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Higher Education Watch
What Kind of Diversity Matters at Yale?

A Yale faculty committee, formed in response to left-wing student protests, has released a scathing document criticizing the University’s commitment to diversity issues. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

Yale University has failed repeatedly to execute ambitious plans to diversify its faculty, praised inclusion while enabling a climate hostile to many female and minority professors and graduate students, and experienced a “lost decade” where budget tightening eroded earlier gains in diversifying the professoriate. […]

“This is a devastating account of where Yale has been and where it is,” Kathryn Lofton, a professor of religious studies and deputy dean for diversity and faculty development in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wrote in an email. “It will determine how we organize to get somewhere better. We have no other option but to improve.”

We are in no position to assess the merits of the 98-page study, but it’s worth pointing out one thing that’s missing: While the authors were concerned with diversity of “gender, race, and ethnicity” as well as “the intersection of these categories with sexuality, age, and class,” there was no effort to grapple with diversity of politics, religion, or viewpoint (though the authors acknowledged that such factors “could” be taken into account in a future report).

The omission of intellectual diversity is especially notable given other news from Yale earlier this week: Two professors who had been vilified for months by militant students for questioning campus diversity dogma (in particular, whether the University should regulate student Halloween costumes to protect other students from offense) announced their resignation. As Conor Friedersdorf reports in the Atlantic, the episode has widely been perceived as a devastating blow to intellectual pluralism at Yale:

Last fall, student protesters at Yale University demanded that Professor Nicholas Christakis, an academic star who has successfully mentored Ivy League undergraduates for years, step down from his position as faculty-in-residence at Silliman College, along with his wife, Erika Christakis, who shared in the job’s duties.

The protesters had taken offense at an email sent by Erika Christakis.

Dogged by the controversy for months, the couple finally resigned their posts Wednesday. Because the student protests against them were prompted by intellectual speech bearing directly on Erika Christakis’s area of academic expertise, the outcome will prompt other educators at Yale to reflect on their own positions and what they might do or say to trigger or avoid calls for their own resignations. If they feel less inclined toward intellectual engagement at Yale, I wouldn’t blame them.

Racial and gender diversity are important, but so is intellectual diversity. As Jason Willick wrote in March: “An academic class in thrall to a political orthodoxy will naturally be less likely to challenge ideas that fall within this orthodoxy, and more likely to reject, wholesale, ideas that fall outside it.” It’s hard to see how students can get a high-quality liberal arts education, and how faculty can produce cutting-edge research, in an environment that makes so little room for debate, disagreement and dissent.

Yale is bending over to meet the demands of the activists who effectively forced out the Christakises, commissioning faculty reports like this one, and even committing $50 million to new racial and gender diversity initiatives. Is it willing to devote comparable resources to protecting intellectual diversity and promoting freedom of thought? Apparently not—but then again, we already knew that.

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  • WigWag

    Of the three remaining presidential candidates, only one has fearlessly taken on the politically correct gestapo seeking to define acceptable political discourse in the United States. Hint: Its not Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

    • Jim__L

      He’d find more support from many people like myself if he didn’t eschew Common Decency as much as he did Political Correctness.

  • Beauceron

    “while enabling a climate hostile to many female and minority professors and graduate students”

    I have skimmed through the report and I don’t see anything that actually describes what that hostile climate might be.

    Here’s the closest item I found in the report:

    ” One discussion group identified only one third o4 Yale’s 4aculty as
    “proactive allies” in making the university a welcoming place 4or all students. The
    remainder consisted in their view o4 one third “passive bystanders” and one third “a real
    problem,” this latter category encompassing 4aculty behaviors ranging 4rom “o5ensively
    insensitive” to “overtly hostile” (some incidents students say they have reported to chairs
    or other administrators, but most they have not). The most striking thing about this
    assessment is that, in the overall contours o4 our discussions with students, this was at the
    more positive end o⇧ the spectrum. One student o4 color in the social sciences set the
    percentage o4 “true allies” among his 4aculty at “1 to 2%” (“In my department there’s only
    one 4aculty member who cares,” said another student o4 color)”

    Don’t ask me why “f” is coming out as a “4” in the copy and paste.

