Old white male professors to be fixed by woke “reverse mentors”

August 15, 2018 • 11:30 am

This article is from the Torygraph, and I’ll assume the report is accurate, though you won’t find it discussed at any Left-wing websites. Click on the screenshot below to see the piece.

The new policy:

Male, pale and stale university professors are to be given “reverse mentors” to teach them about unconscious bias, under a new Government funded scheme.

Under the project, white men in senior academic posts will be assigned a junior female colleague from an ethnic minority as a mentor.

Prof John Rowe, who is overseeing the project at Birmingham University, said he hoped the scheme will allow eminent professors to confront their own biases and leave them “feeling quite uncomfortable”.

“What is understood about unconscious bias is that we have all got it, but the more you learn about it and become conscious of it, the more you can act,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“While it is well known and obvious that women and minority groups suffer setbacks to their career progression no one really understands why.

“It’s not as if there is any overt prejudice – it is something to do with the way the system is or the way it has evolved and we needed to find out why.”

This is one of eleven “Diversity and Inclusion” projects funded by a government agency to remedy discrimination in engineering and physical science; you can read more about it at the site.

I needn’t belabor this except to say that it’s offensive, discriminatory, ageist, and even racist. Why aren’t junior white professors included? After all, they could also be agents of the Patriarchy. And can’t any white person, including women, harbor unconscious bias against minorities?  As for the palpable glee  shown by Professor Rowe, who claims that everyone (and he seems to mean old white males) harbors unconscious bias, and is joyful at making those old guys “uncomfortable,” well, it’s odious. Apparently only one demographic and gender group really harbors such biases, and everyone else is blessedly free of them.

The thought of being hectored by a “woke” person makes me queasy, and I’m glad I’m not at Birmingham University.  Yes, there might be discrimination, but this kind of hectoring won’t remedy it: it will either drive it underground or cause resentment, depending on the nature and intensity of the hectoring.

As an alternative, why not see which professors, regardless of gender, age, or race, are evincing bigotry? Or why not try hiring more minorities or women—that is, if you determine that gender and ethnic imbalance really is caused by sexism and bigotry, and that differential preferences don’t contribute? Those kinds of studies are, of course, taboo. If representation is not absolutely equal across the board, we don’t need to investigate: we just accuse and then demonize. We already know the cause. And that kind of certainty, in the absence of evidence, is dangerous.

I asked Grania for her take, which I add with her permission (her emphases):

My thoughts are that as a strategy this doesn’t really make any sense. It’s not a question of whether it is offensive or not; it makes no sense.

Look at these quotes:
“What is understood about unconscious bias is that we have all got it…”

“While it is well known and obvious that women and minority groups suffer setbacks to their career progression no one really understands why.

It’s not as if there is any overt prejudice – it is something to do with the way the system is or the way it has evolved and we needed to find out why.”

So if there is no obvious prejudice and “no-one knows why” STEM isn’t being taken up by hordes of UK/US-based women, then the following questions become obvious:

1. Why only assign the senior professors mentors?  Clearly either everyone needs them, or no-one. The complete university experience extends way beyond the lecture theater, papers, and exams.
2. If no-one really understands the problem, the problem requires more examination rather than a ham-fisted attempt at solving the problem before you even know what it is.
The conclusion must be that this is a bit of window-dressing designed to mollify some and stick it to others. It is as unlikely to solve the real problem, or even discover the roots of the problem, as throwing flour at a wall and hoping it turns into a pizza.

154 thoughts on “Old white male professors to be fixed by woke “reverse mentors”

  1. I somewhat like the idea of pairing experienced professors with undergrads of diverse experiences. A journey of mutual learning could be edifying for all. The way this is being presented doesn’t seem to be pushing for that, however.

    It reminds me a little bit of a college that changed their mascot because it was deemed offensive, but left the name of the institution (named after said offensive person) the same.

    1. Nothing reverses bias more than interpersonal contact!

      I think this may be why people who live in large cities seem to be more open to people who are not mirror images of themselves. People in small cities or towns have much less contact. I moved from a large city that’s 70% black to a small city that’s 10% black. I have seen and heard things here that I hadn’t heard in at least 25 years, but mainly from older people.

      I think “senior” faculty would be a better group to work with, since they are leaders and have power over decisions about tenure and graduate assistantships. Presumably their attempt to be unbiased will become the model for the others.

      The end of the article discusses the biases of groundskeepers, who presumably are different ages. Perhaps this institution’s lawsuits and complaints about faculty relate mainly to older profs.

    2. As faculty at medical/dental schools, I have several student advisees each year, and most are not the same race/ethnicity as am I (white/northern European). Some of my advisees have been LGBTQ (I’m straight), and some have been very religious (I’m an atheist). They’re all about half my age (or even younger now). However, most of my advisees are culturally and socioeconomically very similar to me. Many of them grew up in large, diverse Texas cities – like I did – and many have undergrad degrees from my undergrad alma mater, or from other highly-ranked universities in Texas. One or both of their parents have graduate degrees and work in academia or healthcare professions, just like my parents. Their siblings are also professionals with university degrees. IMO, the majority of my advisees are quite similar to me in the things that matter most. The advisees who are most different from me are white males who are very religious (usually LDS) or who have been in the military. I don’t know that I’m any more woke because of these advisee interactions, though.

        1. So then, what have I learned as an advisee?

          Let’s see … the kind of diversity that “Diversity and Inclusivity” warriors focus on doesn’t really make us fundamentally different, at least not in the context of my university. Perhaps the warriors should pay more attention to socioeconomic disparities. Those are much more difficult to address though.

          1. I think, however, that being a reader on the site as well as being open to the idea, you may not be the ‘problem professor’ this sort of program is intended to help.

