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D.E.I. Programs Are Getting in the Way of Liberal Education

Started by Langue_doc, July 28, 2023, 09:23:00 AM

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Langue_doc

Guest essay (op-ed) in the NYT by a conservative activist; see the comments, some of which are quite astute.

QuoteAcademia is in the midst of a generational turmoil. Blue states such as California and Oregon have recently transformed their public universities with expansive "diversity, equity and inclusion" programs that have profound implications for admissions, speech, hiring and scholarship. Red states such as Florida and Texas have recently passed legislation abolishing them, concluding that the programs that have sprung up to execute D.E.I. promote a stifling orthodoxy that undermines the pursuit of truth.

This appears to be a binary left-right conflict. The right sees the abolition of D.E.I. as a step toward meritocracy, while the left sees it as an attack on minority rights. But moving beyond reflexive partisanship, there is a strong argument for abolishing D.E.I. programs on liberal grounds.

I am a noted conservative opponent of critical race theory and D.E.I. programs and was recently appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida as a trustee of New College. I believe that properly understood, the classical liberal arts tradition is the best hope for the American university system. We are faced with a paradox: In order to strengthen the values of liberal education, political leaders must use democratic power to reform drifting academic institutions and resist the process of ideological capture.

The most significant question looming over this debate is one that, unfortunately, has rarely been posed by either critics or supporters of D.E.I. programs: What is the purpose of a university? For most of the classical liberal tradition, the purpose of the university was to produce scholarship in pursuit of the true, the good and the beautiful. The university was conceived as a home for a community of scholars who pursued a variety of disciplines, but were united in a shared commitment to inquiry, research and debate, all directed toward the pursuit of the highest good, rather than the immediate interests of partisan politics.

Today, many universities have consciously or unconsciously abandoned that mission and replaced it with the pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion. Many D.E.I. programs seem to be predicated on a view radically different from the liberal tradition: namely, that the university is not merely a home for the discovery of knowledge, but also a vehicle for activism, liberation and social change.

The criticism of such programs might begin with a simple question: Even on its own terms, does D.E.I. actually work? And the answer, according to the best available evidence, appears to be no. Researchers at Harvard and Tel Aviv University studied 30 years of diversity training data from more than 800 U.S. companies and concluded that mandatory diversity training programs had practically no effect on employee attitudes — and sometimes activated bias and feelings of racial hostility. There is no reason to believe that similar programs on university campuses have better outcomes.

In fact, there is much greater cause for concern with D.E.I. in academia. While many corporations understandably discourage internal debate about political issues unrelated to their business interests, universities are supposed to provide a forum for a wide range of views and perspectives, in the interest of reasoning toward truth. D.E.I. programs as currently carried out are antithetical to this pursuit. In practice, they often restrict the range of discourse, push a narrow political ideology on the campus community and micromanage the language that professors, administrators and students should use.

For City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute, I recently conducted investigative reporting for a series on the ideological nature of the way D.E.I. was practiced in Florida's public universities. My intention was to go beyond the euphemisms and expose the specific content of these programs, which, I believed, would shock the conscience of voters across the political spectrum. These programs have become commonplace not only in official "diversity and inclusion" programs, but also throughout administrative and academic departments. The University of Florida, for example, managed more than 1,000 separate D.E.I. initiatives, which included, as part of a professional development conference, a presentation featuring material that declared the United States was rooted in "white supremacy" and included mantras from Racists Anonymous.

The University of Central Florida, in its "Inclusive Faculty Hiring" guide, described merit in faculty hiring as a "narrative myth" and advised employees to avoid using it in job descriptions and hiring materials. The guide also advocated explicit quotas of "minoritized" groups in its hiring practices. Florida International University's Office of Social Justice and Inclusion effectively served as a recruiting ground for political activism, encouraging students to participate in grass roots campaigns — mostly modeled on left-wing movements. In one training session, Black Lives Matter was held up as an exemplary movement and students were prepared for the possibility of violent confrontation with the police.

