PRINCETON, NJ — A study of university websites released today by the National Association of Scholars reveals an obsession with diversity unparalleled in any other sector of American opinion leadership. Only on university websites do the overall references to diversity exceed in number references to traditional American ideals like freedom, democracy, and liberty. In striking contrast, the websites of the major media (both print and broadcasting), national business associations, leading churches, labor unions, “the new media,” and the major political parties, typically referred to freedom far more often than diversity. Both Republican and Democratic National committees, for instance, refer to freedom about eight times as often as diversity, “the blogs” about seven times as often, television about five times as often, print media and religious denominations about four times as often, and even unions twice as often. References to freedom exceed those to diversity on the websites of the major business associations by a ratio of three to two.
By contrast, the references to diversity on the websites of the top 100 U.S. News & World Report Universities and Colleges exceeded those to freedom by a ratio of four to three, even though “academic freedom” is an issue higher education presumably holds dear. Other traditional liberal/democratic watchwords faired even worse. For the same group of academic institutions diversity references exceeded liberty by a ratio of five to one, equality four to one, and democracy three to one. No other opinion leadership sector in the nation has such a pattern of preference.
In current intellectual usage, the word “diversity”, has acquired a meaning largely antithetical to the ideals that have given America its distinctive character. In “diversityspeak,” America is a collection of ethnicities and lifestyles rather than a common cultural identity, and group membership trumps individuality. Given the caste mentality associated with the term, and its emphasis on grievance and victimhood, it is especially alarming that university references to diversity exceed those to freedom and liberty, words emblematic of individual autonomy and national pride.
The endless reiterations in academe of this corporatist term indicate the great gulf that has opened between our universities and the rest of the country. And interestingly, it is in contrast with those sectors closest to the people that the chasm yawns widest. It is the media and both of our major political parties, relying as they do on the American people for patronage and votes, that most stress freedom, liberty, and democracy over diversity – as, in great measure, do our labor unions, as well. The separation is smallest, although still substantial, between the universities, on the one hand, and Washington business lobbies and mainline churches, on the other.
Unfortunately, our universities are educators, and hence leading indicators of cultural change. During the 1980s, diversity was little more than an ideological term-of-art confined to the discourse of assorted humanities faculties. Today it has extensively penetrated into the national psyche, even recognized by the government – albeit by the judiciary, the least popular branch – as a “compelling state interest.” If diversity is not now central to the American people’s vision of itself, it may eventually become so. Accomplishing this, alas, is a mission to which our universities appear resolutely pledged.
Dr. Balch is president of The National Association of Scholars located in Princeton, New Jersey. The NAS has forty-six state affiliates and more than four thousand professors, graduate students, administrators, and trustees as members.