A Diversiphile Dumps On The “Diversity” Industry

About a year ago, in a post discussing a blistering speech the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Peter Schmidt delivered to a gathering of education apparatchiks concerned about “diversity,” etc., I noted that “I would like to have had the Tums or Rolaid concession outside the door to that luncheon.”

Recently Schmidt reported on another blistering speech delivered to another august gathering of education diversiphiles at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

In a move befitting this wild locale, one of the nation’s leading proponents of diversity in higher education turned on her audience in a biting speech delivered on Thursday. Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of Brown University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, suggested that colleges let people attend this annual conference—typically held in family-friendly tourist destinations—to reward them for not making waves by pushing for more equity and black and Hispanic representation on campus.

Calling herself “a hard-nosed critic from the inside,” Ms. Hu-DeHart said, “Let’s face it: Diversity has created jobs for all of us. It is a career. It is an industry.”

“We do what we need to keep our jobs,” she said. “But as long as we keep doing our job the way we are told to do it, we are covering up for our universities.”

“You all are covering up,” she said. “You all are complicit in this.”

I’m not sure about the hardness of Prof. Hu-DeHart’s nose, but in any event its sniffing ability was insufficient to smell anything fishy about the infamous Ward Churchill, his academic credentials, or the “diversity” that he allegedly brought to the University of Colorado, where as chairman of the ethnic studies program at the time she was influential in securing his tenured appointment.

Prof. Hu-DeHart’s problem with the “diversity industry,” of course, is that it wasn’t engineering enough “diversity.” Whether or not one agrees with her about that, it’s hard to disagree with her point that “diversity” has indeed become an “industry,” employing increasing numbers of academic bureaucrats and accounting for (or not) untold millions of dollars to a largely unaudited and hence unknown effect.

As I noted over a year ago (here),

Whether or not “diversity” as practiced on college campuses today has any tangible educational payoffs is unclear, but there can be no argument about the fact that it pays very well indeed

As a mere drop in a bucket example, I referred to Daisy Lundy, alleged victim of a “hate crime” at the University of Virginia five years ago that many suspected, and still suspect, was a hoax. (Search “Lundy” here for my numerous posts on that event.) Hoax or not, the claim secured Ms. Lundy’s election as student body president and, after graduation, a plum job as an assistant to William Harvey, the University’s Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity, at a 2007 salary of $54,500.

Harvey’s position itself was created largely as a result of the Lundy affair, and at an annual salary (in 2007; no doubt higher now) of $315,000, “diversity” is doing quite nicely for Harvey.

Thus it is clear that the “diversity industry” is thriving in Virginia. Whether or not the taxpayers of Virginia are receiving a worthwhile return on what must be the millions of dollars their University is spending on “diversity” is another matter entirely.


Via a mailing list that reprinted my post, Prof. Evelyn Hu-DeHart sent the following response:

John: If only you were there, so you would have gotten the full measure of my critique. Neither Peter Schmidt nor I used the word “dump,” or even implied it; that is an irresponsible inference based on Peter’s very brief write-up of a long (almost 2-hour long lively discussion) , but obviously deliberately chosen to put a negative slant on what was a constructive critique on my part. If only critics of diversity like you were not so cynical and sarcastic, and see evil around every corner, we can conceivably have a productive exchange of views some day! You see, unlike most “diversiphobes,” I am not a kneejerk “diversiphile,” as you derisively label me. I am able to critique the diversity project in higher education if I perceive corruption. You however, cannot see past your deep-seated biases, so you mock everything about diversity and your reactions are totally predictable. The NCORE organizers at Oklahoma are open-minded, and invited Roger Clegg to keynote a major sesssion. Maybe you should make an effort to attend the conference some day. Prof. Vivian Louie of Harvard was also invited to talk about her research on Asian Americans and on immigrant students in general.

You also do not seem to know how tenure is awarded at research universities; it is NOT awarded by the chair of any department, but by several layers of committees and peer review on the home campus as well as by many external referees who are experts in the candidate’s field. If you want to take cheap shots, you should at least inform yourself better. I don’t know if you have ever held an academic position or gone through the tenure process at a major research university–you should try it sometimes if you haven’t had the pleasure.