These are not neutral programs to increase demographic diversity; they are political programs that use taxpayer resources to advance a specific partisan orthodoxy. After the publication of my reporting, Mr. DeSantis signed legislation abolishing D.E.I. programs in Florida's public universities, arguing that they violated the principles of liberal education.

Despite the anti-liberal nature of these programs, however, many center-left liberals have expressed concern about abolishing D.E.I. in state universities. Some commentators have claimed that Mr. DeSantis's legislation amounts to a restriction on freedom of speech; others have asserted that it violates the autonomy of public universities.

Neither argument, however, passes muster. D.E.I. administrators in state universities are not faculty members and, as public employees, are not entitled to unlimited First Amendment rights in their official duties, according to Supreme Court precedent. Universities require competent administrators, but their role is to support the scholarly mission of the university, not use it as a vehicle for their favored political interests. Campuses are better served when administrators delegate the function of social criticism to faculty and students, rather than promote a single answer to complex political problems.

We must keep in mind that public universities are public institutions, governed by state legislatures and funded by taxpayers. Their institutional autonomy is a privilege granted by voters, not a right guaranteed by the Constitution. As such, legislators are well within their right to enact reforms and reorient their state universities toward the pursuit of scholarship, rather than activism, which I believe cannibalizes the academic mission. When universities have deviated from the wishes of the public, political intervention is not only lawful, but also necessary to ensure democratic governance.

Voters can choose to shape and direct their public universities in either direction. But my contention is that these two approaches are in conflict, and in practice, only one or the other will prevail. Universities that have put highly ideological D.E.I. programs at the center of academic life are eroding the environment of open, substantive debate that is the basic prerequisite for classical liberal learning. They will end up promoting diversity in name only, as activism replaces scholarship and the rationale for the university slowly disappears.

Abandoning D.E.I. does not mean making universities intolerant or inhospitable. In fact, there are better ways to ensure fair treatment for all and protect the integrity of academia. After abolishing D.E.I., legislators can adopt a policy of colorblind equality to help establish the equal treatment of individuals, regardless of race, sex or other characteristics, and affirm the principles of the University of Chicago's Kalven Report, which holds that the university administration must remain neutral on political controversies and delegate the function of dissent to scholars and students.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in the Harvard and University of North Carolina affirmative action cases, there is more need than ever for clear policies. The application of the Kalven principles, in particular, will help depolarize academic institutions and relieve university administrators of the constant pressure to respond to every political controversy. Taken together, these policies will ultimately help public universities restore their reputation as stewards of scholarship, rather than political partisans.

These two proposals would honor the principles of liberal education, encourage a culture of open debate and cultivate a "community of scholars" with a wide diversity of opinions and a shared commitment to truth — something that both liberals and conservatives can and should support.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/27/opinion/christopher-rufo-diversity-desantis-florida-university.html


secundem_artem

Somebody smarter than me once observed that there are 2 kinds of faculty.  The first are those who only want to teach, research & provide service within their disciplines.  The second are those faculty who see it as an opportunity to change the world.
Funeral by funeral, the academy advances

ciao_yall

So much to unpack here...

QuoteAcademia is in the midst of a generational turmoil.

Not among the people who have college educations themselves and are seeing to it that their own children are getting a college education. They are just questioning the value for "everyone else."

QuoteBlue states such as California and Oregon have recently transformed their public universities with expansive "diversity, equity and inclusion" programs that have profound implications for admissions, speech, hiring and scholarship. Red states such as Florida and Texas have recently passed legislation abolishing them, concluding that the programs that have sprung up to execute D.E.I. promote a stifling orthodoxy that undermines the pursuit of truth.

This appears to be a binary left-right conflict. The right sees the abolition of D.E.I. as a step toward meritocracy, while the left sees it as an attack on minority rights. But moving beyond reflexive partisanship, there is a strong argument for abolishing D.E.I. programs on liberal grounds.

Because everything is binary in your overly simplified world, buddy?

