Diversity Extravaganza at Chapel Hill

, George C. Leef, Leave a comment

Last April, UNC released its “Chancellor’s Task Force on Diversity” report, 58 pages in length and loaded with eight big recommendations for making the Chapel Hill campus more diverse. And in his State of the University speech, Chancellor Moeser devoted several paragraphs to this subject, saying that “Diversity is a key component of our academic plan,” and lauding “improvement in the diversity of our full-time permanent faculty.”

Alas, UNC is not yet diverse enough. The Task Force report recommends, for example, that the university increase the number of “minorities” in executive, administrative and managerial positions. That might be accomplished through a heavier emphasis on “diversity” in hiring and promotion.

Like most discussions of diversity, the focus is all on how to achieve more diversity, with it being simply assumed that this is a desirable goal. But is it? Exactly why would the university be better if it had more “minority” administrators? What is it about “diversity” that makes it the Holy Grail of education leaders these days?

The closest I can come to an answer seems to be along these lines: Since the goal of the university is to educate students and knowing about the diverse world in which they live is a vital component of education, it follows that the more the university resembles the world, the better will its students be prepared for a productive and harmonious life. If that’s true, then UNC has quite a way to go. Its “global mosaic” is certainly lacking representatives from many nationalities, cultures, religions, philosophies, etc.

Is it really true, though, that people will learn to be better citizens of the global village if they have been educated in an institution that has maximized its “diversity?” Before we continue on the crusade for diversity, it would make sense to know if we’re putting effort into an objective that actually matters.

One way of approaching this question would be to ask if there is any evidence or reason to believe that students who attend highly diverse institutions are better equipped to deal with the world than are students who attend colleges where diversity is not treated as a value for its own sake.

There are, for example, many historically black colleges and universities, where there is little or no effort made to recruit a “diverse” student body, hire a “diverse” faculty, create a “diverse” curriculum, and so on. Are the graduates of those institutions handicapped in some way by the lack of “diversity” around them as they go about their studies? Does a Shaw University graduate necessarily have trouble in dealing with whites, Asians, Hispanics, and others who differ from him in countless other ways?

The answer to that question, I believe, is a strong “No.” That is because people don’t have to learn about all the details of other people’s lives and background – something that is impossible, no matter how devoted we are to “diversity” – in order to interact positively with them. The same formula works for everyone, whether Chinese, Bulgarian, Ethiopian or anything else. That formula is one that most people learn long before going to college. It’s called the Golden Rule.

Shaw students understand it. So do students from Brigham Young and Yeshiva, just to name two more non-diverse schools. You don’t need an education at a college that consciously attempts to make sure it has the right percentages of each minority group to be able to interact with people from different races, religions, etc. Friendships or working associations start with mundane things such as basketball allegiances, liking similar music, or profitable business collaboration rather than broad cultural understanding.

It’s the great conceit of modern liberalism that if good things are to happen, they have to be arranged by authorities. Contrary to all evidence, they believe that we need economic planning, health care planning, retirement planning and so on, done for us by government. The diversity movement is just the latest variation on that theme: if we are to have a harmonious society, government needs to engineer schools so that they replicate society in miniature.

The better approach, both in economic and social policy, is to allow things to happen spontaneously, based on individual action. Freedom works remarkably well.

Diversity initiatives have become the badge of honor among education administrators, but if they abandoned them and went back to basing decisions on merit instead of factors that supposedly make schools diverse, they’d be making the right move.

George Leef is the executive director of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. Mr. Leef will be the featured guest on the next broadcast of Campus Report, which will air at 2:00 PM Eastern Standard Time and be rebroadcast for 24 hours following the 3:00 PM end of the one-hour program.