Diversity Movement Threatens Academic Freedom

, Jon Sanders, Leave a comment

Just for fun, imagine how the academic Left would react if dozens of colleges incorporated patriotism into their guiding principles and evaluated people according to their “patriotic dispositions.”

Then think how they’d respond to a plan to “Develop Patriotism” among university faculty that would:

  • “Revise 3rd year, tenure, and post-tenure evaluation criteria to assess ongoing skill building and demonstrable commitment to patriotism.”
  • “Tie evaluation of patriotism to raises, promotions, etc.”
  • “Recommend that all instructional faculties participate in ongoing patriotism professional development, including a module from the Patriotism Project.
  • “Include meaningful emphasis on patriotism development in orientation programming.”

The outcry would be of biblical proportions, right? Academics would wail about academic freedom and rail over the sanctity of the classroom, the intellectual responsibility to teach and endure challenging ideas, and so forth. And they’d be right.

Rest assured, there’s no campus movement to reward or punish people according to demonstrable patriotism. But there is a movement to do those things according to demonstrable fealty to diversity politics. There’s been no outcry, however.

The first paragraph of this article — except for replacing “social justice” with “patriotism” — mimics a June 3 New York Sun article about Brooklyn College’s School of Education, which “has begun to base evaluations of aspiring teachers in part on their commitment to social justice” using “a new method of judging teacher candidates based on their ‘dispositions.'” The Sun points out that evaluating prospective teachers according to their social-justice dispositions is “a vogue in teacher training across the country that focuses on evaluating teachers’ values, apart from their classroom performance.”

Also, the Sun reported that Brooklyn “is among dozens of education schools across the country that incorporate the notion of ‘social justice’ in their guiding principles.” Not surprisingly, several students have already filed allegations of discrimination against them because of their political beliefs. They had the “wrong disposition,” you see.

The quotations in the bullet points above are taken verbatim from a plan attempted at the University of Oregon — except for replacing that plan’s diversity euphemism of “cultural competence” with “patriotism.”

The bad news is that Brooklyn et al.’s Dispositions Police are already out in force. The good news is, Oregon’s “Five Year Diversity Plan” was voted down. The dark cloud above that silver lining is that its defeat won’t dissuade the diversityniks. The plan, a product of two diversity committees comprising 80 people, states flat out, “This agenda is unswerving and our efforts must be resolute.” Even after the negative vote, UO president David B. Frohnmayer told The Chronicle of Higher Education of May 27, “We’re wedded to the objectives of the plan.”

That unswerving agenda is to base every conceivable aspect of the university on “cultural competency,” a concept never defined in the plan. It shows everyone where the diversity movement is headed — more thought control, more discrimination, more lockstep conformity, more subjugation of free inquiry. Hiring, promotions, raises, even tenure according to political behavior. Recruiting, scholarships, course content, minors, majors, even campus centers based on how they serve a political cause. Having to run all proposals and decisions by several newly created diversity offices.

In other words, the academic Left’s worst, hallucinogen-induced nightmares about the Bush administration are exactly what the diversity movement openly sought in Oregon. Meanwhile, diversityniks lose sleep when conservatives — and Christians! heavens to Murgatroyd! — merely request that their place at the academic table be respected.

At least Oregon’s proposal was defeated. And in such a climate, the American Council on Education’s recent statement reasserting academic freedom is quite welcome. But despite the defeat of the Oregon plan, it would be foolish to think it is the last such proposal we’ll see.

That’s because the watchdogs of academic freedom have developed a rapport with a thief. Yes, they strain at the chains at the mere mention of the Academic Bill of Rights. When it came to Oregon’s proposal or the ed schools’ overtly political evaluations, however, they were the dogs who didn’t bark.

Jon Sanders (jsanders@popecenter.org) is a policy analyst for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh.