Cal State Fullerton job: almost a parody of DEI requirements

September 18, 2023 • 11:30 am

Whenever someone asks, “Is wokeness growing or abating?”, I always say “growing.” True, more people are speaking up against “wokeness” (which I loosely define as performative “Social Justice” that accomplishes virtually nothing), but yet it’s still spreading quickly through American institutions.  In fact, it’s spread so widely that it almost seems like a parody of itself, so much so that it’s often hard to tell wokeness from satires on wokeness.

Here’s one example: a job advertised in the Chronicle of Higher Education for an “assistant professor of literacy” at California State University at Fullerton (CSUF). The relevant department is “The Department of Literacy and Reading Education.”

Click below to read the ad (and weep):

The entire ad involves the University patting itself on the back for being diverse and promoting diversity, and the diversity requirements (including a detailed statement that’s probably illegal) far outstrip all other professional qualifications.

Excerpts from the ad (emphases are mine)

The Department of Literacy and Reading Education at California State University, Fullerton, invites applications for a tenure‐track assistant professor position in foundations of literacy (PK-12), as well as literacy leadership, with appointment to begin Fall 2024.

California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) is a minority-serving institution and an affirmative action and equal opportunity employer. CSUF is firmly committed to increasing the diversity of the campus community and the curriculum, and to fostering the Guiding Principles of Social Justice as well as an inclusive environment within which students, staff, administrators and faculty thrive. Candidates who can contribute to this goal through their teaching, research, advising, and other activities are encouraged to identify their strengths and experiences in this area. Individuals advancing the University’s strategic diversity goals and those from groups whose underrepresentation in the American professoriate has been severe and longstanding are particularly encouraged to apply.

CSUF is committed to retaining all faculty and has established affinity groups you can join to support your success.

Yes, CSUF could serve minorities, but is that the same thing as being a “minority-serving institution”? Who knows? But the ad was posted about a week before the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action on the basis of race, and, at any rate, that form of affirmative action has been outlawed in California for a long time.

And what are the “Guiding Principles of Social Justice”? Ten to one this demands adherence to a specific ideology, a form of compelled speech that is also illegal.

“Affinity groups” are sex-specific or, more often, ethnicity-specific groups for say, only Hispanics, only blacks, only Asians, and so on. (It goes without saying that there are no “white affinity groups”.) The invitation for the candidate to join one of these groups presumes that the candidate should be from a minority ethnic group. That requirement is also illegal, but this is a sneaky way to practice affirmative action when hiring.

You can read the ad for yourself, and unless I miss my guess, most readers will find it very like a parody. Just for completeness, here are the requirements for applying. I’ve put everything referring to diversity, including the detailed requirements for a diversity statement, in bold:


  • A complete on‐line application must be received by electronic submission to be considered. To apply, please visit, choose full-time faculty, search for position 529407, and provide the following required materials:
  • cover letter of application in which you respond to the required and preferred qualifications
  • curriculum vitae
  • teaching philosophy statement
  • Unofficial graduate school transcripts
  • statement on commitment to just, equitable and inclusive education (see below)
  • This statement provides the candidate’s unique perspective on their past and present contributions to and future aspirations for promoting diversity, inclusion, and social justice in their professional careers. The purpose of this statement is to help the department identify candidates who have professional experience, intellectual commitments, and/or willingness to engage in activities that could help CSUF contribute to its mission in these areas.Diversity is a defining feature of California’s past, present, and future. Increasing the diversity of our educators to better reflect the population of California is just one aspect of the College of Education’s dedication to just, equitable and inclusive education. Diversity refers to the variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from differences of culture and circumstance. Such differences include race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, language, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, geographic region, and more.All College of Education students leave with a perspective that recognizes, honors, and respects the knowledge and strengths all learners bring from their communities and identities. This perspective is known as Just Equitable and Inclusive Education (JEIE) and is evident in all our programs. College of Education students use this perspective to make community-based assets an integral component of curricular and pedagogical development to enhance academic success. In this way, our students learn to value and draw upon students’ backgrounds not only to support them in developing skills leading to success in the broader society, but also as a mechanism to transform our schools and communities. We believe that all faculty and staff who work for the College must share these same commitments.The diversity statement should focus on your commitment to a Just, Equitable and Inclusive Education. The diversity statement will be assessed based on knowledge, experience, application, and expertise as it relates to JEIE. The strongest statement will have an emphasis on the intersectionality between JEIE and a social identity or marker (social class, race, gender, sexual orientation, language, etc.)This statement can take several different forms and should address at least one of the following
  • Your contributions to advancing principles focused on JEIE.
  • How you incorporate principles of JEIE into your instructional practices, your research and/or service activities.
  • How you have personally experienced JEIE.
  • Your experiences and/or qualifications that enhance your ability to work with diverse students, faculty, parents, and community stakeholders
  • a list of three references with relevant contact information

Of the 533 words in the list of candidate qualifications, 396, or 74%, refer to what they call the required “statement on commitment to just, equitable and inclusive education”.  This is just a fancy and duplicitous way of saying “diversity statement” without using those hot-button words. But then at the end they slip up and say this:

The diversity statement should focus on your commitment to a Just, Equitable and Inclusive Education. The diversity statement will be assessed based on knowledge, experience, application, and expertise as it relates to JEIE.

So it is a diversity statement after all! Note too that one of the job qualifications is this:

Demonstrated experience in anti-racist teaching and in the preparation of professionals who model and advocate for just, equitable, and inclusive education.

Tell me that this is not asking the candidate to conform to a specific form of ideological “antiracism”. (Hint: it’s closer to Kendi than King.)

Similarly, note that they’re clever in how they define diversity:

Diversity refers to the variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from differences of culture and circumstance. Such differences include race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, language, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, geographic region, and more.

So you might think they’re simply looking for viewpoint diversity, which is fine. But I don’t believe them. They are looking for ethnic diversity, pure and simple, but can’t get away with saying it straight out, because it’s illegal. Note that they could simply say “ideological and viewpoint diversity” above without going into detail, but then they couldn’t mention ableism, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and all the things that make CSUF look virtuous.

Finally, I got this ad from Luana Maroja, and after I wrote the above I asked her for her take, which she gave me and allowed me to publish with her permission. Note that there is some overlap, but not too much, between her comments and mine.


Luana’s comments:

Here are my impressions (words in italics are copied directly from the ad):

“CSUF is firmly committed to increasing the diversity of the campus community and the curriculum, and to fostering the Guiding Principles of Social Justice”

What are the guiding principles of Social Justice?  This can mean many things – from “ungrading” courses to allowing people to express their opinions freely.

“Individuals advancing the University’s strategic diversity goals and those from groups whose underrepresentation in the American professoriate has been severe and longstanding are particularly encouraged to apply.”

Here they make clear that they are not really a “equal opportunity employer” as they state earlier.

In the qualifications section they implement more ideological biases, which don’t seem to be crucial to success in this current job (they appear instead to be ideological litmus tests):

“Demonstrated advocacy for, or experience working with intersecting social groups and communities historically underserved and marginalized by educational policies and practices”

“Demonstrated experience in anti-racist teaching and in the preparation of professionals who model and advocate for just, equitable, and inclusive education”

They initially dump the term “diversity statement” and replace it with “statement on commitment to just, equitable and inclusive education (see below)”  I guess this is possibly to distract people who are concerned with “diversity statements”. . . But then they forget to remove diversity statement further down (see below).

Notice that here they do not mention “diversity of political views“, which is one aspect which really enhances diversity which I am sure the college lacks:

“Diversity is a defining feature of California’s past, present, and future. Increasing the diversity of our educators to better reflect the population of California is just one aspect of the College of Education’s dedication to just, equitable and inclusive education. Diversity refers to the variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from differences of culture and circumstance. Such differences include race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, language, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, geographic region, and more.”

Once again the emphasis is on identity politics:

All College of Education students leave with a perspective that recognizes, honors, and respects the knowledge and strengths all learners bring from their communities and identities. This perspective is known as Just Equitable and Inclusive Education (JEIE) and is evident in all our programs.”

Finally, here they forget they should not be using the term “diversity statement” and don’t use the euphemistic term from earlier in the ad:

The diversity statement should focus on your commitment to a Just, Equitable and Inclusive Education. The diversity statement will be assessed based on knowledge, experience, application, and expertise as it relates to JEIE. The strongest statement will have an emphasis on the intersectionality between JEIE and a social identity or marker (social class, race, gender, sexual orientation, language, etc.)”

So, overall this is such an over-the-top litmus test that one does not even need to read the whole ad to know that. It will discourage any non-woke or even white person to  from applying. It also reduces the pool of candidates, which is never a good idea as this might overlook talent.  And talent is really needed given how poorly minorities are doing in CA.

Why we can’t say “pipeline” any longer

July 9, 2023 • 1:15 pm

Here’s a short piece from the Journal of the American Medical Association Open that explains why we can no longer use the word “pipeline” when referring to the progress of human beings from birth until adulthood. The word is often used when discussing ethnic diversity, referring to a pipeline from birth to adulthood and its concomitants: college, jobs, and so on. If the pipeline is meant to include college and one’s achievements there, as well as jobs based on those achievements, the people who leave that career path are said to instantiate a “leaky pipeline.”

Now we are told that we can no longer use the “pipeline” simile, because it’s not inclusive. But on the other hand “American Indian” is a term that’s okay again!

Click to read:

I’m just going to quote from the short piece and make one or two brief remarks.

For many years, the term pipeline has been used metaphorically by researchers and policy makers to refer to the progression of students advancing toward a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree or a career in medicine. Past criticisms of the term pipeline highlight how students, especially those from historically excluded backgrounds, such as American Indian, Black, and Latino/a individuals, “leak” out of the “pipeline” for a variety of personal, social, financial (economic), or cultural reasons. For American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, the term pipeline is especially offensive. More specifically, this term is pejorative for communities where pipeline projects in the US threaten sacred homelands and water supplies. Many people will recall the resistance of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Recently, a new pipeline project impacting racially marginalized residents, including Black and low-income residents, living in the Southwest Crossings neighborhood of Houston, Texas, highlighted the continuing practice of divestment and displacement faced by these communities.

. . . .In place of pipeline, the term pathways has come into favor by many, including the AMA and the Association of American Medical Colleges. Pipeline implies that there is only 1 entry point and 1 exit, and frames career development as a passive process in which individuals are commodified as a resource to be delivered as a final result. Pipeline leaves out the contexts, complexities, and variations of the myriad pathways students may take in education from elementary and secondary school, through higher education, and on to a STEM or health professions field. Pipeline connotes extraction, transport, and removal from community, rather than investment in and nurturing of people and resources in place. Since many historically marginalized or minoritized racial and ethnic groups of students may take nontraditional or divergent career pathways, it remains critically important to use the more inclusive, accurate term of pathways. Use of pathways for this purpose communicates respect for students’ choices, agency, and career exploration.

Note first that the term “American Indian” is used. More on that in a second. What I am wondering here are two things. First, has anybody besides these three privileged authors ever objected to the use of the term “pipeline”—which is reserved for intellectual discussion of academic and social achievement—as insulting to their community? If so—and I do follow these things—I’ve never heard it.  Second, do the authors seriously believe that replacing “pipeline” with “pathway” is going to improve society? How, exactly, will that happen?  Are some “American Indian” and “Alaska Native” individuals who previously refused to discuss career achievement because the discussion involved the p-word, now going to participate eagerly with the new, improved word “pathway.”

I don’t believe it. what we have here is exactly what the authors decry in the next paragraph: “performative allyship”!

Equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts have been challenged by performative allyship and the persistent lack of commitment to equitable access from institutional leadership. Proclaiming representative diversity as the end goal establishes dominant cultural norms of tokenism, deficit framing, and devaluation of historically excluded students and their communities. The messaging must evolve to value diversity as a shared value that benefits individuals, communities, institutions, and ultimately, patients. Using pathways terminology can help move beyond representation to inclusive excellence. Medicine as a profession must decommodify the language around workforce development challenges and focus on the power of diversity and inclusion to enhance and improve medicine, primary health care and health equity.

But the authors’ entire article is an example of useless language policing—”performative allyship” from three privileged academics and physicians.  As for the rest of the paragraph above, it is so badly written that I am not sure what they are trying to say except that they are in favor of more diversity and less oppression.  Oh, and that medicine will improve when we substitute “pathways” for “pipeline”.  If you believe that, well, all I can say is, “Show me the data.”

One more point. For years now, the term “Indian” or “American Indian” has been considered pejorative itself, like saying “Negro” instead of “African American” or “black”.  Now it’s apparently back again:

Allies who do not identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, including influential medical educators, researchers, clinicians, authors, and journal editors in the US, should update their language with preference for the terms American Indian or Alaska Native.

The updating by the Language Police happens so fast that I can’t keep up with it.

Conor Friedersdorf on why mandatory diversity statements for academic hires are both wrong and hypocritical

July 9, 2023 • 11:00 am

Several readers sent me the article in The Atlantic below by Conor Friedersdorf, who regularly criticizes woke statements and initiatives in that popular magazine, and is thus on the road to being demonized as an alt-righter or even a Nazi. But, as usual, he takes a heterodox but eminently reasonable stand on an issue regarded as almost taboo: requiring academics to produce “diversity statements” (“DEI statements”) when applying for jobs or promotions. Click the screenshot to read, though it might be paywalled:

Friedersdorf begins by mentioning the case of John D. Haltigan, which I’ve discussed twice before (here and here). Haltigan wanted to apply for a job in the psychology department at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and, represented by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, argued that the required DEI statement at UCSC would violate his First Amendment right as it would be compelled speech.  Haltigan is asking the courts for an injunction that would allow him to apply without a DEI statement, knowing that his own statement would render him unhire-able from the outset. I wrote this before:

As I wrote in a previous post, Haltigan didn’t actually apply for the job, because he realized that his own statement would never pass muster with the faculty. But he did write and publish the statement that he would have used had he applied. It wouldn’t have passed muster, though, because it included stuff like this:

I believe that the use of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements in evaluating candidates for positions in higher education and academia are anathema to the ideals and principles of rigorous scholarship, and the sound practice of science and teaching.

As Friedersdorf notes, this “is the first major free-speech challenge to a public institution that requires these statements.”  He muses about what would happen were it upheld by courts: everybody would require one, and they aren’t a violation of the Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action for college admissions. But I think that if this case works its way up to the Supreme Court, DEI statements would be banned as violations of free speech. And that would be a good outcome, for I think that DEI statements are indeed a violation of free speech. As Freidersdorf argues, they act by “chilling” speech—by forcing applicants to hew to a particular interpretation of DEI, and that interpretation is not a King-ian “colorblind one”. (For more information, see my colleague Brian Leiter’s article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, “The legal problems with diversity statements.”

What surprised me about Friedersdorf’s piece were two things. First was the pervasiveness of DEI statements in American college hiring:

UC Santa Cruz’s requirement is part of a larger trend: Almost half of large colleges now include DEI criteria in tenure standards, while the American Enterprise Institute found that 19 percent of academic job postings required DEI statements, which were required more frequently at elite institutions. Still, there is significant opposition to the practice. A 2022 survey of nearly 1,500 U.S. faculty members found that 50 percent of respondents considered the statements “an ideological litmus test that violates academic freedom.” And the Academic Freedom Alliance, a group composed of faculty members with a wide range of political perspectives, argues that diversity statements erase “the distinction between academic expertise and ideological conformity” and create scenarios “inimical to fundamental values that should govern academic life.”

Second, I was surprised that the University of California system is still using DEI statement to weed out applicants before evaluating their academic credentials. Some colleagues at UC schools have told me that this is no longer the case, but I presume Friedersdorf checked the data before writing the following:

Perhaps the most extreme developments in the UC system’s use of DEI statements are taking place on the Davis, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and Riverside campuses, where pilot programs treat mandatory diversity statements not as one factor among many in an overall evaluation of candidates, but as a threshold test. In other words, if a group of academics applied for jobs, their DEI statements would be read and scored, and only applicants with the highest DEI statement scores would make it to the next round. The others would never be evaluated on their research, teaching, or service. This is a revolutionary change in how to evaluate professors.

This approach—one that is under direct challenge in the Haltigan lawsuit—was scrutinized in detail by Daniel M. Ortner of the Pacific Legal Foundation in an article for the Catholic University Law Review. When UC Berkeley hired for life-sciences jobs through its pilot program, Ortner reports, 679 qualified applicants were eliminated based on their DEI statements alone. “Seventy-six percent of qualified applicants were rejected without even considering their teaching skills, their publication history, their potential for academic excellence, or their ability to contribute to their field,” he wrote. “As far as the university knew, these applicants could have well been the next Albert Einstein or Jonas Salk, or they might have been outstanding and innovative educators who would make a significant difference in students’ lives.”

At UC Davis, 50 percent of applicants in some searches were disqualified based on their DEI statements alone. Abigail Thompson, then the chair of the mathematics department at UC Davis, dissented from its approach in a 2019 column for the American Mathematics Society newsletter. “Classical liberals aspire to treat every person as a unique individual,” she wrote. “Requiring candidates to believe that people should be treated differently according to their identity is indeed a political test.”

People at Berkeley and Davis have told me that disqualification based on DEI statements is no longer used, but perhaps they were referring to their own departments. It’s odious, though, to prioritize these statements above everything else, and Friedersdorf says why.  The statement about doing other stuff to help society rang true to me because I spent a great deal of time as an associate and full professor being an expert witness testifying in criminal trials about the use of DNA evidence, helping public defenders—one of the great institutions of our justice system—and working for free.  I could have doubled my income taking cases (some people offered me $400-$500 per hour), but I always did it for free (except for airfare and hotel fees), so that my views could not be challenged on the grounds that I was profiting from them.  And I never worked for the prosecution, because public defenders need to be supported as the only bulwark poor people have to get justice.

But I digress: here’s why DEI statements are “anti-pluralistic”:

Mandatory DEI statements send a message that is anti-pluralistic. I believe that diversity and inclusion are good. I do not think that universities should reward advancing those particular values more than all others. Some aspiring professors are well suited to advancing diversity. Great! The time of others is better spent mitigating climate change, or serving as expert witnesses in trials, or pioneering new treatments for cancer. Insofar as all academics must check a compulsory “advancing DEI” box, many will waste time on work that provides little or no benefit instead of doing kinds of work where they enjoy a comparative advantage in improving the world.

And mandatory DEI statements send the message that viewpoint diversity and dissent are neither valuable nor necessary—that if you’ve identified the right values, a monoculture in support of them is preferable. The scoring rubric for evaluating candidates’ statements that UC Santa Cruz published declares that a superlative statement “discusses diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values of the University that every faculty member should actively contribute to advancing.” Do academics really want to assert that any value should be held by “every” faculty member? Academics who value DEI work should want smart critics of the approach commenting from inside academic institutions to point out flaws and shortcomings that boosters miss.

This is a long article, which not only recounts the history of DEI statements but suggests ways that they might even be made acceptable. But I don’t think they should ever be used, and in the end I think the author agrees, claiming that the free-speech costs are higher than the benefits of diversity statements (does any research show that candidates with higher DEI statements make better professors?):

The costs of mandatory DEI statements are far too high to justify, especially absent evidence that they do significant good. Alas, proponents seem unaware of those costs. Yes, they know that they are imposing a requirement that many colleagues find uncomfortable. But they may be less aware of the message that higher-education institutions send to the public by demanding these statements.