    So there is really no indication of what these minority students consider to be hostile– other than they don’t feel that they are their “allies.”

    • Amadeus 48

      I wonder if the quest for faculty “allies” is a symptom of a mismatch problem. How well are these students doing in a curriculum that is amped up for the high-achieving careerists that Yale normally attracts? Are these students thriving? It doesn’t sound like it.

  • Angel Martin

    college campus liberals’ definition of diversity: all of the students and faculty look completely different, and they all think exactly the same.

  • Gugliemus

    A once-great institution declines, by its own hand. Sad.

  • GS

    “Racial and gender diversity are important” – and why, may I ask? What is so valuable about them that they should [in the fevered minds of the “social justice warriors”] represent a value in, of, and by themselves? I am yet to meet a person who could cogently answer this simple question.

    • vb

      They may or may not add value to the university. The big problem is that they have too much power. They are assumed to speak for all members of their victim group, rendering the opinions and expertise of all other members of that group worthless.

      • GS

        Those who add value, add it as the individuals. Marie Sklodowska-Curie was valuable because of her brain, not because she was a female.

    • PierrePendre

      Diversity is of no intrinsic importance to a university’s teaching except in respect of the curriculum that is taught where a diversity of opinion is essential if it is to remaiin vital. Otherwise diversity matters only in the sense that a sufficient number of people say it does for their weight to matter in university politics. Blacks, gays or women bring nothing unique to the teaching of engineering or Shakespeare. Gays have been prominent in the interpretation of Shakespeare throughout the history of his theatre. The reason you don’t get an answer to your question is that they don’t have one that’s worth hearing.

      • GS

        Diversity of opinion is important in research, not in teaching. What diversity of opinion could there be about 2 x 2 = 4? Teaching is communicating to a student a [largish] body of knowledge and a set of cognitive skills sufficient to handle that body. To this extent it could be purely dogmatic. Diversity of opinion comes later, when one trains a researcher – essentially, in graduate school.

    • FriendlyGoat

      I can answer it. The answer is that all races are human and both genders are human. As such, they have common interests and are entitled to equal consideration, participation (in everything) and respect. By contrast, addressing the lament of this article, religions and their political manifestations are not human and do not come with the same natural entitlement.

      • GS

        “equal consideration” – no problem. Everyone can apply and take the exam, and is welcome to do just that. The exam results, though, will be strikingly different, that’s the whole point. Being “equally human” does not make me a sprint runner comparable with Usain Bolt.

        • FriendlyGoat

          Well, you’re talking about your regular bailiwick of college math now, so I will not argue against the fact that we have entrance and exit exams there for a reason (which does not require diversity).

          But your question was phrased about diversity anywhere and in any field, endeavor and social setting. You might consider that running (per your example) is not just for the purpose of winning competitive races. We have real Olympics, we have “Fun Runs”, we have seniors walking around tracks or malls, we have “Special Olympics” and there are reasons for all of those.

          Broadening beyond running or math, a majority of people on earth are not Caucasian and about half the people on earth are female.
          When we talk about the whole of business, civics, government, law, public policy, stewardship of the earth and peace, anything intentionally constricted below FULL diversity is basically a crime.

          • GS

            Anywhere and in any field. Substitute a performance test for a math exam, or for a running competition, the meaning is the same. Those performing are in, those who do not perform are out. The point is that the impact will be, in the legal terms, grossly disparate. Abilities are not distributed uniformly – neither among the individuals nor among the groups. And that’s why the diversity as such is not a value – it is worthless.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Diversity as a goal for society is not about either performance or ability. If we were to speak here about famous black people, for instance, your commentary would imply that Snoop Dogg and Muhammad Ali are “in” for their competitive accomplishments but thousands of well-meaning and hard-working black people in menial jobs are “out”. That’s not acceptable.
            Or, we’ll let Nancy Pelosi or Joni Ernst be “in” because they got elected to the House and Senate, respectively, but the local girl who served me a burger yesterday at McDonald’s is “out”. Uh, likewise no.

