Chronicle of Higher Ed decries the diversity-driven corporatization of America, suggests some solutions

May 9, 2021 • 11:15 am

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Amna Khalid has some information about the “diversity and inclusion racket,” and also some solutions that may help achieve real equality beyond the ubiquitous “diversity training” known to be ineffectual.

Chronicle is a much better venue than, say, Inside Higher Education, and it’s worth paying attention to their pieces. The author of this one is Amna Khalid, Associate Professor of History at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

Khalid descries the expensive expansion of deans and administratiors involved with diversity and inclusion, which have burgeoned at the expense of other administrators and faculty. It’s not that they aren’t addressing a problem, but are doing so in an expensive and largely useless way, and eating up huge amounts of cash that could go to genuinely advance equal opportunity and affirmative action. Seriously, is “yoga for women of color” a way to achieve equality?

Have a look at the dosh involved here:

. . . . the University of Virginia scholars Rose Cole and Walter Heinecke applaud recent student activism as a “site of resistance to the neoliberalization of higher education” that offers a “blueprint for a new social imaginary in higher education.”

But this assessment gets things backward. By insisting on bureaucratic solutions to execute their vision, replete with bullet-pointed action items and measurable outcomes, student activists are only strengthening the neoliberal “all-administrative university” — a model of higher education that privileges market relationships, treats students as consumers and faculty as service providers, all under the umbrella of an ever-expanding regime of bureaucratization. Fulfilling student DEI demands will weaken academe, including, ironically, undermining more meaningful diversity efforts.

We’ll get to the “more meaningful diversity efforts” in a second, but Klahid has other fish to fry, including the largely performative acts undertaken by colleges to satisfy what they perceive as the public demand for a response to perceived “structural racism”:

The rampant growth of the administration over the years at the expense of faculty has been well documented. From 1987 to 2012 the number of administrators doubled relative to academic faculty. A 2014 Delta Cost Project report noted that between 1990 and 2012, the number of faculty and staff per administrator declined by roughly 40 percent. This administrative bloat has helped usher in a more corporate mind-set throughout academe, including the increased willingness to exploit low-paid and vulnerable adjuncts for teaching, and the eagerness to slash budgets and eliminate academic departments not considered marketable enough.

College leaders, for their part, have been more than happy to comply with the recent demands for trainings and DEI personnel. Nothing is more convenient from an institutional perspective than hiring more administrators and consultants. It simultaneously assuages angry students and checks the box of doing the work of improving campus inclusivity, without having to contend with the sticking points of university policies and procedures where real change could be achieved: tenure-review processes, limited protections for contingent faculty, and student admission and aid policies that produce inequities.

Instead of tackling those challenges, institutions can rally behind quixotic rhetorical goals such as eradicating systemic and structural racism on campuses. They can, as Portland State University has done, pledge to apply “an antiracist lens to every signal we send, every model we create, and every policy we enact.” Or, like the University of Louisville has done, they can announce their aspiration of becoming “a premier anti-racist metropolitan university.”

We all know the money that is going to these efforts is often useless; as Khalid notes,

“The vast majority of college administrations have simply genuflected to student demands for trainings. The most galling aspect of institutional responses, one that is conspicuously neoliberal and anti-educational, is the embrace of the-customer-is-always-right attitude. Evidence and research suggest that diversity-related trainings are not effective. According to the sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, diversity training has“failed spectacularly” when it comes to reducing bias. To the contrary, these trainings can reinforce stereotypes and heighten bias. Yet colleges and universities across the country have chosen to disregard the evidence and instead pander to the “customer.”

The fact that colleges are indeed responding to public pressure rather than fulfilling their mission to educate is nowhere more evident than in the investment in diversity training, which actually furthers divisiveness, afflicts “majority” students with deep guilty and “minority” students with a sense of being permanent victims. If diversity training doesn’t work, do not use it. 