And here are five of the costs (words are Friedersdorf’s). The first one probably encompasses the biggest mistake that people are making with respect to all aspects of college. Increasingly, colleges are no longer a place to learn, to teach, and to get excited about learning, but a place where you are molded into a person who will improve society. That of course will change depending on which authorities define what is “an improved society”!

1.) Mandatory DEI statements send the message that professors should be evaluated not only on research and teaching, but on their contributions to improving society.

2.) Mandatory DEI statements send the message that it’s okay for academics to chill the speech of colleagues. 

3.) Mandatory DEI statements send a message that is anti-pluralistic. I believe that diversity and inclusion are good. I do not think that universities should reward advancing those particular values more than all others

4.) And mandatory DEI statements send the message that viewpoint diversity and dissent are neither valuable nor necessary—that if you’ve identified the right values, a monoculture in support of them is preferable. 

5.)  Demanding that everyone get on board and embrace the same values and social-justice priorities will inevitably narrow the sort of people who apply to work and get hired in higher education.

So why, in the title, does Freidersdorf say that mandatory diversity statements are hypocritical? Because they are supposed to promote diversity, and presumably diversity of viewpoints and ideologies, yet are being used to create conformity and stifle dissent. Or, as the author says,

. . . mandatory DEI statements are profoundly anti-diversity. And that strikes me as an especially perilous hypocrisy for academics to indulge at a time of falling popular support for higher education. A society can afford its college professors radical freedom to dissent from social orthodoxies or it can demand conformity, but not both. Academic-freedom advocates can credibly argue that scholars must be free to criticize or even to denigrate God, the nuclear family, America, motherhood, capitalism, Christianity, John Wayne movies, Thanksgiving Day, the military, the police, beer, penetrative sex, and the internal combustion engine—but not if academics are effectively prohibited from criticizing progressivism’s sacred values.

Supreme Court rules against affirmative action at Harvard and UNC

June 29, 2023 • 9:45 am

You didn’t have to be a genius to predict this one, especially if you paid attention to the Justice’s statements during the hearing. By a vote of 6-3, and strictly along political-spectrum lines, the Supreme Court struck down race-bace admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The three dissenting justices were Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, with the majority including Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Click to read, though I found a partial version of the article archived here. It’ll be interesting to read the full decision, to which there’s a link below.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unlawful, curtailing affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation, a policy that has long been a pillar of higher education.

The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent.

The decision was expected to set off a scramble as schools revisit their admissions practices, and it could complicate diversity efforts elsewhere, narrowing the pipeline of highly credentialed minority candidates and making it harder for employers to consider race in hiring.

More broadly, the decision was the latest illustration that the court’s conservative majority continues to move at a brisk pace to upend decades of jurisprudence and redefine aspects of American life on contentious issues like abortion, guns and now race — all in the space of a year.

The decisions, though coming down to the same thing, apparently differ in the methods that the judges saw as discriminatory.  UNC didn’t use the “holistic” admissions procedure at Harvard, which the school defended vehemently (as did two appellate courts), but which used bogus “likeability” scores to discriminate against Asian Americans. (That these were mendacious was revealed by showing that the lower scores of Asians were given only by admissions officers who hadn’t met the applicants, not by those who actually interviewed them in person.)

The two cases were not identical. As a public university, U.N.C. is bound by both the Constitution’s equal protection clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars race discrimination by institutions that receive federal money. Harvard, a private institution, is subject only to the statute.

In the North Carolina case, the plaintiffs said that the university discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic and Native American ones. The university responded that its admissions policies fostered educational diversity and were lawful under longstanding Supreme Court precedents.

The case against Harvard has an additional element, accusing the university of discriminating against Asian American students by using a subjective standard to gauge traits like likability, courage and kindness, and by effectively creating a ceiling for them in admissions.

From the Wall Street Journal:

“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite,” he wrote.

The court’s three liberals dissented. Society “is not, and has never been, colorblind,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. “The Court ignores the dangerous consequences of an America where its leadership does not reflect the diversity of the People.”

Lee Bollinger, Columbia University’s president, expects five years of chaos before higher education fully adjusts to the new legal landscape, as committees and task forces—already in place at many schools—explore ways to employ income levels, socioeconomic factors and other race-neutral factors to maintain diversity.

Although long expected, the decision still was a shock to academia. “Nobody really believes it’s going to happen, even though all the evidence is right in front of you,” Bollinger said in an interview this month.

. . .But at oral arguments, several justices focused on another passage in O’Connor’s 2003 opinion, where she noted that minority enrollment had increased in the 25 years since the Bakke case.

“We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary,” she wrote.

The majority opinion in that case from a generation ago, Grutter v. Bollinger, didn’t say preferences could continue until “you’re satisfied that diversity has been achieved or something vague like that,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh told UNC’s lawyer. “It said 25 years in there.”

The Harvard and UNC decisions, 237 pages long (and bundled), can be found by clicking on either of the screenshots below.  which go to one pdf:

A lot will have to change, and even though schools may be in shock, they should have expected that this would happen and prepared for it. For prepare they will, trying to find workarounds that are legal. What exactly is legal will require a close reading of the decision.

Your take?  One thing that nobody should be is surprised.

Schools are already issuing letters reassuring everyone. Here’s Harvard’s (I left off some of the signatures):


The legality of diversity statements

June 1, 2023 • 12:00 pm

This piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses an issue we’ve taken up here before: is it legal to require applicants for university jobs to submit DEI statements? The piece gives both sides of the argument, although I’ve long thought that such statements should be always be illegal on two grounds: they are irrelevant for nearly all academic jobs, and they violate the First Amendment because they’re a form of compelled speech.

When I first wrote about this, I thought that someone with standing should bring a lawsuit against a public university (such schools must adhere to the First Amendment), as diversity statements are a form of compelled speech as well as viewpoint discrimination, forcing applicants to voice certain approved political beliefs.

Now that lawsuit has been brought. As the article notes:

John D. Haltigan, the plaintiff, is being represented pro bono by the nonprofit Pacific Legal Foundation. He is arguing that the University of California system’s use of diversity statements in hiring violates the First Amendment and represents unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. Haltigan wants to apply for a tenure-track position in the psychology department at the University of California at Santa Cruz and is asking the court, among other things, for an injunction that would allow him to apply without submitting a diversity statement. The university system has required diversity statements in applications for tenure-track positions and promotions since 2018.