            Of course that begs the question of whether there are any problem professors at Birmingham, or if this is a solution in search of a problem. I have no idea on that score.

          2. I’m also female, and the Birmingham program isn’t targeting women professors. Yet.

            Some of my advisees have been assigned to me by a dean of student affairs (for example), but many of them apparently chose me, for various reasons (not all of which I know, of course). I think that’s the way it works best, but I’m OK with having advisees assigned too.

  2. This development is truly repulsive and all professors should reject it. This is like assigning a personal policeman to every person to correct their behavior (USING SUBJECTIVE SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED CRITERIA FOR WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE). This is social engineering run amok. This is an invasion of privacy. This is privilege for everyone but white males. This is in every sense of the word totalitarianism, intended to modify human behavior. If the white male professors don’t march publicly to decry this, they deserve to be imprisoned.

    1. The article doesn’t state what these mentors are supposed to do. Mentors in other areas don’t issue orders or run amok. They could just be an informal diversity buddy. I think your reaction is a bit extreme considering the paucity of detail.

      1. “The article doesn’t state what these mentors are supposed to do.”

        Do we need to ask? Does anyone believe for one second that these “mentors” would hesitate to report these professors for violation of proper thinking? Just look at what happens when someone tweets something others deem offensive!

        Also, consider who’s going to apply for the job of “reverse mentor”. This is an inherently self-selecting group, which isn’t going to be selecting for the average student by a long shot. The listed goals of this program ensure that it will filter for the most SJW-leaning students. Again, look at what happens when those students gain power. The idea that they’d do anything different in this case is absurd.

          1. James’s assumption is that back-biting harpies would self-select for the job. Other women (that is, ones who didn’t have an agenda) would be less interested.

            I think there is some credibility to that.


          2. So the person running this wouldn’t select-out the back-biting harpies? It looks like this program is not being implemented willy-nilly.

  3. Birmingham is my city, the campus is a fifteen minute walk away. It’s an extremely sad state of affairs that a university which should be at the heart of our civic pride is being turned into an academic dustbin obsessed with spending on unecessary capital projects in the form of massive building works while cutting lecturer numbers and pensions. It doesn’t come as a surprise that they could waste time and money on this regressive flapdoodle. Despair of HE in Britain.

    1. How diverse is the city away from the campus? The article states that groundskeepers have been calling police about students of color who are merely entering their own campus. I would think those employees would be drawn from the local community. My bet is that there have been public outcries about this situation but private complaints and lawsuits about tenured professors. Non-tenured professors can be quietly shooed away to fix a “problem.”

      1. The city is about as diverse as they come. If there are incidents where people are targeted due to their race for entering the campus grounds then that’s truly deplorable.

      2. Birmingham is one of the most diverse cities in Britain.

        I suspect the groundskeepers are reporting “incursions” by the very large Muslim population. They’re possibly worried about terrorist attacks.

      3. University of Birmingham is in my home city & maybe I can provide some context.

        First off – the Prof. mentioned is named Jon Rowe not John Rowe. This likely means the newspaper didn’t check their sources & other newspapers & the OP make the same mistake!

        That Times Education article doesn’t mention University of Birmingham groundsmen waylaying black students. It says this: “…Oxford porters should be given unconscious bias training, amid claims that they assume black students are trespassing when they enter College grounds” – a different university entirely.

        The University of Birmingham ‘groundsman’ aren’t going around challenging people for fear of terrorism – bikes, mobile phones & laptops are routinely being nicked from students on & off campus. It is a feeding frenzy in all university towns in October to X’mas as noob student sheep are sheared of their woolly trusting ways.

        This reverse mentoring thing appears as one sentence in a long document & it’s on a trial run basis – I’d like to see the full strategy before kicking it into touch. The Daily Mail & The Daily Telegraph routinely bash anything that doesn’t slot into their own mythos of the despised cultural forces tearing their rose cottage garden universe apart.

          1. This is a picture of the head porter at Jesus College** Cambridge, note the distinctive black bowler hat – if you see a man or woman wearing a hat like that you know you’re looking at a porter. Stephen Hawking’s pall bearers were six porters from his college:

            HERE’S A VERY GOOD ARTICLE on a Cambridge porter:

            From Wiki:

            “The majority of colleges at the universities of Cambridge, Durham & Oxford, as well as newer collegiate universities such as York & older universities like University of Bristol & St David’s College, have members of staff called porters. There is normally a head porter and a team of other porters. Their precise job roles vary from college to college. Oxbridge porters are typically from an armed forces background, and are highly sought after jobs. Porters work in a section of the college called the Porters’ lodge, at the main entrance.

            Roles can involve:
            Controlling entry to the college
            Sorting mail
            Providing security to members
            Reporting students to the Dean
            Maintenance & repairs to college property”

            I have never known a head porter to get his/her hands dirty – they oversee repairs, but don’t do them themseves, they have a lot of power because if you get on the wrong side of them your life is a misery, whether you be student or staff. They are equivalent to a senior NCO in the army whereas the dean would be the CO.

            These enlightened times the porters act as mentors to students & keep an eye out for those in need of aid in any form, but they are still powerful influencers. Just like in the armed forces it’s the senior NCOs who run everything & understand the systems. Officers [deans etc] don’t know what’s happening & aren’t familiar with the traditions or unwritten college practises.

            ** Each ‘collegiate university’ in the UK consists of a series of colleges. Each college has its own economy, buildings, staff, students & traditions. And one head porter per college who runs a team of porters. Grass cutting, window cleaning, repairs etc are usually supervised by porters.