          • GS

            All that is field-specific. There is no across-the-board superiority, nor could there be one. But the local (to a field of activity) group superiorities are ubiquitous and undeniable.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I once had many occasions to work with several different black floor cleaners. They were good people. They were not less important to the earth or the country than Snoop Dogg—–even though Dogg can be respected for his talent at rap. A part of diversity is also realizing that little people’s little contributions are not insignificant and deserving of derision.

          • GS

            being a good person does not matter. What matters is, can s/he shoot hoops, or swim, or box, or do theoretical physics, or finance, or whatever other field is being considered. If yes, then: and how well does s/he do it? The criterion is perfectly colorblind, by the way.

          • FriendlyGoat

            What matters is whether your world view —–or a broader one is—–is voted into power in democracies and republics. You can have your opinion on this, just as you have opined that people of lower IQ are not worth educating, but voters will determine whether your view prevails in policy. All those races, women and lesser lights get to weigh in. That’s the point of diversity.

          • GS

            It matters not. You can take your voters and shove them ubi sol non lucet. In my educational activities [small scale, granted] I operate by my own lights, and tutor or help only those [willing] I choose to. This month it was one doctoral student and one postdoc.

          • FriendlyGoat

            It’s great that you work with a select few. (That way larger numbers are not dangerously exposed to your over-riding philosophies of life. Sorry—-couldn’t resist.)
            More seriously, surely you understand that your particular talents (and those of your students) are rare—–BUT—-that the towns, cities, counties and countries of the world have to deal with ALL of their people and ALL of the needs of their societies. That means we have to find ways to do the best we can to elevate ALL individuals.

          • GS

            Not particularly “rare” – I wish it were more rare, but it is not. It is simply that what I tutor/consult in is beyond most of your “clients”. Which is perfectly OK – there are quite a lot of activity fields which are beyond me (division of labor). And each subfield has its own crowd, more or less specific to it.

          • GS

            Diversity is not a social goal, or rather, it should not be. May the chips fall where they may.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You have explained in a sentence why we now have “left” and “right” in politics. We on the left simply do not believe that full participation of all races and genders in “everything important” should not be a goal. We believe it is a vital goal.

          • GS

            Whether you believe it or not, matters not. The National Basketball Association has one racial composition, and, say, the Olympic swimming teams – another. In both cases it is the most able who make it, regardless of pigmentation (Larry Bird, anyone?) But the impact is “disparate”, and there is absolutely no need to make any “goals” about it. Indeed, it would be counterproductive.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You really, really, really don’t get it that the whole of life is more than sports, entertainment and math? OF COURSE the NBA is going to select down to the best players. That’s not the point.

          • GS

            The point is that the best players for the NBA are not uniformly distributed among the racial groups. Neither are the best track and fielders. Neither are the best swimmers. Neither are the best physicists. Neither are the best… in practically any field of importance. And everyone wants and needs the best. And that’s why the “disparate impact” diversity is a pernicious notion.

          • FriendlyGoat

            If one believes that the purpose of college education (or any education) is to sort out the highest minds or highest natural abilities for placement on pedestals, you have a point.
            If one believes, as I do, that the purpose of education is to help all people be sensible and productive contributors to civilized society, then we need everybody off the bench and in the game. That would include the races, the ethnicities, the cultures and the genders, all plural.

  • Josephbleau

    The final line says it all. When it becomes accepted fact that universities are opposed to intellectual diversity why do they exist? In fact they have forgotten why they were created.

  • johngbarker

    It seems as if Yale is in the beginning stages of a Stalinist style purge. Inner insecurities projected outward and going viral as no exterior action is ever enough to satisfy the inner demons.

