Stacy Hawkins, I Said So

Stacy Hawkins, a former vice dean and law professor at Rutgers Law School, recently wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article’s subtitle reads, “If critics have a problem with the goal of diversity, they should say so”—I’ll come to the main title later. As one of these critics, I’ve been vocal about my stance since 2003, when I published Diversity: The Invention of a Concept—and even prior to that. My book doesn’t make me special; my bookshelf is full of works from other academics that critique the concept of diversity, some written before mine and many since. I re-upped my enlistment in the anti-diversity brigade in 2019 in another, albeit shorter book, Diversity Rules. So, Professor Hawkins, or maybe her editor at Chronicle, annoyed me with her jab calling out critics of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) as though we are too faint-hearted to criticize “the goal of diversity” per se.

But I must acknowledge that she has a point.

For example, a Substack writer, Julian Adorney, who says he works to preserve and repair “our liberal social contract,” recently published a piece titled “Can DEI Be Salvaged?” Mr. Adorney criticizes the ideology known as DEI but has soft spots for the D and I. It is the E that gives him trouble.

He writes that “’Diversity’ and ‘Inclusion’ are noble goals,” and he declares, “‘Diversity’ as a concept is hugely important and can absolutely be salvaged.”

I’ve not run across Mr. Adorney’s writings before, but I recognize his type. He wants to be sure he is not mistaken for one of those ignorant or unenlightened people who are not on board with modern values. He affirms, “We absolutely should see people of all ethnicities, genders, and classes at almost every level of society.” Achieving this requires effort. “Some people still face discrimination based on things like their background or their immutable characteristics,” he explains:

For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science published a study noting that black Americans are ‘10 percentage points less likely than whites to be awarded NIH research funding.’

But, the “equity” part of DEI gives him pause because the equitists insist that all social goods be apportioned strictly by identity group and strictly by the percentage of the population wearing each identity group jacket. But, cautions Mr. Adorney, some “inequalities come from cultural differences,” which are good and healthy. Mr. Adorney holds that “equality of opportunity” would be a far better goal than equity.

Professor Hawkins doesn’t call out Mr. Adorney. Rather, her immediate target is Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy, who recently made himself obnoxious to diversicrats by declaring himself opposed to that device beloved by DEI administrators, the mandatory “diversity statement.”

If diversity is such a good thing, why shouldn’t we expect every student, every faculty candidate, and every staff member at a university to avow their love of it?

Professor Hawkins pokes Professor Kennedy for hypocrisy: he denounces “diversity statements” but  acknowledges that they are used to advance “worthy goals.”

I am not a fan of Professor Hawkins’s ideas about educational policy, but she has indeed caught Professor Kennedy in an awkwardness—an awkwardness that ensnares many others, such as Mr. Adorney. Treating “diversity” as a spotless form of excellence but then withdrawing from the way in which colleges and universities attempt to achieve it raises some questions.

The main title of Professor Hawkins’ Chronicle article is “DEI Statements Are Not About Ideology. They’re About Accountability.” Most of her article deals with the “new urgency” of meeting the “needs” of all those different identity groups on campus. She defends “diversity statements” as just a practical tool in this indispensable effort to overcome “harassment and discrimination.”

Her argument, however, turns circular.

Higher education needs these supposedly practical tools to advance DEI because colleges and universities “profess a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” If that is the goal of higher education, then the practical matter is just getting the job done. “It is impossible to foster vibrant learning communities if some members of that community are made to feel like outsiders, their worth questioned and their dignity assailed.”

Professor Hawkins then meets me directly—or I should say, she meets all of us who oppose the whole diversity industry or, ahem, the concept.  “Their complaint is not with faculty diversity statements or any of the other efforts that constitute the so-called ‘DEI bureaucracy,’” she writes. “Their complaint seems to be with the missions and values of colleges.” Yes. But there she stops. Professor Hawkins doesn’t tell us what those complaints are. Perhaps in her view, those complaints are so manifestly absurd that it is enough to point vaguely in their direction as if to say, “And over beyond those hills live people who are godless heathens.”

But let me give, in brief compass, what we opposers actually believe.