  4. Ham-fisted is the right term. Though there may be a grain of something worth saving here; very often in work contexts or with ones’ boss or a more senior person, it’s socially and professionally difficult to call them out for some subtle or probably unintended sexist/racist remark. The Uni authority giving an official position or writ to the junior minority professors (who may be better at perceiving such remarks) to call out the senior professors on them, without risk of retaliation, is IMO not a bad thing.

    Could it go overboard? Easily. That’s something the school is going to have to monitor. Nevertheless, giving a socially accepted and approved method of pointing out some senior professor’s cultural dumbassery is IMO not a bad thing. And I’d include myself in that; several times in grad school I had to be told ‘you just insulted that person; do you even know why?’ Thankfully my peers were there to do that for me, to point out my unconsciously biased behavior and help me correct it. But in the higher tiers of academia, these world-class folks probably don’t have any true peers that have the insight to do that. It falls on the younger generation – mostly – to do it, and they may not have the employment security to want to risk it. So a formal mechanism that lets that exchange happen may not be a bad idea.

    Having said that, I would think this is more of a concern for more recent changes in society – recognition of GLBT folks, muslims and some other religious minorities. I would think that in the cases of sexism and racism, there would be senior-level peers who had both the perspective and desire to call it out when they see it. No ‘junior mentor’ needed.

      1. Nope, I’m fine with your counter-proposal that they all have them.

        The ‘grain of usefulness’ I see here is that academic rank and status bears some similarities to corporate ranks. And just as in the corporate world it is often socially or professionally difficult to tell your boss they’re being sexist/racist, junior staff (especially untenured staff) may find it difficult to point out the sexist/racist behavior of more senior tenured staff. There are many ways to try and fix that. This is a new one to me. I don’t know if it will work. Then again, other ways of doing this don’t work that well either. Nevertheless it’s probably a good idea in any sort of stratified professional structure to find some way to allow the lower strata to point out when the upper strata are doing bad things, in a collaborative or conciliatory way rather than an antagonistic way, and without them necessarily having to worry about retaliation.

        1. I’m with you eric, though I also agree with Jerry. There’s a need for something. The way this is being instituted though – well, “ham-fisted” is a really good word.

          It’s got to be really annoying for a senior academic like Jerry who knows he doesn’t need this sort of mentoring, to think he could have some woke person forced on him, searching for ways he’s being offensive and perhaps determined to find some. Otoh, there are plenty of senior academics, who don’t realize/recognize their biases.

          One of my first thoughts on reading this was to wonder how many of these mentoring relationships will end up as affairs.

          1. “One of my first thoughts on reading this was to wonder how many of these mentoring relationships will end up as affairs.”

            And who is considered the person with more power, the mentor or the mentee?

          2. Since you raised it – 😉

            [assumes old-white-male persona]

            I must say I wouldn’t mind having some young brown chick assigned to me. So long as she’s good-looking.



          3. Will they find The Byrds, Bob Dylan, the Stones or the Beatles playing in the background ‘unwoke'(TM)? What will they do about it? One generations music sounds weird to another generation.

        2. I worry about freezing the dynamic of the classroom. Two qualities are necessary, I believe, for effective teaching and learning: 1) the acceptance by students of intellectual authority in the professor, and 2) the protection of the expression of thought for professors and students alike. Both of these are, I suspect, already in decline at the college/graduate level, and I see no way in which this notion of mentoring–and it is a notion merely–can do anything but hinder the realization of 1 and 2 above. This may largely be due to the current conflation of criticism of ideas/opinions with criticism of identity.

          Outside the classroom, of course, everyone must respect the inviolable personhood of the other, including the panoply of identities we inevitably encounter. That’s what a society is; and if we want to make a stable polis of our society, that’s how we must behave.

          But to learn just how we ought to behave and more generally live, we need to keep the classroom open and protected from ideological cleansing.

          One of the scariest pieces of narrative I’ve read in the past couple of years is the opening 50+ pages of Liu Cixin’s ‘The Three-Body Problem,’ which powerfully show the intellectual purges of the Chinese academy during the ‘Cultural Revolution’ of the 1960s.

          Since other things that ‘couldn’t happen here’ are happening here, why not extrapolate to this truly dystopic endgame? It might help wake up the ‘woke.’

    1. I suspect racism in a few people where I work, but I can’t just say “Why are all the job candidates you interview white people with blue eyes?” They would of course say it’s a coincidence. If I knew they had someone outside of our “shop” to talk to I might be more inclined to bring these things up.

      1. Being ‘outside of our shop’ is a very good point. I think if the mentorship idea is to have any chance of success, the mentor-mentee should be from (very) different academic departments. That way the older mentee won’t consider it as an illicit avenue for professional assassination (‘she called me sexist to get rid of me’), and the mentor won’t be afraid of employment retaliation. “Bob, stop calling your TAs ‘my girls'” is probably a little more easily taken to heart when it comes from someone you don’t have to pass in the hallway every day.

        1. Gah! I hate it when men call grown women “girls” even if the “girl” is a college student or uses the word herself. If you don’t call a 22-year-old man a boy, don’t call a 22-year-old woman a “girl!”

          1. I utterly concur, Ms ladyatheist.

            Why in hell has not this error been called out
            every frickin’ time it happens ? and
            broadcast media, yet in to this 21st Century, is
            still so at blame as well.

            Listen sometime.
            One ‘hears’ this sexist insult ALL of the time. I do not believe in my many decades that
            I have ever, ever heard of a 19 – year – old or
            a 20+ – year – old male human referred to as
            a boy. Never.

            How hard is it ? Since it is NOT, then ?
            Then to call females over 18 girls ?
            .THAT. ‘ld be one’s law of physics / choice / desire
            / whatever … … to do so.