As I wrote in a previous post, Haltigan didn’t actually apply for the job, because he realized that his own statement would never pass muster with the faculty. But he did write and publish the statement that he would have used had he applied. It wouldn’t have passed muster, though, because it included stuff like this:

I believe that the use of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements in evaluating candidates for positions in higher education and academia are anathema to the ideals and principles of rigorous scholarship, and the sound practice of science and teaching.

Haltigan’s own “colorblind” statement would of course have led to his being rejected for the UCSC job, but he published it on a blog, and it was on those grounds that the Pacific Legal Foundation is representing him in a lawsuit.  Whether this gives him “standing” is not clear, but what is clear is that it will be hard to find somebody who can convince a court that they didn’t get a job because their diversity statement didn’t pass muster. That is what’s required to win such a suit.

Click to read: it’s free:

The Chronicle is fair in giving the pros and cons of requiring diversity statements.  First-Amendment arguments can be used for jobs in government, which include academic jobs in public universities, but it’s not clear whether private universities can require DEI statements if they still take federal funds. And even if they can require those statements, in my view they shouldn’t, for every college, public or private, should have policies that adhere to the First Amendment.

Three professors make the argument that diversity statements aren’t legal; one (Leiter) is my colleague at the U of C law school:

Public universities have a First Amendment right to have their own values and mission statements, said Zach Greenberg, a senior program officer with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, which has warned that diversity statements could be used as political litmus tests. But colleges may not force students or faculty members to adhere to values and mission statements, Greenberg said, “if they’re in political terms.”

“So, a university may say that we are antiracist, we believe in DEI, but we also welcome those with opposing views,” Greenberg said. A university can even encourage faculty to share those views, as long as it doesn’t cross the line into compelling them, he said.

While private employers are generally allowed to practice viewpoint discrimination, public universities, like other public employers, typically cannot discriminate based on political beliefs. “A public university can’t require its faculty to have certain beliefs,” said Brian Leiter, a professor of jurisprudence and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago, who has been a vocal critic of diversity statements. “No matter how laudable one thinks the beliefs are, it’s not allowed. And that’s just true of any public employer. There are very narrow exceptions.” Courts have ruled that government can base hiring decisions on political viewpoints only in very limited cases, such as political appointments, Leiter added.

But do diversity statements require a particular political viewpoint? Keith E. Whittington, a professor of politics at Princeton University, said that diversity statements, as they are commonly used in academe, “definitely run afoul of these kinds of viewpoint discrimination concerns.” For example, Whittington pointed to evaluation rubrics from the University of California system that downgrade applicants who say they treat every student equally. The rubric used by the University of California at Santa Cruz, for example, gives applicants less credit if they describe “only activities that are already the expectation of our faculty such as mentoring, treating all students the same regardless of background, etc.”

But giving less credit to “color blind” applicants violates the First Amendment by privileging political statements that promise a form of affirmative action in academia. While schools can have policies for mentoring ill-prepared applicants, they cannot refuse to give jobs to professors who simply promise to afford everyone equal opportunities to learn.

There’s really only one one viewpoint given that touts the legality of diversity statements, and I don’t find this very convincing:

Brian Soucek, a professor of law at the University of California at Davis, has argued that diversity statements can be constitutional, if used correctly. He previously served as chair of a systemwide committee on academic freedom for the University of California that provided input for the university system’s latest recommendations on the use of DEI statements.

Soucek recommends that in order to avoid infringing on academic freedom, faculty members, rather than administrators, should determine how to judge applicants. In order to avoid comparisons to loyalty oaths, he recommends that colleges ask what applicants “have done or plan to do, not what they believe, when it comes to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their field.”

And regarding viewpoint discrimination, Soucek argues that the central question is not whether applicants are being judged on their viewpoints, but whether those perspectives are relevant to the position in question. An immigration-asylum clinic, for example, could legitimately ask about an applicant’s views on immigration, Soucek said, but it would appear to be constitutionally problematic if a law school asked an applicant for a bankruptcy professor position about immigration.

In Haltigan’s case, Soucek said, the University of California at Santa Cruz is hiring for an assistant professor of developmental psychology to enhance the program’s “long-established strengths in studying the lived experiences of children and youth from diverse backgrounds.” According to the job posting, the department seeks candidates whose research explores areas such as “cultural assets that promote healthy development in the contexts of inequities related to gender, ethnicity/race, social class, and/or sexuality” and “conditions and practices that leverage the psychological strengths of children from historically underserved backgrounds in the U.S. or other countries.”

For that particular position, Soucek said, “it would seem especially strange for somebody to come in and say, ‘I believe in colorblindness and refuse to see people’s race or ethnicity.’”

But I think Souchek is stretching it, for he’s giving an example that has been confected so that only those with a politically correct view of DEI could even apply for the job.  The immigration-asylum clinic isn’t as relevant simply because if the hired person does the job expected, there is no reason to deny him the job because he privately holds the “wrong” views about immigration.  There are plenty of people who can keep their political views out of their jobs.  The one requirement that holds for all job is simply is that people should be treated equally and fairly regardless of immutable characteristics like race, gender, disability status, and so on.   That’s simple adherence to civil rights law.  And even in the case of the “developmental psychology” job, what they should be looking for is people who can best deal with a variety of children. Do they really need to quiz applicants about their private views on race, gender, and sexuality?

But the worst part of this “pro-statement” argument is this. If people adopted Soucek’s rationale, it would result in job descriptions being tailored to those people holding the “proper” DEI views, or, indeed, views on any political or ideological issue that the school likes. I can imagine even biology jobs being tailored this way. But that would tilt all of academia towards the currently dominant ideology—exactly what we don’t want to do in a university, where free and open discussion is the order of the day.

The Leisure Fascists take over the American Physical Society, recommend no more booze at physics meetings

May 17, 2023 • 1:00 pm

The Pecksniffs aren’t satisfied with policing the language of science, but now want to regulate our behavior, too. And, by god, they’ve gone too far this time, for they want to put the kibosh on our BEVERAGES.

In the latest American Physical Society News (click on screenshots below), one author urges people to not drink alcohol at physics meetings. Not just that, but she seems to want alcohol banned at scientific meetings.  In this she’s bucking the tide, for, as the author notes, a Nature report last year showed that over two thirds of scientists think that alcohol should not be banned at scientific meetings.