  • gabrielsyme

    Here’s the thing: nobody actually believes that racial and sexual minorities are discriminated against at Yale or other institutions of higher education – and I bet the “hostile climate” is mostly imagined and when not imaginary, entirely attributable to the relative mediocrity of some of these favoured individuals for whom the standards are not nearly as high. But there certainly is manifest and dramatic discrimination against conservatives (and moderates, and even classical liberals) as well as religious believers. Such discrimination is not only wrong, but also seriously erodes the teaching capacity and intellectual dynamism of Yale. Liberalism begets not just cultural suicide, but also intellectual mediocrity.

  • wri

    Having just experienced having two granddaughters attend an elite eastern liberal arts college, I am at a loss where a student could pursue one of the traditional liberal arts subjects without encountering this mind-numbing political correctness and the distorted curriculae that comes with it. Is a private religiously orientated school like Liberty or Hillsdale the only alternative? Do state universities still teach traditional liberal arts uncorrupted by the diversity agenda? (They seem to suffer from the same dominating on-campus political correctness.) The situation is so extreme that I have to think many students and parents are concerned about. — at least if they are not part of the idealogical far left. Yet parents keep sending their kids to these expensive idealogical indoctrination factories in droves.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Yes, if you want religion you go to a private religious place to get it. At the college level, for instance, they are the only ones which will be teaching young-earth creationism.

      • wri

        I was suggesting one might go there despite the religion. I very much doubt they teach creationism, but hopefully if so it is an elective.At least they likely also have liberal arts courses that are taught as they traditionally have been, without the current politically correct slant.
        These are hard to find in most colleges.

        • FriendlyGoat

          1) If “politically correct” is “correct”, what’s the problem with that?
          If it isn’t correct, why do critics call it correct? Just wondering.
          2) I have no idea what colleges teach creationism, but there sure are a lot of people who want to spin it on younger children even as most of the colleges, maybe even including Liberty and Hillsdale, know better.
          3) What was “distorted” to your granddaughters? Climate change?
          Wealth divide? Concern for women’s rights around the world? Concern over rights for LGBT people? Concern over guns? Disdain for disenfranchising people with voter ID? “Yes means yes?
          What is “mind-numbing”?

  • Frank Natoli

    This really is nowhere near as complicated as it’s made out to be.
    The very first question we in the engineering world ask of a customer is “exactly what is it you are trying to accomplish”.
    Once that answer is provided, we proceed to get the job done, by whatever means are necessary.
    The reason the problem of “diversity” prompts articles like the above is because nobody has given a straight answer to that very simple question.
    The straight answer is: we want quotas for faculty positions, quotas by sex, quotas by race, quotas by who you want to sleep with.
    There now, that wasn’t so complicated, was it? Nor is the solution complicated. Don’t just stop hiring faculty of the “wrong” sex, terminate faculty of the “wrong” sex. And race. And who you want to sleep with.
    Then live with what you get.

  • Jim__L

    “It’s hard to see how students can get a high-quality liberal arts
    education, and how faculty can produce cutting-edge research, in an
    environment that makes so little room for debate, disagreement and
    dissent.”

    Faculty manages to do cutting-edge research because humanities “research” is largely irrelevant, and science / engineering is truly colorblind.

  • jim

    There’s enough Ph.Ds floating around that any university in the country that wanted to “look like America” could do so within a few years. This has been true for a long time. The reason it hasn’t happened is because when their academic reputation is on the line in the hiring committee, all these “diversity is our strength” professors throw affirmative action right out the window.

    Especially at places like Yale!

    • wri

      If you were a diversity professor, specializing in something like feminism or race — subjects made up by diversity professors, of no interest except to other diversity professors, and taking little intellectal heft to learn — would you welcome into the faculty professsors of traditional classics, history, or other social sciences who had actually studied and mastered a subject of intellectual substance? This may be one of the reasons the quality of the professoriate has become increasingly degraded over recent decades.

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