          2. Why in hell has not this error been called out every frickin’ time it happens ?

            This is exactly why I’m okay with trying solutions like this, as long as they’re done with care and consideration. It might not work, granted. But the junior-senior staff power relations often means this isn’t called out because the junior staff are afraid to do so and the senior staff are mostly male* and don’t care too much about calling it out.

            *I’m not accusing Birmingham of being sexist now. But due to historical sexism and uneven opportunity, the bulk of senior university professors as of today are male.

          3. Of course not, but neither does “girl” in this context. You can complain about how the word has a meaning you wish it didn’t, but people aren’t using the word incorrectly or referring to a child when they call a 22-year-old girl a “girl”.

            I’d say it’s just as rare to hear a 19-year-old boy called a man as it is to hear a 19-year-old girl called a woman. “Young man” and “young woman” sometimes, but those seem about equally common.

          4. In this and in any context, Mr Adam M, of when girl is
            used for a person who is female and is 18
            years and over in age .always means. … …


          5. @Blue

            ‘Girls’ – used of a group of women – is near universal.

            You have never heard the phrase ‘old girl’ ?
            Used of wives, old women and even cars and railway locomotives.
            How about ‘the golden girls’ on TV?

            It’s common usage whether you like it or not.

            (Also, of course, ‘the boys’ and ‘old boy’ similarly).


          6. And, infiniteimprobabilit, whether or not you say it doesn’t, its use .does. anywhere in a context of a person who is female 18 and over … … .connotes. child.


          7. Insist all you like Blue, I think we can leave the onlookers to be the judge of that.


          8. hehhehheh, infiniteimprobabilit,
            I am not … … the Insister.

            It is what it is for persons female: child.
            And it is not what it is … … .that.
            for persons male. Onlookers or no.


          9. One never wins a match with Ms./Mr. Blue, Mr. M. Nor even drives him/her to a stalemate. That’s why I don’t engage.

          10. And don’t call a group composed equally of females and males “guys.” Have you observed that? (And I wouldn’t be surprised if someone somewhere has addressed a group composed only of women as “guys.”)

          11. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if someone somewhere has addressed a group composed only of women as “guys.”‘

            I’ve seen that quite often on TV, usually in a US context.


  5. The article doesn’t explicitly state that this mentoring is required for all older, white male professors. If it is, the policy should be fought. I don’t know about the UK, but in the U.S. I think such a policy would be hard to implement. Perhaps it would be illegal.

    However, if this mentoring program is voluntary and I were teaching at Birmingham University, I would want to get the details of what is entailed. Most importantly, I would want it guaranteed that anything said between the mentor and me would be strictly confidential. That is, whatever would be said in conversation could not be used against me. The mentor and the university would have to acknowledge this in writing. Also, I would need to retain the right to terminate at any time participation in the program. Under these circumstances, I would consider seriously joining the program. I could very well learn important things about people very distant from me in age and culture. Ultimately, it could make me a better teacher.

    1. The people who need to be “woke” are never the ones who volunteer for these things, but it’s worth a try. The article says it’s just one of several initiatives. One-shot diversity “training” is fairly useless.

      We had a training session on things we could and could not say during interviews, and how to advertise a position for a wider net. It was straightforward legalese, and common sense – like not asking a woman what she’ll do if she gets pregnant. One of my male colleagues told me afterward that he heard “Don’t hire white men.”

  6. I tried googling to see if I could find an article from the university or another official outlet. My brief digging only yielded sites like Daily Mail, Breitbart, RooshVforum, etc. Does anyone know if there is another source?

  7. What is the enforcement mechanism, I wonder. Are there consequences if one of the old, white males just doesn’t have time in his schedule to meet with his minder? What if he welcomes the little informant junior faculty member into his office for the requisite time per week and simply ignores her?

      1. How many details do you need to discriminate against people based on their skin color, gonads, or age?
        Fewer than I do that’s for sure.

        1. I don’t see discrimination here. I have looked at the faculty listings for the cohort, and there are no non-white senior professors, and very few women.

    1. I would love it if I had an advocate in my company who argued with corporate for me taking fewer training courses. 🙂

      1. Do you mean a commissar from the Soviet Union or one from Warhammer 40K?

        I don’t know which one I would be more terrified of having watch my back.

        Back on topic: I agree completely with PCC.

    1. My thoughts exactly. Plus how quickly would the actions of the political officers become ‘coordinated’ by the Student Union?

      Plus I rather suspect there are Baby Boom Woke, Generation Y Woke, Generation X Woke, Millennium Woke and so on. All appropriate to their generation, all a part of their generation, and resistant to having their own culture challenged.

      I’ve come around to the view that it is pointless judging people by what you think they believe and trying to ‘fix’ them. You can only judge them by their actions.

      1. On first skim I read “Student Union” as “Soviet Union.” Had to back up the eyeballs and re-read that line.

  8. The details seem fuzzy, but it seems like it’s giving the “reverse-mentor” the sole authority to judge the senior faculty’s compliance with ambiguous standards. What if the mentor is an extreme repressive-leftist who thinks that merely being old and white is offensive? Say, someone like Sarah Jeong?

    1. Consider what a “normal” mentor does — they don’t judge and they don’t hector and they don’t rat out the mentee.

      I would hope the reverse-mentor would have some training and guidance, too. If they are junior faculty, a tenured faculty member might know how to tank their tenure application even if they’re in different departments. I think they would have incentive not to be the kind of person you describe.

        1. Any plan that relies on white men with little experience with non-white people or women employees to just behave themselves because they think they’re nice people is almost guaranteed to go wrong.