QuoteI am a noted conservative opponent of critical race theory and D.E.I. programs and was recently appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida as a trustee of New College. I believe that properly understood, the classical liberal arts tradition is the best hope for the American university system. We are faced with a paradox: In order to strengthen the values of liberal education, political leaders must use democratic power to reform drifting academic institutions and resist the process of ideological capture.

The most significant question looming over this debate is one that, unfortunately, has rarely been posed by either critics or supporters of D.E.I. programs: What is the purpose of a university? For most of the classical liberal tradition, the purpose of the university was to produce scholarship in pursuit of the true, the good and the beautiful. The university was conceived as a home for a community of scholars who pursued a variety of disciplines, but were united in a shared commitment to inquiry, research and debate, all directed toward the pursuit of the highest good, rather than the immediate interests of partisan politics.

And nobody ever got partisan about what was being taught in schools, like evolution or history or...

QuoteToday, many universities have consciously or unconsciously abandoned that mission and replaced it with the pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion. Many D.E.I. programs seem to be predicated on a view radically different from the liberal tradition: namely, that the university is not merely a home for the discovery of knowledge, but also a vehicle for activism, liberation and social change.

Student activism is new thing?

QuoteThe criticism of such programs might begin with a simple question: Even on its own terms, does D.E.I. actually work? And the answer, according to the best available evidence, appears to be no. Researchers at Harvard and Tel Aviv University studied 30 years of diversity training data from more than 800 U.S. companies and concluded that mandatory diversity training programs had practically no effect on employee attitudes — and sometimes activated bias and feelings of racial hostility. There is no reason to believe that similar programs on university campuses have better outcomes.

White men didn't like being called out on their stuff. Therefore, DEI doesn't work.

QuoteIn fact, there is much greater cause for concern with D.E.I. in academia. While many corporations understandably discourage internal debate about political issues unrelated to their business interests, universities are supposed to provide a forum for a wide range of views and perspectives, in the interest of reasoning toward truth. D.E.I. programs as currently carried out are antithetical to this pursuit. In practice, they often restrict the range of discourse, push a narrow political ideology on the campus community and micromanage the language that professors, administrators and students should use.

For City Journal, the magazine of the Manhattan Institute, I recently conducted investigative reporting for a series on the ideological nature of the way D.E.I. was practiced in Florida's public universities. My intention was to go beyond the euphemisms and expose the specific content of these programs, which, I believed, would shock the conscience of voters across the political spectrum. These programs have become commonplace not only in official "diversity and inclusion" programs, but also throughout administrative and academic departments. The University of Florida, for example, managed more than 1,000 separate D.E.I. initiatives, which included, as part of a professional development conference, a presentation featuring material that declared the United States was rooted in "white supremacy" and included mantras from Racists Anonymous.

Because there was never white supremacy in America! The 1619 Project is a big myth! Slavery wasn't that bad and the Founding Fathers had other good qualities!

QuoteThe University of Central Florida, in its "Inclusive Faculty Hiring" guide, described merit in faculty hiring as a "narrative myth" and advised employees to avoid using it in job descriptions and hiring materials. The guide also advocated explicit quotas of "minoritized" groups in its hiring practices. Florida International University's Office of Social Justice and Inclusion effectively served as a recruiting ground for political activism, encouraging students to participate in grass roots campaigns — mostly modeled on left-wing movements. In one training session, Black Lives Matter was held up as an exemplary movement and students were prepared for the possibility of violent confrontation with the police.

Because that never happens, either.

QuoteThese are not neutral programs to increase demographic diversity; they are political programs that use taxpayer resources to advance a specific partisan orthodoxy. After the publication of my reporting, Mr. DeSantis signed legislation abolishing D.E.I. programs in Florida's public universities, arguing that they violated the principles of liberal education.

Despite the anti-liberal nature of these programs, however, many center-left liberals have expressed concern about abolishing D.E.I. in state universities. Some commentators have claimed that Mr. DeSantis's legislation amounts to a restriction on freedom of speech; others have asserted that it violates the autonomy of public universities.