Nearly 1,500 scientists participated in the online poll, which began on 20 December as part of a Nature story about reconsidering the role of alcohol in the scientific workplace (Nature 600, S86–S88; 2021). When asked whether alcohol should be banned at scientific conferences, 68% of those who responded to the self-selecting poll said no, 26% said yes and 6% were not sure.

That is, for every scientist who wants alcohol banned at scientific conferences, 2.6 scientists want it to stay. The democracy has spoken.

You can probably guess the reasons why Dr. Vriend wants it banned. First guess, then read the APS News article by clicking below:

Yes, you were right. I’m sure you guessed because “alcohol promotes bad behavior and harassment”, but did you know it also makes meetings less inclusive?

Here are the author’s reasons:

Many years ago, when I was a young graduate student in mechanical engineering and geophysics, I presented my first poster at an important conference. I was stationed at my poster, excited for discussion, when a colleague approached me with a beer in hand. I could smell alcohol on his breath, and he had clearly had too much to drink. For an hour, he loitered at my poster, asking inappropriate questions — and blocking my ability to talk to others, including potential collaborators or future postdoctoral advisors. I was deeply uncomfortable and uncertain what to do.

My story might feel familiar to many young scientists, and data confirms the relationship between alcohol and inappropriate behavior. Alcohol is linked to loss of inhibition, and research indicates that alcohol increases the risks of harassment, including in professional settings. A 2007 study found a significant association between the number of heavy-drinking male employees and a culture of gender harassment against women in a workplace. Of course, alcohol does not cause bad behavior on its own — any perpetrator is solely responsible for their actions — but its role as a risk factor is clear.

I’m prepared to believe all that, which is offensive behavior, and of course no woman (or person) should be subject to such harassment. But a simple conference statement that “harassment is prohibited and will be punished if it’s persistent and unwanted” (all conferences have these now), should suffice. Then someone could have gotten the guy off the scene.

Scientists are adults, adults drink, and people should be prepared to deal with drinkers.  In fact, science meetings are much safer than bars, for scientists are almost universally against harassment and there are plenty of people around to stop it, as well as ubiquitous conference policies to intervene and, if need be, show the harasser to the door.

Remember that scientific meetings are places not just to learn science, but to meet old friends and colleagues, schmooze, socialize after hours, converse and relax. Alcohol facilitates that, and not in a trivial way. It’s much easier to schmooze with someone you want to talk to by inviting them for a drink than just walking up to them. And alcohol might even facilitate scientific conversations since it lessens inhibition (people might, for example,  lose their fear of asking stupid questions!)

And, most important, you don’t have to drink if you don’t want to.

In the poll above scientists have clearly weighed the risks of drinking versus the benefits—and have voted for booze. I vote with them. (Remember, too, that many meetings are in hotels and you simply cannot stop people from drinking there. If there’s no hotel, people will repair to the bar.)  I have no beef with people who have personal reasons not to drink, nor would I stop them from trying, like Dr. Vriend, to persuade others not to drink. But taking the booze out of meetings is taking a lot of fun, as well as social lubrication, out of meetings, and it takes some chutzpah to do that.

It helps, though, if you can claim, as the author does, that banning booze helps promote diversity and a welcoming environment!

As scientists, though, it is not only our responsibility to do good research and advance our field, but to support the next generation of scientists. Science is more diverse now — in age, gender, sexual orientation, race, cultural background — than it was for millennia; we are moving away from the cliché of the cigar-smoking, whiskey-drinking clique of mostly white male scientists. I am not the only person not drinking alcohol — more than a third of US adults don’t, perhaps for religious or cultural reasons, or perhaps simply because science has shown that alcohol is not healthy. Still others may be uncomfortable drinking in work settings because they are struggling with alcohol abuse; after all, nearly half of US adults who drink, drink too much, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse.

Alcohol in professional events can stymie efforts to create a welcoming community, and scientists and students of all generations deserve better. In academia, as well as in the business and nonprofit spheres, we senior scientists are responsible for inviting young, diverse people into the field and making them feel comfortable and confident. We are responsible for upholding professional conduct and setting the right example for the younger generation.

I respectfully disagree, especially about associating booze with “cigar-smoking, whiskey-drinking clique of mostly white male scientists”.  (It’s always open season on white males, but of course cigars are banned at meetings and what’s on tap is usually beer and wine, not whiskey).  I know few scientists that fit that bill, and, in fact, Vriend is creating a sexist stereotype, but one that seems okay to most people, though it’s not.  The dragging in of white males here is a gratuitous slur, and has absolutely nothing to do with her argument, except that drunken males harass women more than the other way around. And what does being “white” have to do with it? Alcohol use and abuse is not a monopoly of white people.

There’s also the sly implication that “young diverse people” (read: blacks and Hispanics) won’t feel as welcome if there is booze afoot.  What evidence is there for that?

In the end, I guess, the only way to be welcoming and inclusive is to make everyone conform to a strict code of straitlaced behavior. Is that diversity? This article demonstrates, more than anything, that the woke are puritanical. Remember H. L. Mencken’s famous definition of “puritanism”: “the haunting fear that some one, somewhere, may be happy”.

And I’m curious why the APS would publish this.

h/t: Luana

The National Academies of Sciences urge affirmative action in med-school admissions

April 26, 2023 • 11:30 am

I present yet another example of a scientific organization engaged in political/ideological advocacy. In this case the organization is the august body of the National Academies of Science, an organization that admits only the most accomplished of America’s scientists. It also publishes the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS), a pretty well respected journal though not of the quality of Science or Nature.

In the latest issue, three authors from Harvard (and Mass General Hospital) argue, well, you can see the claim themselves from the title screenshot below. It’s a political argument, not a scientific one, and is a reaction to the likely dismantling this year of of race-based preferential admission (“affirmative action”) by the Supreme Court. The Justices have already heard a case that began in 2014, arguing that both Harvard and The University of North Carolina violated both the Constitution (the “equal protection clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment) and—for the private university of Harvard—the Title VI provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Private universities can also be sued for discrimination if they receive federal funding.)

There’s little doubt in my mind that PNAS agrees wholly with this op-ed, since it rarely publishes articles like this and also itself has a “progressive” ideological slant. I’m confident in arguing that this is probably the National Academies’ view as well as the authors’ view.

The issue here is that the paper takes an expressly ideological stance by favoring one political outcome (“equity” among doctors) over what is possibly a negative side of that outcome: worsening quality of medical care in America. This is because affirmative action in medical school had led to a substantial gap between the admissions credentials of whites and Asians on the one hand, and Hispanics and blacks on the other. And if admission credentials have ANYTHING to do with the quality of a doctor, then lowering the bar in the way that Aaron et al. suggest—achieving “equity,” or ethnic representation among doctors equal to the proportion of groups in the population—will inevitably result in the decline of the average quality of doctors.