          1. I am afraid that being assigned female minority bullies will only reinforce these white males’ prejudice if it exists, and if it doesn’t, may create it.

  9. I wouldn’t presume that everyone has trouble understanding the problem of implicit bias, but the odds are an older white male has less understanding.

    I don’t “hector” my male colleagues, but I have found myself explaining these things:

    Why a white person who was poor as a child and worked hard, got into college & grad school and then lived the middle class life is called “privileged.” (Answer because after all of that, you are still white, and no matter how hard a black person works and succeeds, they are still black, which has lots of repercussions even in the 21st century) “Underprivileged” is no longer used as it once was because it compared privileged (rich) people to underprivileged (poor) people using middle class people as a yardstick. We no longer use that yardstick because it turns out that race plays a bigger role than money.

    That Barack Obama didn’t go to Columbia as an affirmative action student, nor did being elected editor of the Harvard Law review.

    That “implicit bias” is a real thing, and if you don’t think you have it you are probably stepping on toes, hurting feelings, and even denying people their opportunities to excel based on your biases. Everyone thinks they earned their position at work, but we don’t know if Juan, Mohammed or Shaniqua actually had better credentials but wound up in the slush pile while you rose to the top. Unless you work in social services for the mentally ill or some other problem that goes across all social groups, your view of reality is skewed by your experiences. The unexamined life is not worth living — we need to pay attention to our unpleasant knee-jerk thoughts in order to decide whether they need to be changed. Even if you find you really are the rare person who doesn’t have an implicit bias, the exercise is worthwhile because we should pay attention to our subconscious. (Check out Harvard’s online implicit bias tests)

    That women really have experienced prejudice when it comes to science. I was prohibited from taking drafting, calculus, and physics as a teen. That was a long time ago, but there are many professors in the sciences who are my age or older who never had female colleagues in their high school science classes.

    How many rappers, jazz musicians, or hard rock musicians are men vs. women?

    I think the practice of omitting names or other “identity” items from resumes and college applications should become standard. Look what happened when musicians started auditioning behind a screen! They went from 1% to about 50% in orchestras.

    1. I haven’t thought this one through yet, so I much appreciate your offering a different perspective here, Lady A.

    2. I agree with you. I think the concern is whether the mentor in this case is going to offer sound advice and evaluation vs. merely propagating their own particular biases.

      Still, it’s a change from the anonymous complaint box (too ineffective) or talking to the school legal council (often a too high regret choice to use). The idea of opening up channels between us old fogies and the young folk who might have a broader social perspective has some promise. I guess we’ll see if the implementation turns out to be useful for all or a ctrl-left nightmare (or some mix of both).

      1. I wish there were more details in the article.

        I agree with you about the fogies. Universities are supposed to nurture the young, not calcify the old.

    3. I think I agree with every point you made here. Regarding the reverse-mentor program, set up and done properly I think something like it could be helpful for more than even just helping older professors to be more conscious of unconscious bias.

      Based on the little information available in this article, though, I have doubts about this particular program. As Grania points out the description of the program does not match the reasons given for which the program is intended as a remedy. I actually agree with their reasons, their description of the problem.

    4. ““Underprivileged” is no longer used as it once was because it compared privileged (rich) people to underprivileged (poor) people using middle class people as a yardstick. We no longer use that yardstick because it turns out that race plays a bigger role than money.”

      Race lays a bigger role that wealth when it comes to privilege? I do NOT agree with this. Money is the true privilege in our society.

      You are going to have to defend this claim.

        1. So you meant that “…race plays a bigger role than money…except for the top 10%“?

          Why top 10%? If having more money matters in terms of privilege for the top 10%, why not for the top 20%? 40%? 50%? When does racism become dominant over wealth in the Privilege Olympics, in your estimation?

          Thanks for the link (I’ll read it later when I’ve time), but you’ve dodged the problem.

          1. You WERE talking about wealthy people. You said this;

            ““Underprivileged” is no longer used as it once was because it compared privileged (rich) people to underprivileged (poor) people using middle class people as a yardstick. We no longer use that yardstick because it turns out that race plays a bigger role than money.”

            Then you said by “rich” you meant top 10%. But you still haven’t answered the question – why is that the cut off for privilege and not some other percent?

            But no matter, the point I’m trying to make is that privilege is entirely contextual. Sometimes being white gets you privilege, sometimes it’s earning more, sometimes is being thin, or blonde, or good looking, or coming from a specific religion (or sect). There are those who wish to claim that only one or a few things denote privilege. Usually that is race or religion.

          2. dang. unclosed blockquote after ” it turns out that race plays a bigger role than money.” sorry.

        2. That Brookings “summary” (more a breezy editorial) lists six socioeconomic areas where blacks lag behind, closing with the insinuation that racial discrimination is the cause.

          Yet the picture is clouded, as all of those SES measures are intertwined and to large extent self-reinforcing. Fourth on the list is “most black families are headed by single parents” — nearly 3/4, to be more precise. That in itself is one of the strongest predictors for depressed SES, one which cannot be laid at the feet of racism or ‘implicit bias’. The single most predictive factor, however, is intelligence. As the mean black IQ is one standard deviation lower than the national average, it is unsurprising that blacks are disproportionately represented in the lowest rungs of SES.

        1. I doubt anyone here would deny that racism is an ongoing problem. The question here is whether the proposed program is an effective solution. I see a large flaw in it because it’s based on the assumption that all old white men are more racist than everyone else, and aren’t even aware of it. That’s a biased assumption in itself.

          1. There have been studies, lawsuits, and private complaints against old white men for quite some time. Administrators should want to head off these things, and they don’t know who is prone to them before they receive complaints. There is no proven way to prevent people in power from abusing that power, and this is the worst type of abuse. I give them credit for trying to give some feedback to people who are the likeliest (not guaranteed) to accidentally offend due to ignorance.