Neither argument, however, passes muster. D.E.I. administrators in state universities are not faculty members and, as public employees, are not entitled to unlimited First Amendment rights in their official duties, according to Supreme Court precedent. Universities require competent administrators, but their role is to support the scholarly mission of the university, not use it as a vehicle for their favored political interests. Campuses are better served when administrators delegate the function of social criticism to faculty and students, rather than promote a single answer to complex political problems.

We must keep in mind that public universities are public institutions, governed by state legislatures and funded by taxpayers. Their institutional autonomy is a privilege granted by voters, not a right guaranteed by the Constitution. As such, legislators are well within their right to enact reforms and reorient their state universities toward the pursuit of scholarship, rather than activism, which I believe cannibalizes the academic mission. When universities have deviated from the wishes of the public, political intervention is not only lawful, but also necessary to ensure democratic governance.

So, which members of the public should be heard, and not heard, in the university?

QuoteVoters can choose to shape and direct their public universities in either direction. But my contention is that these two approaches are in conflict, and in practice, only one or the other will prevail. Universities that have put highly ideological D.E.I. programs at the center of academic life are eroding the environment of open, substantive debate that is the basic prerequisite for classical liberal learning. They will end up promoting diversity in name only, as activism replaces scholarship and the rationale for the university slowly disappears.

Abandoning D.E.I. does not mean making universities intolerant or inhospitable. In fact, there are better ways to ensure fair treatment for all and protect the integrity of academia. After abolishing D.E.I., legislators can adopt a policy of colorblind equality to help establish the equal treatment of individuals, regardless of race, sex or other characteristics, and affirm the principles of the University of Chicago's Kalven Report, which holds that the university administration must remain neutral on political controversies and delegate the function of dissent to scholars and students.

Does "neutrality" mean supporting something in silence, or not calling out problematic actions?

QuoteIn the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in the Harvard and University of North Carolina affirmative action cases, there is more need than ever for clear policies. The application of the Kalven principles, in particular, will help depolarize academic institutions and relieve university administrators of the constant pressure to respond to every political controversy. Taken together, these policies will ultimately help public universities restore their reputation as stewards of scholarship, rather than political partisans.

These two proposals would honor the principles of liberal education, encourage a culture of open debate and cultivate a "community of scholars" with a wide diversity of opinions and a shared commitment to truth — something that both liberals and conservatives can and should support.

ZZZZ....

Sun_Worshiper

**Eye roll**

Talking heads who don't actually spend any time on college campuses act like we're living through the cultural revolution, but at my place (state flagship in a purple state) none of the faculty are under any pressure to bring this stuff into the classroom.

Ruralguy

Also in purple state, but fairly conservative private school (those much less than even the recent past). No pressure to do anything supported by DEInin classroom, and no pressure to do the opposite, whatever that is.

apophenia

All this high-minded talk about a "shared commitment to inquiry, research and debate, all directed toward the pursuit of the highest good, rather than the immediate interests of partisan politics" is a bit rich, coming from the culture warrior who once said the following:

"We have successfully frozen their brand—'critical race theory'—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category," Rufo wrote. "The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think 'critical race theory.' We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans." https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/06/19/critical-race-theory-rufo-republicans/

I worked in DEI for some time and found the majority of staff there (like most administrators) woefully incompetent, with the occasional bright spark. That said, I have no idea what qualifies Mr. Rufo to make educational policy with a Master's in Liberal Arts... in Government from Harvard... Extension? Their curriculum seems all over the place, but maybe I'm just really missing out by not getting in on Harvard's latest venture. https://extension.harvard.edu/academics/programs/government-graduate-program

DEI staff, like all admincritters need to be slashed if they don't produce results in terms of student retention, but I don't know that Rufo could even define what the operations of DEI offices look like on the ground at New College. Have no idea where these politicians are getting their lackeys lately, but sadly actual qualifications seem to come second to ideology.

apl68

I honestly don't have all that much real idea of what DEI programs do in general.  I'm inclined toward visions of busybodies spouting jargon and endlessly hectoring and scolding, burdening hardworking people with trainings and such that are likely mostly a waste of time, and generally getting in the way.  In other words, classic administrative bloat trying to justify its existence.  Certainly there have been several reports here and there of DEI officers pulling some truly misguided stuff, and not just from right-wing outlets. 