You may, I suppose, suggest that if people have doctors who “look like them”, or if doctors treat patients who “look more like them” better, then increased equity might increase overall health quality. But that is a supposition only, and one with no empirical basis (there’s no need to mention the “dead baby” issue, which has substantial problems). It also doesn’t tell us how far we must lower the bar to achieve equity, and whether lowering the admissions bar that much can counteract any positive effect on healthcare caused by the supposed “looks like me” issue.

As I’ve said, I do favor some form of affirmative action for admission to colleges and medical schools, but more and more it’s taking the form of favoring minority candidates when you’re faced with deciding between candidates who are both qualified and nearly equally qualified. My thinking on this is evolving. But the difference in qualifications among ethnic groups among med-school applicants as well as those who are admitted is sufficiently large that my brand of affirmative action would never come close to producing equity.

Click to read (it’s free):

The paper begins with a flawed argument: that by forcing universities to not discriminate among races, the Supreme Court is practicing unwarranted “judicial intrusion into medicine” (my emphasis)

Given the likelihood that the Supreme Court will end affirmative action, medical institutions must plan how to further diversity without incurring liability. More broadly, the cases follow a pattern of judicial intrusion into the affairs of medicine and health. As with abortion, contraception, health insurance, and COVID-19, the Supreme Court has encroached on the field of medicine, denying expert guidance on what is required in order to achieve a healthy and equitable society. The affirmative action cases are emblematic of a high court intent on opposing racial progress and other forms of social change.

This is bogus. Yes, some Justices may “oppose racial progress”, but what they’ll do if they rule against affirmative action is simply enforce the law and the Constitution.  That is, they will interpret the law as saying that one cannot discriminate among by race, regardless of which races are at issue.  But to say that this denies doctors “expert guidance” to achieve a healthy and equitable society” is mere carping, and beside the point, for you could use the same argument to justify any sort of race-based discrimination, especially if you think feel that “equity” is an outcome more desirable than application of settled law. I find the argument for retaining “expert guidance” risible, for experts are going to differ about what societal outcome is “healthy and equitable”. What they’re really saying is that the Supreme Court is overreaching itself by disallowing discrimination on the basis of race.

Now, about the differences in qualifications of candidates. Here’s what the article says:

As of 2015, there is estimated to be a deficit of about 114,000 Black and 81,000 Hispanic doctors compared to what one would expect from proportions of the US population. This dearth is at least partially historical: Racial and ethnic minorities were excluded from attending medical school and joining medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association (AMA). In 1900, 11.6% of the US population was Black, compared with 1.3% of physicians. In 2018, 12.8% of the population was Black, but only 5.4% of physicians. Over 120 years, then, the fraction of Black physicians has increased by only 4 percentage points. This lack of representation emphasizes why the fate of affirmative action is essential to securing a racially and ethnically diverse physician body in the United States.

Affirmative action helps compensate for systemic inequities throughout childhood and young adulthood that impede the significant steps required to apply to and be admitted to medical school. The current biggest gatekeeper to medical school admission is the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®), whose notable racial and ethnic disparities are well documented (57). As of 2022, Black and American Indian/Alaska Native medical school applicants have an average MCAT® score of 497.4 and 498.7, respectively, which is about one standard deviation below the average score for White applicants of 507.9. Although these disparities do not mean that the test makers intentionally discriminate by race, they reflect the systematic disadvantage facing racial and ethnic minorities applying to medical school.

Note the claim that there is “systematic disadvantage”, which to many means “structural disadvantage”: something about the tests themselves that give racial and ethnic minorities a disadvantage. If it’s social circumstances: poverty, poor education, and so on, then that’s a different matter, though one that still must be considered. This is symptomatic of the whole failure of the authors to see the dimensionality of the problem.

What holds for MCAT scores (still required for nearly all med school admissions) also holds for grade-point averages. These recent data come from an admissions consulting service, Shemassian, which notes that race certainly does matter when applying for medical school: 

And data on those who matriculate among four racial groups divided by MCAT scores and grade point averages. The differential rates of acceptance among groups is striking.  Asians in particular have a hard time getting in, being accepted at only about 10% the rate of blacks in the leftmost category.

This is from the American Enterprise Institute (couldn’t they use skin-pigment neutral colors for the bars?):

Now one could argue that one standard deviation in MCAT scores doesn’t mean that, on average, a lower-scoring individual is less qualified to be a good doctor than a higher-scoring one. But if that’s the case, why use scores at all for determining who’s qualified? And if qualifications have any correlation with quality of medical care dispensed later in life, then they could have titled the article, invidiously, “Attacks on affirmative action threatens quality in medicine.”

To me, qualifications for medical school are like qualifications for being an airline pilot in one way: once you make it, you’d better be good, as you’ll have a whole lot of lives in your hands over your whole career. If you say we should lower the bar for going to med school, would you say the same thing for pilot training? If not, why not?

At any rate, the main issue with the article is that it doesn’t even discuss the possible tradeoff between the quality of American healthcare and ethnic equity among American doctors. Perhaps they feel that equity among doctors will, as I said, outweigh any bad effects of lowering the bar for med-school applicants. Or perhaps they feel that equity in a profession even outweighs the concrete benefits that the profession is supposed to confer on society. (That is, equity among doctors is more important for society than the overall quality of healthcare.) One could make both of these arguments, but the problem is the authors don’t. They simply feel that affirmative action is an affront to medical care and to American society, and that equity is a virtue that’s above American law. Indeed, opposing affirmative action is equated, throughout this article, as identical to endorsing white supremacy:

But because the Supreme Court may now deem consideration of race itself to be discrimination—even when it would benefit a racial group and society as a whole—the Supreme Court may stipulate a rule with far-reaching effects across the US healthcare industry. This would not be the first Roberts Court decision to re-interpret civil rights laws as protective of White people, as opposed to the subordinated groups these laws were meant to protect. For example, in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District (2007), the Supreme Court held that voluntary school desegregation plans in Seattle, WA, and Louisville, KY, violated the Equal Protection Clause. Although this clause was created to help remedy racial discrimination after the Civil War, the Supreme Court used it to impede efforts to address systemic racism. In this case, Chief Justice Roberts famously quipped, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” thereby imparting a “color-blind” reading on a clause aimed at racial progress. The Roberts Court’s belief that color-blindness will end racism overlooks the more structural and systemic forms of racism that are likely the biggest propagators of disadvantage today. At the same time, the color-blind approach invalidates policies aimed at racial progress like affirmative action, thus entrenching the benefits of Whiteness.

