“Diversity” Requires And Reinforces Stereotypes

You’ll have to forgive me (or not), but I’m still working my way through the depressing morass of Michigan opinions and commentary and will thus be continuing to complain about this or that aspect of something for a while longer.

Here’s one, prompted by one of a large number of points made in a wholly admirable must-read article by Peter Kirsanow, the recent Republican appointee to the Civil Rights Commission, on NRO, about the difficulty colleges will have complying with Grutter. I hope he’s right.

In the course of listing the various steps colleges are likely to take to insure that their preference systems pass muster, Kirsanow writes that they will have to justify and document their view “of what constitutes a critical mass of minorities.” He continues:

The “critical mass” or “meaningful numbers” of minorities is the level at which minorities will not feel isolated and will feel free to express themselves without concern that they are necessarily representing the viewpoints of their particular racial/ethnic group.

This was only one item on a large checklist Kirsanow suggested, but it raises at least a couple of interesting questions:

1. Who determines what “the viewpoints” of particular minority groups are?

2. Shouldn’t admissions committees be responsible for determining what “the viewpoints” of their applicants are? Of course students can change their viewpoints over time, especially if they are learning something, and even students who strongly agree with “the viewpoints” of their minority group should be allowed to stray from the reservation every now and then, but why should any minority students be given an admissions preference if it is known in advance that they are likely consistently to express views that are unrepresentative of their minority groups? What “diversity” do they provide?

UPDATECobb posts some criticism of the above. I have posted the following comment on his site, but I believe it can also stand alone here:

I’m not quite sure where your criticism of me ends and where your criticism of Michigan’s (and others’) defense of racial preference begins. After all, it is they and not I who argue that race is a proxy for viewpoint and thus that racial preferences are necessary in order to insure viewpoint diversity. I believe this argument is at best racialist and quite often actually racist.

To me, the critical mass argument as it relates to a justification for racial preferences is a snake swallowing its own tail, and more. It begins with the assumption that race is a proxy for a differing viewpoint, uses this as a justification for lowering standards for blacks in order to have their viewpoint fairly represented, then asserts the need for lowering standards sufficiently so as to insure the presence of a critical mass in order to demonstrate that there is so much diversity among blacks that there is no black viewpoint preferentially admitted students should feel the need to represent. In my opinion that last point is clearly true, and its truth undermines the foundational assumption on which the entire racial preference edifice rests.

Say What? (3)

  1. Cobb July 2, 2003 at 2:57 am | | Reply

    Once again we are stuck with the idiot neologism of ‘diversity’ stretched every direction to soft-pedal the bare facts of race. The more people try to make it a principle the more twisted their arguments inevitably become. It remains marketing.

    On the other hand, racial integration has always been about and always be about counting noses, not judging attitudes, opinions and viewpoints. But where is the committment to racial integration now? (Hell, where has it been?) It is now buried one layer deeper in sophistry.

    Be all that as it may, there are some significant ways of assessing the effectiveness of ‘critical mass’. I refer you to a post I wrote in 1993.

    As a black BMOC I dealt with a complex tangle of issues which

    affected the quality of life for black students. Too often institutional

    questions are overlooked or given scant attention [due to the] coverage of

    ‘diversity’ issues that I see and hear nowadays. Here are some questions

    that pop into my mind which you might pursue…

    Institionally, what access to blacks have to finance their student organizations under the auspices of the University? Many colleges have insisted that black organizations be funded from single ‘black’ funds, or that all black clubs be organized under one ‘umbrella’ organization. Does the school recognize with equal benefits etc any and all clubs and orgs that black students seek to organize? What is the predominating disposition of complaints lodged by black organizations?

    Do black organizations have complete freedom to select which speakers come to campus for their groups? Do they have complete access to university facilities? How does their access compare with that of other groups? Are black organizations denied insurance for their social functions on campus? Does the University require additional security for activities black organizations sponsor which involve blacks from off-campus?

    Are there records of harrassment or conflict between blacks and campus security? What is the predominating disposition of such conflicts? What types of complaints have been officially lodged by black organizations against University policy? How have these been resolved?

    Characterize the racial quality of student politics. Are blacks likely to form coalitions with other racial minority groups? Are black organizations represented in all public University activities (parades, reception committees). Compare and contrast protocols and courtesies extended to officers of black organizations with others. What is the volume & quality of mail distributed through University offices to black organizations? Are all black organizations listed in official rosters of university groups? Are very small black organizations allowed their own charter?

    How are black organizations solicited for their opinions on major questions facing the student body? Are black organizationally sponsored functions given adequate coverage by the campus press? Is there an adversarial relationship between the school paper and any black organization? Do black organizations tend to publish their own calendars or advertise independently of major school media?

    The very nature of these issues beg the question of whether a university sustains numbers of black undergraduates sufficient to populate a few of the national black fraternities and sororities, the national society of black engineers and/or student branch of the black business association. that’s critical mass.

  2. Cobb July 2, 2003 at 3:37 am | | Reply

    Something about Critical Mass

    John over at Discriminations asks questions that nobody on a college campus with critical mass ought to have to ask in the abstract. Shouldn’t admissions committees be responsible for determining what “the viewpoints” of their applicants are? Of course…

  3. John Rosenberg July 2, 2003 at 4:00 am | | Reply

    Cobb – These are very interesting points, especially the questions raised in your interesting 1993 post. I certainly would oppose any differential treatment of black students or organizations on campuses, all all opponents of racial preferences should. I also don’t disagree with what is an implication in your comment — that having a critical mass of black students can be very important for many purposes. I don’t believe, however, that any such needs — or any other real benefits of “diversity” that may exist — justify judging blacks, whites, Hispanics, etc., etc. by different standards.

Say What?