Of course I wasn’t there, and so of course I didn’t get the “full measure” of Prof. Hu-DeHart’s critique. Perhaps Prof. Hu-DeHart’s telling her audience of diversity officials and others concerned about race and ethnicity in higher education that “Diversity has created jobs for all of us,” that “We do what we need to do to keep our jobs,” but that “as long as we keep doing our job the way we are told to do it, we are covering up for our universities,” that “You all are covering up … You all are complicit in this,”

that those who attend the conference—and work in college offices dealing with diversity and minority issues—help their institutions create the impression that they are far more concerned with diversity and equity than is actually the case

— perhaps all this and more really was not a dump but a “constructive critique.” Maybe the diversity officers et. al. even thought this critique was constructive; after all, they think a number of odd things.

And of course “dumps” is my characterization, not Prof. Hu-DeHart’s or Peter Schmidt’s. Did my post leave any reasonable doubt about that?

In any event I’m impressed by Prof. Hu-DeHart’s powers of observation. She’s never met me, but from afar she can somehow tell that I’m “cynical and sarcastic, and see evil around every corner.” This is news to me. Sarcastic? Maybe. But cynical? I don’t think so. And I certainly don’t see evil around every corner, even in the diversity offices of which she is so fond. I disagree with the existence and practices of what she so aptly (even if “constructively”) called the “diversity industry,” but I don’t think those who are feeding at its teat are evil.

Prof. Hu-DeHart says that she is “not a kneejerk ‘diversiphile’” because she is “able to critique the diversity project in higher education if I perceive corruption.” By her own admission, in other words, the only thing about the “diversity industry” to which she is capable of objecting is “corruption,” which does indeed make her a “kneejerk diversiphile.” She wholeheartedly accepts “diversity’s” premise and its method, i.e., the necessary practice of racially preferentially treatment.

As for myself, I am happy to confess to my own “deep-seated biases” — for colorblind racial equality, treating all individuals without regard to their race or ethnicity.

Moving on, I’m sure the NCORE organizers are indeed “open-minded”; close or even loose readers of my post will find no hint that they aren’t, making this a curious observation. Roger Clegg writes, however, that he was invited to appear on a panel, not to deliver a “keynote.”

Prof. Hu-DeHart’s calling into question my knowledge of “how tenure is awarded at research universities” is also curiously irrelevant, since my only comment about the tenure process was to mention — quite carefully, I thought — that Prof. Hu-DeHart “was influential in securing [Ward Churchill’s] tenured appointment” at the University of Colorado when she was head of ethnic studies there. I did not say or imply that she acted alone in awarding him tenure, and in that I was a bit more circumspect than she herself has been on occasion. For example, the Brown Daily Herald has written (April 25, 2005):

Before coming to Brown, Hu-DeHart was head of CU’s ethnic studies department at the time Churchill received tenure in the department. She told The Herald that Churchill was “her hire” at CU. She said he went through the standard hiring process, and no special considerations were made on the basis of diversity, but she declined to comment further. [Emphasis added]

Although I neglected to cite it in my post, I based my observation that Hu-DeHart was “influential” in Churchill’s receiving tenure on the following information from the University of Colorado Daily Camera:

In 1988, Kaye Howe, then vice chancellor for academic services, urged that Churchill be given a faculty position despite his lack of a Ph.D.

“Ward does not have his doctorate and I fear that may deny him the place his talent, work and quality of mind should give him in the academic community,” she wrote to Evelyn Hu-DeHart, then director of CU’s Center for Studies of Ethnicity and Race in America…..

Faculty members for the ethnic studies center were required to be housed in an academic department, and Michael Pacanowsky wrote then that Hu-DeHart had asked him to consider rostering Churchill in his communications department with tenure.

The sociology and political science departments had rejected the idea, he said.

Pacanowsky expressed his own concern about whether Churchill fit in communications but wrote that “on the plus side, we would be helping out another unit on campus (CSERA), and making our own contribution to increasing the cultural diversity on campus (Ward is a Native American).”

Less than a month later, on Feb. 1, 1991, CU officials granted Churchill a tenured associate professorship in communications with a salary of $45,000. [Emphasis added]

Prof. Hu-DeHart may or may not be proud of her role in securing a tenured appointment for Ward Churchill, and I can certainly understand her wanting to take what comfort she can from the fact that she didn’t act alone, from the “several layers of committees and peer review” of which her influence was a part, but her evident desire to minimize her own role does not give her license to refer to my calling attention to the influential role she played as an uninformed cheap shot. Although it might have been cheap (posting on one’s own blog doesn’t cost much), it was not uninformed.

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