            Look at the faculty listings for the relevant departments there. Almost all of the senior faculty are white men in some of the departments.

    5. “I wouldn’t presume that everyone has trouble understanding the problem of implicit bias….

      The problems with implicit bias are: it’s unfalsifiable; individual results are unrepeatable from one testing session to the next; anything detectible as possibly bias cannot be distinguished from generic in-group vs. out-group bias/aversion; the creators have now admitted that their test is fatally flawed and the entire concept is suspect.

      1. If you are an old white professor and you tell the graduate students in your department that men are better professors than women, you may *think* you don’t have an implicit bias, but I was extremely incensed when I was in the room as a graduate student listening to this blowhard.

        If you are a white man, your “privilege” is that things like this have not happened to you.

        Also, I wasn’t allowed to take drafting, physics or calculus as a teen and I was forced into secretarial classes despite having a mensa-level IQ.

        Did this happen to you?

        1. Actually, something quite similar once did. But neither your personal anecdote nor mine mean very much on their own.

          FTR, I’m rarely impressed by the intellect displayed by folks who make a point of mentioning their high IQ.

          1. Just making the point that I could have handled those courses, but was prevented from taking them due to sexism, not due to being a girl who wasn’t good in math.

          2. You offered your solitary, personal anecdote of overt sexism (which happened how long ago?) as defense to my critique of the concept of implicit bias. In other words, a complete non sequitur.

            I find it fascinating how you, as do all SJWs, cling to the concept of implicit bias, even though it was unscientific to begin with and has now been thoroughly debunked.

  10. Of all the ways in which the “unconscious bias” of senior faculty could be addressed, Birmingham has chosen the one which is most demeaning. Professor Rowe actually says that he hopes to make senior staff “quite uncomfortable”. But why?

    1. “Uncomfortable” is a liberal buzzword, I’ve noticed. It’s virtue-signaling stuff, I think, proclaiming how you were made ‘so uncomfortable’ or ‘opened your mind’ to this or that concept (this only applies to liberally sanctioned fashions, of course – one would never suddenly become ‘painfully aware’ of a conservative concept.) But that they explicitly state this as the end goal is extra obnoxious, lol.

      Adding another two cents here: I have no issue with more engineered inclusion, programs that simply bring people together. But the problem with a mentor / mentee relationship is that it assumes the mentor is a qualified teacher in some capacity. Many women from non-white majority cultures do grow up with more patriarchy, and are sometimes *more accepting of it than liberal white Westerners. Many women simply have more subtle communication styles that do not ‘get them noticed’ in the way that people (often men) who are more ‘boastful’ and talk themselves up do – if a mentee becomes more attuned to that style, great, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the ideal style for the woman in the long run.

      To say anyone is automatically qualified for a position based on skin color is the mirror image problem of saying they are automatically *disqualified based on skin color. The whole issue is that these things should *not be based on skin color, they should be based on ability and knowledge. Workplace communication should be worked on by people who have expertise in workplace communication, otherwise there’s nothing to say mentors and mentees won’t just reinforce each other’s unproductive habits.

  11. A major disadvantage of the WOKE movement is that it is, by definition, lacking solutions only mitigations and possibly creating ‘resentment’ as Jerry says.

    It’s almost religious. We are all born biased and no matter how much understanding of the minority on my left or right, I can never fully understand their plight. I am doomed to be eternally prejudice.

    It appears there aren’t any good (white) guys in the woke movement, they are all sinners. This is just not true.

    1. It’s not like there are proven solutions that everybody can use. Doing nothing about bias is not acceptable (I would bet $100 there have been complaints about tenured male faculty there)

      This seems to be an experiment, and I would be interested to hear how it went after a year or two. I can see how an old-timer with a 90% white male contingent of graduate assistants might benefit from having someone else in the room while considering applications. If I were in the mentor’s position, I would encourage the other person to think out loud and note the times when/if some bias was evident to me but not to the mentee. Nobody would have time to spy on this person 24/7. It would have to be limited in some way to meaningful discussions.

      1. At my university, applications are processed not by a single person but by a group of three, and applicants who think they have been treated unfairly can appeal.
        It seems to work better than assigning a bully to almost every one of the people forming the university’s backbone.

  12. It’s worth pointing out that this is a study, a trial. Presumably participation would be voluntary (it usually is in studies), and the aim is to see what happens.

  13. Perhaps you should consider that your own biases have prevented you from having a more accurate picture of the world. For example, there has been much criticism of the “implicit-bias test”, with critics finding it doesn’t give consistent results and isn’t predictive. For another, in the famous blind audition study of orchestras, women went from about 5% to 25% over time, and the study concluded that only about 30% of that change was due to the introduction of blind auditions. That’s much smaller than your 1% to 50%. Moreover, the same study found that blinding helped women in some rounds of the audition but hurt them in others.

    There are also studies that find women have an advantage over men in hiring for STEM faculty. A study of police shootings in Houston found that white men were actually at slightly higher risk of being shot than blacks. There are states where more whites than blacks are pulled over as a percentage of the driving age population. I could go on.

    The point here isn’t that there aren’t possible biases at play in the world, but that it is complicated and non-uniform. Assuming that we need ‘woke’ minority watchmen to educate white men is itself a prejudice; many of those would-be monitors might do well to learn from the perspective of those they wish to lecture.

    You didn’t even manage to answer your own question of why a poor white person should be called privileged. You just asserted that white people are still white and black people black, which isn’t in dispute. The circumstances that shape an individual life though, and whether unfair biases have played a role in it, can’t be reduced to crude racial groupings.