Oh and there’s also the money to be made by administrators and the doyens of anti-racism, for example Kendi and DiAngelo:

Hiring executive DEI officers is the primary way in which many colleges have signaled their commitment to antiracism and diversity. More than two-thirds of major universities across the country had a chief diversity officer in 2016. Even in lean times, institutions of higher learning appear to have continued appointing executive diversity officers. Consider the University of California system, where in 2010 faculty and staff had to take up to three and a half weeks of unpaid leave due to a $637-million cut in state funding. Later the same year the San Francisco campus appointed its first vice chancellor of diversity and outreach with a starting salary of $270,000. In 2012, faced with the threat of a $250-million cut in state funding, the San Diego campus nonetheless hired its first vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion, with a starting salary of $250,000.

The other chief beneficiaries are diversity trainers and consulting firms. Diversity training is a billion-dollar industry. A one-day training session for around 50 people can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $6,000. Speaking fees for Ibram X. Kendi, the antiracist scholar at Boston University, are $20,000, and Robin DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility, charges $50,000 to $75,000. Some colleges, I’ve been told, are forking out north of $140,000 for multi-session antiracism and diversity training for faculty and staff.

Imagine charging $50,000 to $75,000 for a lecture that you can skip by paying $8.16 for her book!

So what does Khalid recommend in the place of this cash-bloated waste of time? Here are her solutions:

But instead of asking for bureaucratic solutions such as trainings, students would be better served if they insisted that colleges redirect resources towards things such as increasing financial aid, providing better academic support systems for underrepresented students, and instituting educational initiatives.

A good example is the University of Pittsburgh’s multidisciplinary course “Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology, and Resistance” introduced in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and which all first-year students are required to take. Drawing on the expertise of Pitt faculty from the humanities, social sciences, public health, sciences, and the arts, as well as Pittsburgh-area activists, the course focuses on the Black experience and Black cultural expression, and it considers the interplay of race with ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, and nationality.

Other efforts, like tailored coursework, seminar seriesdiscussion panels, student speak-outs, collegewide teach-ins, exhibitions, performances, and common readings allow institutions to harness the knowledge and expertise that their faculty, students, and staff already have on issues of race and inequality.

Alas, such thoughtful responses have been few and far between. The vast majority of college administrations have simply genuflected to student demands for trainings.

First and third paragraphs: I approve completely with her solutions, along with more efforts aimed at affirmative action. Since so many students are roughly equally qualified for admission to universities, especially elite ones, why not choose those who have, by virtue of past racism, deserve a form of educational reparations? But discussion must be free, open, and not guided to achieve certain ends. That isn’t education, but social engineering.

As for the “educational initiatives” like Pitt’s required course in “Anti-Black Racism”, this sounds more to me like propaganda than a real learning experience. It is an attempt to imbue students with a particular ideological attitude, as you can see on the course’s webpage. To wit: it is a precis of Critical Race Theory, and just as likely to be as divisive and ineffective as is diversity training. The objectives:

Objectives

After meaningfully engaging with the content in this course, students should be able to:

  1. Describe and explain key ideas and concepts concerning the social construction of race and ethnicity
  2. Identify historical and current structures of power, privilege, and inequality that are rooted in Anti-Black racism
  3. Explain how anti-Black racism acts individually, interpersonally, institutionally, and structurally
  4. Identify and describe the contribution of scholars and experts on anti-Black racism at Pitt and in the larger community
  5. Articulate and critically examine personal beliefs and opinions about race, antiracism and antiblackness and describe the weight these beliefs and opinions carry.
  6. Explain how institutions and policies contribute to and enable Anti-Black racism
  7. Identify some of the many existing organizations that provide anti-racism programming and opportunities

Does anybody think that these “goals” will be achieved by free and open discussion among the students? No, this is indoctrination pure and simple, and is required of all first-year students. (I, for one, would object to the idea that “ethnicity” is purely a social construction.) The first thing they learn, then, is not to think for themselves, but what  to think, and how to keep your mouth shut if your opinion isn’t an approved one. I’m curious why Khalid things this is palpably superior to diversity training.

