Santa Cruz

  4. Where did Mr. Bauerlein’s “he clings to it like a Catholic does his rosary” crack come from?

  5. Unhhh. You state that you are describing the University of California at Santa Cruz, yet you refer to it as “UCSD”, which is the University of California at San Diego, and as “UCLS”, of which I have never heard.

    I know this is a trivial issue, but it is important to those of us UC grads who were NEVER “Banana Slugs”.

      1. The UCLS typo has been fixed. What about the Santa Cruz vs. San Diego (UCSD) question?

      2. The author was referring to UC San Diego. He neglected to spell out the name of that school before referencing it as an acronym, so that’s fixed now.

      3. editor says:
        July 8, 2018 at 10:35 am
        “The author was referring to UC San Diego. He neglected to spell out the name of that school before referencing it as an acronym, so that’s fixed now.”

        That’s not an acronym, an acronym spells a word, UCSD doesn’t become a word, it’s an initialed abbreviation.

  6. While this post addresses educational hiring, the sad truth is that this kind of corruption now exists in every facet of society. As someone else sad “the Left’s radical egalitarianism morphed into anti-white ideology so slowly I never noticed.”

  7. University of California Santa Cruz is not UCSD. You might want to be more careful. UCSD is the University of California San Diego. UC Santa Cruz has always been an interesting place. Their sports mascot is the banana slug.

  8. They are in a corner, but they are in charge so it doesn’t matter. Who will change the status quo? Truly, the higher education system is one of most depressing institutions in this country because there is no way to change it and no significant alternative.

  9. First the post says this is at UC-Santa Cruz. Then it refers to UCSD. Then UCLS. Which is it?

  10. Amen. “Diversity” = anti-white demonization. We need to follow Alinsky’s dictum of making the Left live up to it’s own rules and get in the faces of these smug, self hating white Marxists. Confront them with their own racism and, indeed, ask them why they’re not giving up their jobs to “minorities” if they care so much for ”diversity”.

  11. The University of California, Santa Cruz is not “UCSD.” UCSD is the University of California, San Diego (and note my placement of commas after “University of California”).

    You seem to conflate the two.

  12. Sad beyond sad. US academia as we know it is doomed. It will become a network of finishing schools for the offspring of the Brahmandarin caste, indoctrinating them with all the right platitudes to parrot, and making actual scholarship (other than the trendiest and most vapid kind) optional.

  13. I remember in 2003 moving my niece into the dorms at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) as a favor to her mother. Macalester, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is one of the more Progressive campuses in the United Evergreen State a run for their money…but at $30k a year more for students.

    My niece had a nice dorm room on the 3rd floor…met her roommate…then had a massive coronary. Not literally, but due to the two male students across the hall from her with their life size photo of George W Bush on the door.

    I asked ‘What’s wrong?” She replied, “I would never have come here if this wasn’t a diverse campus.” I then asked how she defined diversity, particularly since she was coming to a school who’s largest donor is a well known conservative philanthropist.

    “I thought there would be black people, Asian people, Indians, lesbians and gay people, bi-racial, bi-gender and even transgender people…maybe even quite a few handicapped people. But why would they let conservatives on campus?”

    I shook my head and asked if she truly thought diversity in a population meant that everyone was progressive or which she replied yes.

    She dropped out after 3 years and confessed to wanting to live in a Communist country because they provide you housing and a job and an apartment.

    We haven’t spoken in 13 years. She hasn’t changed..only now it’s with BLM and every other SJW movement…and she still owes $60,000 in student loans.

    As they say in Minnesota…UFFDA!!!

  14. What a pleasant surprise it was for me to read your article. I did not think such thoughts were possible coming out of academia. A few days ago, I sent the following email about diversity to a friend.

    ‘Thanks for your insight on “diversity”. Regarding this word, prior to 1999, it was just another word in my vocabulary. When I left Saudi Arabian Airlines in mid ’99 (after 10 years in KSA) , I took a job as a civilian working with the U.S. Military in Germany. It wasn’t long before I began hearing this word bandied about in meetings. Initially, I had no idea why the word seemed to have some mysterious, significant and powerful meaning. The first time I heard the word, it was thrown out in a meeting by a minority type who stated that she thought there needed to be more of “it”. My reaction was “Huh?” It didn’t take long for me to figure out that diversity was code for, “As a minority, I don’t really need much in the way of qualifications. My qualification is my minority status”. I realize that is not the “official position” on the subject, but that is how it is viewed by, in my experience, many, if not most minorities.

    I should also mention that, in my life experience, there is literally no minority group, in which I have not observed the most intelligent and capable individuals who would never need not take a back seat to the brightest individuals found among non-minority groups. In other words, I never assume someone does not have the goods, whatever that person’s minority status may be. The problem is when looking for the most intelligent or capable person for a given task or job among any population, whether minority or non-minority, such persons comprise a small subset of the entire group. So, when considering the best candidate to be selected from a minority group, in the interest of diversity, we are looking for someone who is a minority of a minority. Usually, not that easy to find, if at all. But diversity must prevail regardless. The end result is that the idea of diversity has devolved into what may have been in play recently with the U.S. Navy collision disasters. I have a friend, D.S., whom I knew in Washington, D.C. He had a high-level management position in the U.S. Govt. He was told to promote a minority who, in his opinion, was totally unqualified for the job. He refused. He was demoted and transferred from D.C. to St. Louis. It was a life-altering traumatic experience for him and his family. The minority individual was promoted. Military commanders are between a rock and a hard place.