    1. Ugh, this was supposed to be in reply to ladyatheist at #12. Somehow it got moved here when I inadvertently left the name blank.

    2. Many studies have shown discrimination still exists. For example, when candidates with equal qualifications have a picture or name that denotes race on their resume, the white person’s application rises to the top.

      How about this one? When I was in grad school, a male professor openly told our faculty & grad students that women are not cut out to be professors? Did you have a woman tell you a man can’t do the job you’re going into debt to learn?

      1. I agree, I can also find many studies that seem to indicate discrimination. You can’t cherry-pick some and ignore the others. Like I said, it’s complicated. In fact, the studies you are probably referring to used identical resumes with names that were assumed to be racially coded in the sense that white people are almost never named Jamal. However, a similar study using the names that are actually most common among blacks and whites found no evidence of discrimination.

        About your specific experiences, I can hardly comment, especially from a brief description. My view is that neither of us should hastily extrapolate from our personal experiences to general statements, or vice versa.

        1. I know the one “many studies” ladyatheist refers to, and its methodology such crap it barely qualifies as a ‘study’. Better designed & conducted studies have actually found the opposite — a decided preference for women candidates, for example.

          1. Yours first.

            I find it interesting that, whereas I have exposed myself to a wide range of material on the question, you, for whom this is a subject that seems to evoke a great deal of interest and passion, are unfamiliar with the research that contradicts your assumptions, much less equipped with a ready rebuttal to them.

  14. Herds of administrators continue to expand. Unfortunately, they have to come up with projects to fill up their resumes. These usually involve waste-of-time activities foisted on faculty that have nothing to do with research or teaching. Reverse mentoring, that’s a great new idea for improving the university!

        1. I don’t know. Can you know by looking at someone’s face whether that person is Scandinavian, Arab, Latino, Jewish, German, mixed raced, South Asian or Italian?

      1. Agreed. What are the qualifications for membership in addition to being “male, pale and stale” and who determines them? What are the qualifications to become a “reverse mentor” in addition to being “a junior female colleague from an ethnic minority?” Who selects individuals in each group and assigns them to each other? How is success or failure of the mentor-mentee pairing evaluated and documented? What repercussions are there, if any? Will there be different outcomes depending on yet unsuspected, unknown factors on both sides? We’ve already been told that all the mentors will be female. Will they be selected from a diverse range or minorities, or all selected from the same skin color grouping? How black is black enough? Ditto for yellow, brown, etc.

        Assuming such a program goes forward, I would hope that learning would take place on both sides. I’ll bet there’s much that neither member of a pair knows about life on the other side. One would hope that learning would be two-way.

        In the meantime, I keep hoping there is, or will be, a way more of us will not continue to view the world in extremes of “black” and “white” (in any category) without mixtures or nuances, which we know there is.

        1. If only the article held these details and a lot more! I hope they write up a scholarly article detailing the methods and results.

          I didn’t read this as the junior faculty member having authority over the other person. There’s nothing about tattling or controlling in any way. Why are people taking it that way? Psychological projection?

          1. Do you know of any government funded programs that do not include some form of reporting for evaluation of the success or failure of the program? I am making no claims about “tattling or controlling”. Don’t you imagine
            there’d be some mechanism for evaluating the success or failure of such a new, previously untried program?

          2. Exactly. A well known example from history: in order to safe-guard the Old Christian population and make sure that converso “New Christians” were true to their new faith, the Holy Office of the Inquisition was established in Spain in 1481.

        2. My post is a response to FB.

          I value the input of ladyatheist and agree to an extent that “Nothing reverses bias more than interpersonal contact!” I’m not sure that any of these “contacts” should be formulated by outside agencies. I can assure you that unintentional “oil and water” pairings won’t help; may harm.

          As to opportunity. I went to high school in the Bay Area of California and could have taken drafting, higher maths and physics if I’d had the interest and ability. There weren’t many blacks in our school, but lots of hispanic and asian students. They were well represented in the accelerated classes I was in and often excelled (certainly more than I did.)

  15. The Univ. of Birmingham itself announces the program at: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2018/08/equality-diversion-inclusion-engineering-science.aspx . Its most important element, headlined, is: “The University of Birmingham has been awarded a slice of £5.5 million funding for a project to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in engineering and physical sciences.” [My italics.] I think it is wonderful that David Lodge’s University of Rummidge is pioneering in this effort. He couldn’t have invented anything better himself in his novels.

    As for what these reverse mentors will DO, I think we can assume that they will report on their mentees’ progress to their Offices of Diversity and Inclusion. Those senior white professors who display insufficient progress will surely be noted down somewhere.

    1. “As for what these reverse mentors will DO, I think we can assume ”

      No, I don’t think we can assume anything.

      1. We can assume that those allocating so much money to make sure that people of the wrong sex, age and skin color are harassed, will be bothered to check that the money is not wasted.

    1. I presume you reference that fact that the Math Dept. staff is 80% male (though the white male component is only 67%), which you attribute to sex-based discrimination.

      Following your logic, there must therefore also be sex-based discrimination — against men — in the Departments of:

      – Education and Social Justice, 62% female

      – Teacher Education, 64% female

      – Art History, Curating and Visual Studies, 64% female

      – Disability Inclusion and Special Needs, 70% female

      – Nursing, 70% female.

  16. This strikes me as the sort of bullshit that sounded like a good idea to an administrator who doesn’t know his arse from his elbow.

    It is a big corporate display of “woke-ness” with about as much going for it as a Pepsi commercial.