Still, there are useful solutions to the problem of inequality, and Khalid limns some. And, if nothing else, she highlights how corrupted American colleges and universities have become by what they see as societal demands.

In the end, I fear there is no going back here. Even my own University is gradually becoming imbued with social justice philosophy to the extent that dissent from received opinion is chilled: something absolutely new to our unique University tradition, in which all discussion is welcomed, even if not agreed on.

In my worst nightmares, I fear that colleges are no longer places to explore ideas, discuss them no matter now contentious or unpopular, and learn how to think and argue. They are instead becoming instruments: instruments of social engineering by administrators who want to turn out students like themselves, with a liberal bent. Not that there’s anything wrong with liberalism—I adhere to it—but you must arrive at it by cogitation, not indoctrination.

 

33 thoughts on “Chronicle of Higher Ed decries the diversity-driven corporatization of America, suggests some solutions

  1. Imagine charging $50,000 to $75,000 for a lecture that you can skip by paying $8.16 for her book!

    The more it costs the more it signals how much you care. (I’ll rephrase that, “… the more it signals how much you want to be perceived as caring.)

    They are instead becoming instruments: instruments of social engineering by administrators who want to turn out students like themselves, with a liberal bent.

    Except that there’s nothing liberal about them.

    1. Indeed, it can’t be said often enough that “Critical Social Justice” is highly uncritical of itself, has nothing to do with social justice, and is deeply illiberal.

    2. The more it costs the more it signals how much you care. (I’ll rephrase that, “… the more it signals how much you want to be perceived as caring.)

      There’s a Churchill/Lady Astor skit for that. It’s the one that ends up with “Now we’re just haggling about the price!”

  2. The good old days. When I completed my undergraduate studies in the UK, back in 1975, over 90 % of my courses were chemistry in some form or another. The remainder was maths and physics. Somehow I managed to become a useful member of society without all these extra-curricular courses.

    1. In part that’s a feature of the American university system, where, unlike in the UK, students don’t make a firm selection of subject choices until after a first year of much broader study than new British undergraduates follow. That’s probably no bad thing, as we British specialise much too young, with kids in Year 9 (aged just 13 to 14!) deciding which subjects to drop before they start their GCSEs in Year 10. By Year 11, they are choosing a maximum of four subjects to study at A level, further restricting their future educational horizons.

      1. s/British/English/
        The Scottish university system generally (i.e. – all the Scottish universities where I’ve discussed the matter with students, post-grads, or staff) also has a broadly-based first year or two, with increasingly focussed studied into the final years. My CV was 1st yr Chemistry/ Geology/ Statistics/ Computing ; 2nd yr Geology*2, Soil Science, Computing ; 3rd year and 4th year Geology*4. To graduate in the science faculty, one needed Maths, Physics or Chemistry in first year (waived for students with an A-level in one of these, doing direct entry to 2nd year) ; to graduate from the Geology & Mineralogy Department, one needed to have completed the geology set of courses (with a choice of specialisms in 4th year) ; the rest of the curriculum (equivalent to about 1.5 academic years) was pretty much open to your choice – which was why I got the chance to actually do some computing (when this was very rare). The Statistics was an obvious need. And I have been surprised throughout my career about how useful the soil science has been.
        I’ve no idea how the Welsh structure their university courses. I didn’t apply to any in that country.

        1. In England you do 3 A levels in 2 years and a fairly specialised degree in 3 years.

          In Scotland you do 5 Highers for 1 year and then a 4 year degree with a fairly general first 2 years and more specialised last 2 years.

          I worked as an Advisor of Studies at a Scottish university for a couple of years, and it mainly consisted of helping 1st and 2nd years choose a set of courses to give them maximum flexibility for choosing their 3rd/4th year degree subject.

          1. That’s pretty much my memory of interacting with my Advisor of studies too.
            One also had to learn to have any meetings in the morning, that he did his lectures in the 10:00 and 11:00 slots, and any further consultations could be had in the Machar, at the far end after midday.