We hold that higher education is primarily about education, not indoctrination.  We hold that colleges and universities should be open without fear or favor to anyone who seeks knowledge and is committed to the pursuit of truth by disciplined study, rational argument, dialog, and careful sifting of the evidence.  We hold that the ethnic group, religion, sex, sexual preference, and other identity characteristics of an individual are generally irrelevant to the academic enterprise.  The modifier “generally” is needed because exceptional circumstances arise in which an “identity” runs athwart the purpose of a particular college.  Perhaps a single-sex college wants to remain that way.  It would be unusual for a professed Baptist to seek admission to a Jewish Theological Seminary.

Turning higher education into a means of elevating minority groups by privileging some of their members, revising the curriculum to match what administrators think are the real interests of these minority groups, altering standards, reordering student life, and saturating the whole college experience with an ideology that counterpoises victims and oppressors—by all these and a hundred other steps—we arrive at the DEI-versity.  And we abandon the substance of higher education for a superficial political project.  The university becomes an institution that dilutes instruction and displaces its true historical mission in favor of being an agent in a grand campaign for social justice.

That campaign, in turn, undermines our freedoms, not least intellectual freedom. “Diversity” as a concept is of recent historical vintage. It emerged into prominence in 1978 in Justice Lewis Powell’s opinion in the Supreme Court case Regents of the University of California vs Bakke. It gained traction in the 1980s as colleges and universities adopted the term as a substitute for affirmative action on the calculation that it had a better chance of surviving legal challenges.  Much more could be said about this history—Read my book! But it could be left at this: “diversity” is not an age-old American ideal.  It is not in our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, or anywhere in the legal history of the country or its popular ideals.  It was invented as part of a political agenda and nurtured by activists who mostly disdained America and its culture.

Several generations have now been taught that “diversity” is our highest ideal. It has become so ingrained that many now find it hard to imagine we could live without it.  But we can.  It is a false ideal that imposes the priority of identity groups over free individuals.  It gives us the petty—and increasingly not so petty—tyranny of activist bureaucrats who arrogate to themselves the powers to say who we are, what we should want, what we can say, and how we should judge one another.  “Diversity” now rules us, not in the sense of making us more loving, tolerant, or respectful of differences.  It rules us by making us subject to a pernicious ideology.

“If critics have a problem with the goal of diversity, they should say so,” says Professor Hawkins.  I just did so—again.

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  • Peter Wood

    Peter Wood is president of the National Association of Scholars and author of “1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project.”

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4 thoughts on “Stacy Hawkins, I Said So

  1. Yes, and yes, and yes absolutely.

    Diversity, Inclusivity, Equity: these are the rabid yawps of the Social Justice Cerberus which stands astride the entry gates to American ‘Success’ (and I use that word loosely). Certainly, yes, the Beast keeps the Dead, the Clueless, the Woke Leftist Automatons from leaving Hades (though they hardly wish to, once they’ve drunk the KoolAid)…but more importantly he growls & guards the Gate to block the UnWoke from entering, (absent their well-crafted Diversity Statement & Progressive Pledge of Non-Patriarchal, Non-Heterosexist, Non-Capitalist, Non-Colonial, Open-Bordered Loyalty). Can I get an Amen?!

    “If critics have a problem with Diversity they should say so???!!!”

    My God, how could any sane, rational individual NOT have a problem with the corrosive poison which is Diversity? It kills Quality; it destroys Merit; it guts Incentive; it shackles Freedom. It is, in every sense of the word, perhaps the most unAmerican. 1984ish thing that the West has ever embraced. It is inhumane. And it ravages everything it touches.

    It is difficult enough to find & promote & advance ‘the very best’ when that is exactly our color-blind/sex-blind/religion-blind goal. It’s impossible if, instead, we worship cosmetics and the totally superficial. But yes, the 8X10 full color glossy for the recruitment brochure will absolutely sparkle!

    ‘Good News, Mr Smith! I know you’re nervous about your upcoming surgery. I know the doctors have said this will be high-risk. But you’ll be so super-excited to know that we’ve assembled the most DIVERSE Cardiac Surgery team EVER! We have 2 lesbians, one of whom is a transwoman, 3 gay men (1 Black who has a speech impediment, 1 Native American who specializes in holistic medicine, and a Samoan with a massive full-body tattoo). We do have 1 White Guy, but don’t worry — he’s completed the most remedial medical education imaginable), plus 1 Obese Hispanic Woman who’s blind!!’ Can I get a Hallelujah!?

