With their campuses rocked by social justice protests, anxious Ivy League presidents are trying to appease campus radicals with huge payouts to left-wing identity programs. Peter Salovey, the president of Yale, apologized to protesters (“we failed you”) and wrote a campus-wide letter promising to create a new “university center” for the study of “race ethnicity, and other aspects of social identity.” He also pledged to double the budget for the African American, Native American, Asian American, and Hispanic cultural centers, and to devote new resources to “educating our community about race, ethnicity, diversity, and inclusion.”
Not to be outdone, Brown University President Christina Paxson has answered protests by unveiling a $100 million program for creating “a just and inclusive campus community.” Among the budget items: “expand mentoring resources for students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and first generation college students”; create “workshops” to “foster greater awareness and sensitivity on issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression”; and “promote university-wide research and academic programming on Power, Privilege, Identity and Structural Racism.”
There is no doubt that there is still racism, sexism, and homophobia on college campuses, just as there is everywhere else in our society. But the idea that it can be stamped out with still more diversity training, still more cultural centers, and still more identity studies programs is a fantasy. American college campuses are already saturated with these programs (which, it goes without saying, inflate the budgets of colleges whose degree programs are already too expensive). If bigotry is still as widespread at Brown and Yale as the protesters claim, then perhaps the universities ought to try a different approach. After all, the available evidence suggests that diversity education programs are counterproductive, and segregated academic and residential programs may well exacerbate racial isolation and misunderstanding.
Ivy League presidents seem to think that these types of giant expenditures will save them from further protests and negative media coverage. But it’s only a matter of time before protesters take to the quad with megaphones again, protesting that administrators are trying to buy them off without addressing any of the real underlying issues. And of course, the protesters will be right.