  3. That course sounds awful, but you could invent a useful course based on existing faculty & knowledge. It could discuss deeply how the Romans thought about slavery, and ethnicity, and adoption / bloodlines. And then do the same thing for say 10th century Arabia, did common religion wash away ethnic gaps between Persians & Arabs, and how did they think about their slaves, and their harems? We have lots of written sources they could read & be examined on. Perhaps we know enough about some pre-Colombian American societies to do the same, too.

    Any student bright enough to have any business being at university would be unable to avoid reflecting on 21st century concerns, without you ever having to mention any of them.

    1. I like your suggestion. Without a long historical perspective, one cannot understand the issue. Slavery and racism have been part of every culture probably going back to the first permanent settlements 12,000 years ago. You can’t cure a disease without first understanding its cause.

      1. Absolutely, I’m sure historians could come up with a very interesting, informative and useful course along these lines. Unfortunately the proposed course is completely US-centric.

        1. And all this guff goes NOWHERE to teaching American kids that other countries, cultures, and history exist and existed ….. nor how to find even the USA on a world map.
          D.A.
          NYC

      2. Agree 100 %. Historical and non-Western perspectives are sorely lacking in postcolonialism/critical race theory and the like. Everything is about Western European seafaring powers and their ruling classes in the 500 years before present, and that leaves students with a very lopsided view of world history that is actually close to white supremacism, with post-Renaissance Western “Whites” as demigods lording it over the rest of humanity.

    2. That sounds like a big improvement on the course syllabus outlined in the post. And plenty scope for genuine education and critical thinking.

    3. but you could invent a useful course based on existing faculty & knowledge.

      But doing that would be to deny the revolutionary nature of the realisations of this new topic of study, which history will soon recognise as being a greater revolution than the piffling Copernican revolution.
      I’ll just finish stacking the faggots for your immolation. Douse yourself with this oil while I finish, wouldn’t you, there’s a good chap. Or chapess.

      Any student bright enough to have any business being at university

      … would know better than to go tilting at current gods, unseating panjandra, or even raising their heads above the parapet.

  4. My university is in the process of creating a new senior administrative position: vice president for diversity and inclusion. Once created, there will be a nation-wide search and interviews. The new vice president will almost certainly be a woman of color. She will have a salary somewhere north of $200k per year plus benefits including housing and transportation. The person hired will almost certainly bring a spouse who will require a faculty or administrative appointment. The new vice president will require new offices and will hire new staff (not just repurposed staff already working at the university). The vice president and her staff will have a budget for travel expenses and for hiring consultants. The total cost will be millions of dollars initially and at least a million dollars per year in continuing costs.

    This spending won’t make any material difference in the lives of our Black and indigenous students. But it will provide a really great job for one middle-class Black woman, someone who is already so economically privileged that she can afford to present herself as a viable candidate for a vice presidency at a large research-intensive university.

    The most sobering thought for me was the realization that this useless performative waste of money will go on in perpetuity. The university will now always have a vice president for diversity and inclusion, because there will never come a time when the university will be perceived to have achieved inclusion and diversity.

    1. The most sobering thought for me was the realization that this useless performative waste of money will go on in perpetuity.

      So the incumbent wouldn’t have an obligation to bring in research funds to enhance her (presumably ; your analysis seems reasonable to me) department’s position in it’s field. Because future support of a subject depends on present success in acquiring grant income, no?

      1. No, this is a purely administrative position. She will be a vice president, two steps up from a department chair in the food chain. No research, no student trainees, just policy development and advocacy.

        It is actually much easier to create this kind of expensive administrative unit within a university than it would be to, say, create a department of social justice studies. For that, one would have to create a new undergraduate degree and curriculum, which would require approval from the regulatory agency and the accreditation board that oversee public university programs. Vice presidents are easier to make, as they can be manufactured out of money.