    Inclusivity the same; Equity the same. They’re all corrupt; they all destroy. And they all lead us straight to hell.

    We watch the NBA NOT because it’s Diverse — because, in fact, it’s the furthest thing from Diverse…not because it’s Inclusive — because, in fact, it’s probably the most exclusive club in the world…and definitely not because it’s Equitable (all players and all teams generating nice, fair, equally balanced outcomes). We watch it because they’re GREAT…and because some of them are Greater Still and take their teams to performance heights that the rest of us mere mortals can only dream about. If DIE were such a good and wondrous thing…why not there?

    The Navy Seals are the SEALS not because they’re ethnically balanced and color tone corrected….not because they produce battle outcomes that are just like everyone else’s…and not because they accept every warm body that walks in the door (especially if they need remedial help), ‘We’re a Big Tent Special Forces Unit — Everyone is Welcome!! They’re the Seals because 75% of all applicants (who are already the best of the rest) FAIL. They’re the Seals because they’re EXclusive and NONEquitable and because, most importantly they are interested only in the individual’s ability to do the only thing that matters.

    Or maybe it’s the Diverse Cardiac Surgery Team you prefer?

    Shall we ask the so-called leaders of the colleges, institutions, and organizations who preach this poison? ‘When you Dr. President Jenkins have to go under the knife, tell me which you value more: Diversity or Excellence? (Cause you can’t have both)

    Shall we see what they say?

    We already know what they’d say. They want EXCELLENCE. We all want Excellence. We want it when he hire Plumbers, buy a car, go on a trip, order a meal, or get our hair cut. We want it when we get a kidney transplant; we want it when we drive over that new bridge or take our seat in the 5th room of the next flight to Phoenix. We always want Excellence because deep, down inside we KNOW that is the only thing that matters. Quality, as they say, is Job One. It’s always Job One. Or should be.

    But when we breathe our own vapors … and snarf that little blue pill from Morpheus that makes us very small indeed..when our next pay raise and good performance evaluation, and invitation to the next cool cocktail hour depends upon me pretending that skin color and genital configuration is more important than anything else.. well then, hell yes, add my Yawp to the others and tell Cerberus to open those corroded gates.

    Not with a bang…but a whimper. This is the way the world ends.

  2. I notice all those who claim diversity is necessary never say why. What exactly is achieved by having all groups represented at all levels of academia is never stated. Sure, the diversity hire benefits, but it’s not at all clear the academic unit derives any benefit at all.

    The reason for that is obvious. Are there black perspectives or female perspectives on teaching calculus or computer programming? Is an asian dean of a business school necessarily more productive and efficient than a white male dean? Do hispanic professors, by definition, become role models for hispanic students? (Why someone 20 years old still needs a role model is unclear, but I digress.) The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. That’s because one’s race or sex does not endow that person with skills and insight and talent that would benefit an academic organization.

    The priority should always be you hire the best qualified you can find. The reason why the physics department isn’t 50% female or 20% black may have nothing to do with discrimination. It may everything to do with a lack of qualified applicants.

  3. “For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science published a study noting that black Americans are ‘10 percentage points less likely than whites to be awarded NIH research funding.’”

    OK, how about a mandate that all “full boat” athletic scholarships be awarded on the basis he demands — for every Black football or basketball player, they have to have FOUR White ones, merit and ability be damned.

    And then let’s cap higher education at 51% female to represent the population. Let’s extend this to fields like education — PLEASE EXTEND IT TO FIELDS LIKE EDUCATION…. and then to the actual hiring in K-12.

    They want equality, let’s give them equality.

    1. Dr. Ed,
      You ignore the critical fact that football and basketball are important, unlike airy-fairy arts subjects and nerdy STEM, and education, law, and medicine. Talent and skill must be the basis of selection in sports, but color, gender, and identity are fine to determine selection of students and professors (and the ever-expanding administrators!) in expendable academic subjects and doubtful professional ones.

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