Campus diversity bureaucracies will cost more and gain more power in the coming academic year.
In fact, the engineering school University of California, Los Angeles, has just hired its first associate dean of diversity and inclusion. “One of my jobs,” diversity dean Scott Brandenberg was quoted saying, is “to avoid implicit bias in the hiring process.” Brandenberg joins a university-wide diversity dean, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Jerry Kang, who earned $444,000 last year rooting out bias.
These titles, coupled with lavish compensation, might make us laugh. But Heather Mac Donald argues in an article City Journal that these diversocrats are no laughing matter: they have the potential to reduce academic competitiveness and achievement. (You might also be interested in what Mac Donald had to say about the concept of implicit bias in hiring, which doesn't appear to be all it was cracked up to be.)
Most disturbingly, Mac Donald points out in City Journal, the diversocrats have set their sights on the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). Mac Donald raises a disturbing possibility: superior candidates will be rejected in favor of a professor who will increase "diversity."
The underlying idea behind diversity bureaucracies is that there is implicit bias against women in the hiring process. Mac Donald disputes this:
[G]iven the pools of federal and private science funding available on the basis of gender and race, hiring managers have added incentive to favor “diverse” applicants. Contrary to the idea that females are being discriminated against in hiring, Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci found that female applicants for STEM tenure-track positions enjoyed a two-to-one advantage over similarly qualified males in paired résumé experiments.
The director of UCLA’s Women in Engineering program trotted out the usual role model argument for gender-and race-conscious decision-making. Audrey Pool O’Neal told the Daily Bruin that she never saw anyone who looked like her (black and female) when she was an undergraduate and graduate student. “When I do teach classes, the female students let me know how much they appreciate seeing a woman in front of their classroom,” O’Neal said.
Why not appreciate seeing the best-trained scholar in front of your classroom? Any female who thinks that she needs a female in front of her in order to learn as much as she can, or to envision a career in a particular field, has declared herself a follower rather than a pioneer—and a follower based on a characteristic irrelevant to intellectual achievement.
. . .
Marie Curie did not need female role models to investigate radioactivity; she was motivated by a passion to understand the world. That should be reason enough to plunge headlong into the search for knowledge.
Mac Donald suggests that the only thing the "academic diversity racket" achieves is creating a well-paid diversity bureaucracy. Columbia University Medical School has earmarked $50 million to bring more diversity to hiring staff and accepting applicants. It is part of a $100 million campus wide diversity drive. Columbia already has ploughed $85 million into the diversity endeavor since 2005. Columbia's vice provost for faculty diversity (I have to admit: I love these titles), Dennis Mitchell told Mac Donald that it is impossible to solve complex problems without diversity.
That's just diversity boilerplate, says Mac Donald:
Mitchell’s statement is ludicrous on multiple fronts. Aside from the fact that the one thing never sought in the academic diversity hustle is “diverse thought,” do Mitchell and his compatriots in the diversity industry believe that females and underrepresented minorities solve analytical problems differently from males, whites, and Asians? A core plank of left-wing academic thought is that gender and race are “socially constructed.” Why then would females and underrepresented minorities think differently if their alleged differences are simply a result of oppressive social categories?
Columbia’s science departments do not have 50/50 parity between males and females, which, according to Mitchell, keeps them from achieving “excellence.” Since 1903, Columbia faculty members have won 78 Nobel Prizes in the sciences and economics. The recipients were overwhelmingly male (and white and Asian); somehow, they managed to do groundbreaking work in science despite the relatively non-diverse composition of their departments.
We should stop and say here that we are all for women and minorities getting into the top schools and the more the better. We just don't believe that there should be a new implicit bias that rules out candidates who are more brilliant and more dedicated in favor of lesser qualified ones who just happen to be women or minorities.
Mac Donald notes that the "pressure to take irrelevant characteristics like race and sex into account in academic science is dangerous enough" but it is spreading to Silicon Valley, where leading companies are also staffing up in the diversity field. As duly noted, we think it is great when women and minorities are hired but just worry that if there is an implicit bias towards hiring the less qualified candidate on the basis of gender or race, competitiveness will be affected.