  5. A commenter on another website sums it all up well: “Grievance is an industry. There is a living to be made, notoriety to be gained, and political power to be seized by wearing the mantle of victimhood.” The church of the holy trinity of D, E, and I, and its associated grievance business, both dovetail neatly with a trend in youth culture which emerged in the last decade or so: the fetish of victimhood. Examples include the fetishization of gender dysphoria, the obsession with chosen personal pronouns, and the construction of snappy acronyms for groups of victims. This trend (although by no means a majority sensibility) seems to welcome academia’s bureaucratic and gestural D, E, I exercises.

    A few analysts, notably Lukianoff and Haidt in “the Coddling of the American Mind”, attempt to trace the origins of the victimhood fetish to fashions in parenting and in education. But a vein of narcissism in US culture was pointed out much earlier. The “woke” version, which seemed to explode in the 2010s, built on earlier sorts of narcissism in ways that remain a mystery. What changes made this happen? The financial crisis of 2008-2010? Social media? Mobile phones? Milder winters? Hover boards? The legalization of pot? Something in the water?

    1. What caused it?)
      1. social media. People want to show they’re on the right side of history.
      2. pioneer social media which happened to be steeped in postmodern, “lit crit” fandoms.
      3. collapse of traditional media, then hiring the lit crit social media pioneers.
      4. simultaneous rise of the critical race theory framework in these waters
      5. ongoing, increased right wing polarisation and extreme move of the “GOP” towards white supremacist theofascism, leading to a reaction among young liberals
      6. divisiveness inherent in the above as profitable model, with social media, also on the Democrat side, i.e. Fox News but for liberals with the same outrage mongering clickbait that made Fox so sucessful on the right in the decade before.

      1. Oh, and plus the stuff mentioned above in Jerry’s text. Doing largely symbolic stuff is a lucrative and neoliberal way to prevent social democratic change. This is a way to look progressive, without doing anything of substance.

    2. What you describe is one side of the equation. The other side is Trumpism, which, among other things, is a cult of grievance and victimhood. In a deeply divided society where everybody doesn’t feel they are getting a fair shake, such a phenomenon should not be unexpected. The remaining question is whether we have reached a tipping point where reconciliation is impossible. If so, societal breakdown is inevitable.

  6. Affirmative action (at least as presently utilized) is Social Engineering,no matter how you justify it.
    Granted that some white college applicants have abused this, it is deplorable that anyone who opposes it for whatever reason is automatically considered a right wing neo con racist. This is the same as those who called Bret Weinstein a racist because he believes in a color blind society. If I were in charge of judging applicants, I would cover up their name, address, high school and other personal information and judge the application on its merits. And those who want to dilute or end all entrance exams are simply trying to force colleges into adopting social justice criteria rather than academic or other accomplishments. If and when colleges abandon meritocracy, we will be doing serious damage to minorities and in particular high school education, whose inadequacies in educating students will then be justified and fixed in stone. This is not how black students get educated. it locks them in to
    inferior education and to a system that no longer prizes individual merit if it is disconnected from race.

    1. In most academic circles, affirmative action has a status comparable to that of the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and Transubstantiation in medieval Europe. As a result, anything that promotes affirmative action, however surreptitiously, is sanctified, That is how we get admissions office gimmicks like Harvard’s transparent “holistic” personality judgements, used to curtail the admission of disfavored groups and enhance the admission of favored ones. Even if one supports the principle of affirmative action (as I do, to a limited degree), the use of such trickery to generate racial quotas while pretending not to undermines the academy’s claims to honesty and logical consistency. Perhaps postmodernism teaches that these qualities are just a disguise for “systems of oppression”, can be abandoned for a good cause, and should finally be thrown out of academic life altogether.

  7. I don’t know if any of you have seen them, but the CIA has created super woke recruitment ads. Can you imagine woke twitterati running the CIA? They’ll start cancelling agents because they failed to put their pronouns in their reports.