But since I've been out of the academic game for so long, and have no actual experience with them, I'm trying to be fair about reserving judgement, and not judging them all by the most egregious examples that have gotten in the news.  It's hard to get much idea about them.  Everything I hear about DEI efforts is either condemnation from their detractors, or advocates asserting how essential they are and condemning the detractors.  Not much about the nuts and bolts of what they actually do.
If any will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.
For how does a man profit if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?

Parasaurolophus

I don't understand what the connection to the liberal arts (/'education') is supposed to be (not surprising, of course, since there is none).

For those interested, there's a lengthy exchange with Rufo at Current Affairs. As you can see, he's not really capable of articulating what he means. (Nor, apparently, is he willing to concede that Jefferson was racist.)
I know it's a genus.

Wahoo Redux

QuoteEven on its own terms, does D.E.I. actually work? And the answer, according to the best available evidence, appears to be no. Researchers at Harvard and Tel Aviv University studied 30 years of diversity training data from more than 800 U.S. companies and concluded that mandatory diversity training programs had practically no effect on employee attitudes — and sometimes activated bias and feelings of racial hostility. There is no reason to believe that similar programs on university campuses have better outcomes.

This is the one thing that I might be willing to listen to.  Everything I've seen would suggest that this, at least, is accurate.  Do we really think we can alter someone's attitudes through "training"!?  And, frankly, these trainings are part of what fuels the tempest-in-a-teapot rhetoric of the rightwing.
 
The rest is typical of this same rhetoric and soon to be forgotten. 
Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter--and the Bird is on the Wing.

Parasaurolophus

Quote from: Wahoo Redux on July 29, 2023, 08:41:53 AM
QuoteEven on its own terms, does D.E.I. actually work? And the answer, according to the best available evidence, appears to be no. Researchers at Harvard and Tel Aviv University studied 30 years of diversity training data from more than 800 U.S. companies and concluded that mandatory diversity training programs had practically no effect on employee attitudes — and sometimes activated bias and feelings of racial hostility. There is no reason to believe that similar programs on university campuses have better outcomes.

This is the one thing that I might be willing to listen to.  Everything I've seen would suggest that this, at least, is accurate.  Do we really think we can alter someone's attitudes through "training"!?  And, frankly, these trainings are part of what fuels the tempest-in-a-teapot rhetoric of the rightwing.
 
The rest is typical of this same rhetoric and soon to be forgotten. 

Does any of the corporate training stuff work? Is this really any more egregious than all the other crap?

And is the corporate stuff relevantly similar to what the university office does?
I know it's a genus.

Sun_Worshiper

Quote from: Parasaurolophus on July 29, 2023, 07:59:12 AMI don't understand what the connection to the liberal arts (/'education') is supposed to be (not surprising, of course, since there is none).

For those interested, there's a lengthy exchange with Rufo at Current Affairs. As you can see, he's not really capable of articulating what he means. (Nor, apparently, is he willing to concede that Jefferson was racist.)

This exchange is hilarious. Shows what a grift this pushback against DEI is.

Quote from: Wahoo Redux on July 29, 2023, 08:41:53 AM
QuoteEven on its own terms, does D.E.I. actually work? And the answer, according to the best available evidence, appears to be no. Researchers at Harvard and Tel Aviv University studied 30 years of diversity training data from more than 800 U.S. companies and concluded that mandatory diversity training programs had practically no effect on employee attitudes — and sometimes activated bias and feelings of racial hostility. There is no reason to believe that similar programs on university campuses have better outcomes.