    It has always been amazing to me when I consider that in professional sports, skill and performance, not minority status, is the iron-clad standard. In sports, only money and fame are in the balance. But, now in the U.S. Military, where lives are in the balance, we have diversity being an important consideration in who is selected for a given task. Bassackwards!’

    Thanks very much for you article.

  15. When I was growing up, I was not considered white. Now, because Linda Sarsour wears a hijab, she is brown and I must be considered white.
    When I was in college in the 1960s, my profs all docked my grades because they told me that it came too naturally for me and the other students feel embarrassed having to compete with me. Which was bunkum because the other students knew I would help them with their work and write their assignments for them. But my grades did keep me out of a good grad school. By the way, I am basically self-taught because schools stopped teaching my fields in this country long ago. My dissertation was proving that Renaissance writers organized their materials according to certain rhetorical principles which were a given and I worked out a syllogism of statements taken from different classical periods that proved my point. The only person on my orals committee who understood what I was saying was the person chosen from outside my department to ensure a fair discussion, but she was from one of the communications departments outside of English and had actually studied classical rhetoric and not just Aristotle, who, of course, was a biologist).
    I was told in NYC that I was too good of a writer to ever be commercial (translation: your interests are not mine and I am afraid you are better than me).
    I was told that my thinking ability meant that I was not emotional.
    What I learned from experience It has nothing to do with labels or theory. It is all about power. Period.
    I wrote my epitaph in 1970: Perhaps my hopes lie in the future/Perhaps my loves lie in the past./I who live today am muter/Than the stones Praexitiles cast.
    I kept at it for my own well-being and the good I could do on an individual level.

  16. Quick copyedit note: The “Evergreen State…” section begins with a link to UC San Diego that it refers to as “UC Santa Cruz”. I wouldn’t be surprised if this requirement to swear an oath of fealty to the doctrines of the (non-theistic) Mother Church were policy at UCSC, too, but the link itself is a typo.

  17. You’re right, the answer is to stop re-hashing the diversity argument and start getting moles hired. Somewhere down the road, we might then get enough strength that we could undermine them from within. There’s really no other option, considering how explicitly discriminatory they are.

    Unlike conservatives, liberals play for keeps. Once they take over an institution, it’s theirs forever (until they inevitably run it into the ground).

  18. This is a truly great article. I sent it to my college age son who is dealing with being the scapegoat for the university’s systemic discrimination and demeaning of their designated others: Males, “white people” and women/minorities that choose not to submit to the leftist dogma of this period of history. That is the system of diversity/multiculturalism that dominates all to much of higher education and popular culture today.

    I will read this several times, taking notes as I learned to do when university, indeed education was far, far more about Socrates than Marx…

    Education is the kindling of a flame,
    not the filling of a vessel.
    – Socrates

    Thank you again.

  19. I might suggest that action starts at the local (or state) level. All universities (both public and private) are headed by a Board of Regents or Directors. All of these are either elected or appointed by and confirmed by elected officials. So, if you want to change the cesspool of modern academia, it is possible to start at the top, using political influence.

  20. America will celebrate the day when all the hyphens are removed from descriptors of a persons identity. As a guy with von Gremp as a last name I’m often asked “where I’m from” – especially when I was a student at Cal.

    I’ve enjoyed for years saying “the Val”, as in the San Fernando Valley. It confuses the loons, which is cool por moi.

  21. Your premise is supremely flawed. Like all conservatives you assume the rules apply to everyone. For progressives the rules exist to make certain the ‘right’ people are in charge. The rules are never applied to the ‘right’ people because it might get in the way of the ‘good’ work. For reference, any communist country ever.

  22. i don’t understand the ‘implosion’ unless the author assumes many many people will adopt his rhetorical approach at interview time and, further, that the interviewers will not have thought of answering with ‘I’m asking the questions here.” Both are bad assumptions.

  23. As an over-50 white male with one line of ancestors that arrived on the Mayflower, I have found I can only answer the diversity question in one way — “I will contribute to diversity by not attending any meeting or group function. That way you will have a more diverse group present on those occasions. My contribution will be to shrink your denominators and not to infect your ‘discourse’ with my ‘privilege.'”

  24. Nice article. But how many (wrong) ways can you initialize University of California, Santa Cruz? It’s UCSC, which you never used once. UCSD? UCLS? Huh?

  25. I’ve certainly thought about that answer to the diversity interrogators. Fortunately, like Mark Bauerlein, I don’t have to worry too much about being asked this. Oh, I may have to submit to diversity re-education in the foreseeable future. I will probably go through the motions, remaining as silent as possible.

    But that cheeky response to the search committee will not get you a job, it will probably end any chance that you have. Do not do it unless you absolutely wouldn’t want the job, or have already given up.

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