  8. “It’s not that they aren’t addressing a problem,”
    Of course I am not in the position to judge this that others here are, as they work in a university environment.
    But I really don’t think we have a problem at the university level. We have big problems at the elementary and preschool level.
    Those kids who have a love of books and learning, and have practiced good study habits since early childhood are always going to be ahead of the kids who have barely participated in their own education. Regardless of race.
    I also think the pivot to “equity” is a sign that people may be giving up on equality of opportunity as a means of progress.
    But most of these diversity and inclusion efforts seem to me likely to worsen the situations they purport to improve. At best, they waste everyone’s time and money.

  9. The greatest danger of the Woke movement is the possibility of a very ferocious countermovement from not just the right, but a pissed-off suburban-based middle class that was the key to Biden’s victory in November, but which for a very long time now has been up for grabs. Those families are probably in many cases horrified at the indoctrination their children are being subject to—guilted-out because of their putative ‘white ethnicity’ and their family’s success—a success built in many (most?) cases by generations of hard work and parental sacrifice, often going back to a poor immigrant first generation in this country. Trump’s unspeakable behavior alienated those people, for which we can all be thankful. But imagine a much smoother nativist ideologue, careful not to talk or behave the way Trump did, who can make the Dem’s apparent high level of comfort with the SJW mob’s political hysteria a pivotal issue in upcoming elections.

    Remember what Carville said in that interview that our host referenced last week? In the end, the outcome was decided by 45,000 votes in total. A few upper middle class neighborhoods lost in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin, and we could have easily gone down the tube last autumn. And that could well be our fate in 2022 and 2024, if this keeps up…

    1. As a hard centrist, it is difficult for me to express a preference about whether I would prefer radicals from the left or right to load my family into boxcars for the camps.
      Yes, that is sort of hyperbolic. Ok, very much so.
      But there is no good reason to be so committed to either of our main political parties that one would stick with them even after realizing that they have become the ones with skulls on their caps.
      And back to hyperbole. sorry.
      But it is literally true that in my childhood, the Democrats were largely the party of segregation. By the time I was a teenager, they were the party of integration and free speech. There is no reason to believe that these sorts of things will ever be static.
      Another thing that seems to be true about the modern hard left is that they have trouble practicing moderation. They don’t seem to have any sort of mechanism in place to prevent their most radical elements from pushing their agenda towards some odd form of Stalinism. Except for possibly the ones you mentioned, all the hard working normal people who are understandably alarmed at school indoctrination as well as the increasingly common phenomena of angry and violent people marching openly in our streets under the red banner of Marxism/Leninism.
      Those same people are probably our best protection from extremism from the right or any other direction. Many of them fled here from places where one side or the other was able to consolidate enough power that fleeing was the only sensible choice. The reason that there are so many South Vietnamese flags at republican events is not that they worship Trump or adhere to rigid Christian values. It is because they have seen this before, and it ended badly for them, and far worse for their relatives that did not get out.
      Similarly, the people they were fleeing from likely started out as normal folks with the same sorts of aspirations as anyone else, and would have been rightfully horrified to learn that their future included them forcing some of their neighbors, having been classified as “landlords”, to dig their own graves before executing them. There was really no opportunity at that place and time for all the normies to become disenchanted with the way things were going and vote the bums out.

      I did not mean for this to become a diatribe, but this is sort of my area. Or was. I spent a lot of time interviewing people who absolutely never thought that they would become a perpetrator or victim of such horrors, or even that it could happen there, until it did. That meme cartoon with the dog and the fire and everything being fine represents pretty accurately the attitude of a vast number of people through history. Possibly even most of us.

  10. Thank you, PCC (E) for bringing these outrages to light. You do the hard and at times repulsive work in bringing these outrages to our attention. And they are outrages.

    I’m a life long leftie, a Hillary campaign worker/volunteer /donor but the whole woke thing and the D.I.E. at our universities (which thankfully I’m not a part of anymore) is a terrible turn of events.
    “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right….” —- and so few stuck in the middle, with me, it often seems. Glad to know I have company.

    D.A., J.D.
    NYC
    (avec chien- hehehe. Not to be *catty* though!) https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2020/06/10/photos-of-readers-93/ – And indeed his IS a “good boy!”. 🙂

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