This is the one thing that I might be willing to listen to.  Everything I've seen would suggest that this, at least, is accurate.  Do we really think we can alter someone's attitudes through "training"!?  And, frankly, these trainings are part of what fuels the tempest-in-a-teapot rhetoric of the rightwing.
 
The rest is typical of this same rhetoric and soon to be forgotten. 

It's mostly a way for companies or campuses to cover their butts in the event of a lawsuit. They can say "we gave the training but this individual went rogue and acted out."

marshwiggle

Quote from: apl68 on July 29, 2023, 06:44:13 AMI honestly don't have all that much real idea of what DEI programs do in general.  I'm inclined toward visions of busybodies spouting jargon and endlessly hectoring and scolding, burdening hardworking people with trainings and such that are likely mostly a waste of time, and generally getting in the way.  In other words, classic administrative bloat trying to justify its existence. 

Quote from: Wahoo Redux on July 29, 2023, 08:41:53 AMDo we really think we can alter someone's attitudes through "training"!? 

I think DEI is one of those things that, even in principle, is hard to evaluate for effectiveness by its outputs. So, instead it gets "evaluated" by its inputs, including things like potentially pointless (or even counterproductive) "training".


It takes so little to be above average.

Wahoo Redux

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter--and the Bird is on the Wing.

ciao_yall

Quote from: marshwiggle on July 29, 2023, 10:20:15 AM
Quote from: apl68 on July 29, 2023, 06:44:13 AMI honestly don't have all that much real idea of what DEI programs do in general.  I'm inclined toward visions of busybodies spouting jargon and endlessly hectoring and scolding, burdening hardworking people with trainings and such that are likely mostly a waste of time, and generally getting in the way.  In other words, classic administrative bloat trying to justify its existence.

Quote from: Wahoo Redux on July 29, 2023, 08:41:53 AMDo we really think we can alter someone's attitudes through "training"!? 

I think DEI is one of those things that, even in principle, is hard to evaluate for effectiveness by its outputs. So, instead it gets "evaluated" by its inputs, including things like potentially pointless (or even counterproductive) "training".

It might be worth considering that people might think it was a waste of time right after the training is over. And people like to kvetch about mandatory training regardless. So the immediate post-surveys might reflect this attitude.

That said, if someone reflected on something they learned, or responded in a different way after the training because of something that happened, then it was a success.

We had training from lawyers to avoid lawsuits for sexual harassment, racism, etc and the presenters were actually very good. It felt rather "common sense," but when I ended up in a rather ugly situation I was able to draw on the language from the training, and raise this specifically when dealing with the situation.

Kron3007

Quote from: Sun_Worshiper on July 28, 2023, 11:44:15 AM**Eye roll**

Talking heads who don't actually spend any time on college campuses act like we're living through the cultural revolution, but at my place (state flagship in a purple state) none of the faculty are under any pressure to bring this stuff into the classroom.

We are to some degree.  We are currently doing a program review and have to include sections on how DEI is being incorporated into our courses and what we are doing as a department to facilitate this.  As a result, we do need to push faculty to include more DEI considerations into their courses and potentially develop courses with this as a major focus.  I'm not saying this is a bad thing at all, but the ever present questions about DEI in program reviews, grant applications, and everywhere else definitely does pressure faculty to incorporate it in their teaching.  In reality, the accessibility office is part of DEI, and has been imposed on us all.
 Again, not saying that is a bad thing, but is a clear example that DEI is imposed on the classroom. 

For us, it is a bit of a challenge as we are a STEM department, but there is still scope and it is good to consider.  Overall, I feel it is good and the push has caused me to change some aspects of my teaching and lab management. 

However, I also feel it goes too far at times.  For example, as a STEM faculty, I don't feel having to write an essay about historic injustices and barriers in my field as part of a research grant is a good use of my time or within my skill set, but that is my reality now. 

I also see a lot of restricted faculty positions (black, female, indigenous scholars) advertised across Canada right now.  Again, I have mixed feelings on these, but if I were black I don't know that I would be thrilled to be hired into one of these positions.