    Those profs who take this seriously will get nothing out of it except making some poor woman’s life that little bit more awkward, and those who don’t will just quietly ignore the whole thing, or take the excuse to troll the students set up to “mentor” them.

    I predict the net result either way will be fewer women in STEM, because being a reverse mentor will turn out to be basically an additional hassle on top of what is already quite a lot of coursework.

    1. Students won’t be mentors. Where did you get that?

      The article is quite bare bones in its description, so any predictions here are pretty much worthless.

      I doubt that there would be fewer women in STEM there because the very fact that they are making an effort will encourage applications for assistantships & teaching jobs. I know I’d be more inclined to view them favorably.

      1. (Yes, that’s a worthless prediction, but it’s based on how I personally view efforts to attract and retain people like me. I’m one data point more than the article represents)

  17. Re: Younger white faculty

    The ultimate power would be tenure, so that would naturally cause more older people to be included.

    Looking at the lists of faculty in their departments, there seem to be some departments with very few women compared to men. It’s worth studying – do women fail to get mentoring compare to untenured male faculty, and then not get tenure and fly off to greener pastures? Or do they do all the right things and yet get denied tenure?

    It seems inconceivable that these mentors would be in tenure meetings, but they could point out when women are referred to adversely and perhaps make their male counterpart aware of unfairness so they can rectify it and not damage people’s careers. (Yes, I do know a woman who was denied tenure yet thought she did everything right, then was told by a male faculty member where she was lacking — after investing years of work, this was the first she’d heard of these things, when it was too late!)

  18. This is the usual power play. The point is not to “advise”. It is to have you acknowledge their right to “advise” you, invigilate you, re-educate you. As some commenters here are happy to do.

  19. I wish they wouldn’t use the word ‘mentoring’ here, as I think it drags that concept through the mud. Legitimate mentoring programs have identifiable and stated reasons for someone to qualify as an at-risk ‘mentee’, and objective outcomes that the ‘mentor’ is supposed to work on. To simply say “Well, anyone in Group X certainly needs to be exposed to the general awesomeness of people in Group Y!” is a horrible concept for mentoring in any capacity, and just because this one is PC shouldn’t make it an exception.

    The only objective outcome they’ve identified here, that I see, is that people will feel ‘quite uncomfortable’. So how the heck does that work? Do mentors write a weekly case notes documenting the ways in which they made their mentee feel uncomfortable? Or is there just an assumption that the *only possible* outcome between a minority female interacting with an older white male is that the older white male will become super uncomfortable with all his alleged biases? I am a female and possibly a minority (not clear on that)… if you put me in a program like this, there is a 90% chance that I would end up picking up the other person’s dry cleaning and agonizing over the fact that they don’t apply sunscreen properly or eat enough leafy greens. Specifically *because I was raised in a more old fashioned, not-traditionally-liberal culture, I would be the last person you’d want contributing to ‘wokeness’. Stereotyping much? Geez.

    1. I think referring only to your own imagination to determine whether the methodology is valid is probably not a good way to determine whether an unstated methodology is valid.

      1. For someone who seems very invested in championing women, you seem pretty dismissive of my actual point of view. ‘Referring to imagination’ is something we do all the time to assess situations. When you decide to go on a trip, and picture yourself camping vs. visiting relatives vs. riding horses and so on, you assess which options are good, bad, and absurd via the human ability to simulate a future scenario. So let’s not pretend like this is some wild fantasy based way of thinking that never gets used in decision making. It is almost impossible to make a decision *without picturing the future.

        As I said upthread, I have no problem with engineered inclusion. But using the title mentor / mentee is problematic. It basically means that either: 1) Being a minority woman means that you simply set the bar for how people should act ‘just because’ or 2) This isn’t about the actual organic views of minority women, it’s about training people to enforce a given set of norms regardless of skin color.

        The first is problematic for the reasons I referred to in my post – it assumes that simply being in a minority, and female, means one’s point of view is sort of inherently enlightened. I was raised with what I consider very benign and affection (vs. fear) based patriarchy as a part of my life. Certainly my family wanted me to be equal in every way in terms of schooling and opportunities, but the Church I grew up in very explicitly believes in Patriarchs (nothing subtle or unconscious about it, that’s literally their title,) and I love my childhood church and have a great deal of affection for it. Churches I attended later explicitly said that a woman is to serve her husband. I have picked up on that attitude in, again, a ‘nice’ (vs. authoritarian) version, wherein some small part of me now cannot help but see men as cute but fairly helpless little things who would probably wander off a cliff and starve to death within minutes if women weren’t nearby to make sure they get enough rest and eat properly. A long way of saying – I doubt I’m the mentor you’re looking for.

        So how do you screen that out? Obviously, pretty much the only way is to have a normed set of ‘acceptable’ ways to interact and instruct. Which then makes the whole thing rather beside the point, as it’s not about minority women’s *actual experience at all, it’s about training them and sending them out to do a job that has nothing to do with gender or minority status. In which case, just say it’s cultural sensitivity training but only female minority teachers will be allowed.

        Regarding a question you asked upthread about what other ways there are to counter unconscious biases – I think real world experiences (inclusion, basically,) are the only way that really works. It doesn’t always even have to be in person – human brains are wired so that tv shows, internet videos, articles, fiction novels, and so on, with positive depictions of people work pretty well too. But think of it this way – if a person has social anxiety, how much good would it do them to follow them around going “Aha! Look at that! You’re anxious now! I certainly hope you feel uncomfortable when confronted with your biases that humans of every race, creed, ethnic background and sexual orientation are all judging you and hate you! How wrong of you to make assumptions!”. Would you expect them to be much improved, or a neurotic mess after a few weeks of that? What *does seem like it would be helpful in those cases?

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