Two more points. First, the authors reply on the deeply flawed Implicit Bias Test, one that’s been rejected by most psychologists as not measuring anything meaningful and even as counterproductive in reducing bias:

Affirmative action’s loss may result in medicine and healthcare that look substantially less diverse. And any loss of diversity could be self-perpetuating. Through their presence and contributions, racial and ethnic minorities help make spaces more accommodating and inclusive to people from differing backgrounds. For example, testing of implicit bias using the well-validated Implicit Association Test has revealed that African-American physicians have far less implicit bias than White physicians  Racial and ethnic prejudice, prolific throughout medicine, impact physician–patient communication, treatment decisions, and patient outcomes. A less racially diverse pool of providers could bring heightened bias toward racial and ethnic minorities, leading to a spiral effect, in which medical spaces become less varied across the board.

That, of course, is purely speculative.  And remember that when affirmative action was first implemented in the Sixties, it was supposed to be a temporary expedient—a few decades at most. In the Grutter v. Bollinger decision in 2003, in which (by a 5-4 vote) the Supreme Court allowed some consideration of race in college admissions, liberal justice Sandra Day O’Connor said this:

“Finally, race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time. The Court takes the Law School at its word that it would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

Note that she later clarified that she didn’t mean to set a firm deadline. But I think we know now, from the institutionalization of both affirmative action and DEI programs in colleges, that affirmative action and “racial preferences” will—are intended to—last forever. 

Finally, the authors suggest the obvious: that medical schools should start trying to find ways around the upcoming changes in law to maintain a diverse medical profession:

The affirmative action cases before the Supreme Court raise serious questions about the future of a diverse medical profession and the integrity of healthcare itself. In advance of the decision, medical programs that value diversity and accept federal funds (or are government institutions) would be wise to consider alternative paths to create a racially diverse student body without explicitly considering race. With some strategizing, they can preserve some racial diversity while keeping to the letter of the law.

I’m trying to be charitable here, but it sounds like me that they want to circumvent the law in some way by “strategizing,” but that might not be possible if the Supreme Court rules that you can’t use correlates of race as proxy data for admissions. But the authors don’t like even that strategy!:

Many medical schools will be driven to alternative metrics, or proxies, to attain racial diversity. Such proxies could include family history, experiences of discrimination, socioeconomic status, and geography. However, proxies are limited for at least two reasons. First, they may poorly approximate race. For example, experiences of discrimination may seem to correlate with race, but they have frequently been claimed by White applicants, including in the Supreme Court’s historical affirmative action cases. And, second, the upcoming decision may prohibit not only consideration of race, but also similar metrics.

So what do we do if we want the body of physicians to “look like America”? My view is not to lower standards or devalue merit, but invest in giving minorities and other disadvantaged people equal opportunities to achieve. And, as I always say, that’s a much harder task than just lowering merit bars . Sadly, throwing money at schools doesn’t seem to work. Reducing income inequality might, but we all know that Americans don’t want that. Right now I don’t know what the solution is; perhaps all we can do is call attention to the problem and hope that better minds can create equal opportunities. (Even that won’t work, of course, because so long as there is inherited wealth, there will be inherited privilege.) 

But back to the article. I conclude that it is not a contribution to solving the problem. It neglects important issues, brings up irrelevant ones, makes unstated assumptions, and, above all, injects ideology into science.

Loury and McWhorter on Diversity

April 24, 2023 • 8:30 am

Here’s a short segment from Glenn Loury’s Substack site showing him and John McWhorter discussing the claim that minorities are made uncomfortable by going to institutions, like colleges, where people “don’t look like them.” (This refers, of course, to superficial traits associated with race, though those traits are often taken to be tightly associated with ideological and political views.) If you click on the screenshot below, you’ll go to Loury’s site, which has a transcript, but you can also listen to the 13-minute video embedded below the title. The YouTube notes say this:

In this excerpt from a live event in New York sponsored by the University of Austin’s Mill Institute and moderated by Ilana Redstone, Glenn Loury and John McWhorter discuss why seeking out “people who look like you” undermines what college—and indeed the world—has to offer.

Redstone, as expected for someone who encourages this kind of discussion, does have heterodox credentials:

Ilana Redstone is a visiting fellow with the Mercatus Center’s Program on Pluralism and Civil Exchange.Dr. Redstone is also an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the founder of Diverse Perspectives Consulting and a co-founder of The Mill Center. She is the co-author of “Unassailable Ideas: How Unwritten Rules and Social Media Shape Discourse in American Higher Education” and the creator of the “Beyond Bigots and Snowflakes” video series. She is also a faculty fellow at Heterodox Academy

Voilà: the meat of the discussion. Here’s the question posed by Redstone:

One of the questions around affirmative action or one of the arguments has to do with this idea of, well, I guess two things. One is diversity being a good on its own and having a value on its own. And the other idea with representation is that there’s a benefit to people seeing other people in positions of power and authority that look like they do.

And so I’m wondering if you can speak to that idea that people need to see people who look like them in order to feel inspired or accepted or motivated or whatever. How do you think about that?

Loury first takes up the question of “what does ‘looks like me’ really mean?”  He suggests several answers: people of your ethnicity, privileged college students, Americans, and so on. But he gets what the question really means: it’s about race.  Both he and McWhorter are, frankly, baffled at the notion that to be comfortable you must be among people of your own race, or see people of your own race.  I’m baffled that they’re baffled, as this notion is so common, and later Loury tries to take it apart and explain it. But in the end both men agree that he notion is harmful to students and harmful even to racial progress.

A few excerpts:

Loury: And I think the reflexive answer [is], it’s a bean count. “I’ve seen enough black lesbian women that I know, as a black lesbian woman, that I’m in a place of belonging” trivializes the great questions of, who are we? Which is what you come to a university to learn how to explore.

McWhorter: I never understood that line. I never got it. That you need to see teachers who look like you, you need to have other students who look like you. I had to be taught that that was the way I was supposed to feel. I know what I look like. I can look in the mirror. I had parents. They were black, too. Had a family, had friends, mostly when I was a kid, black friends. I didn’t need to see black people in my books. You looked at TV and by the 70s there were enough black people. Probably not as many as now. Definitely not. But I didn’t miss it, because if I look somewhere, I don’t wanna see me. I wanna see the world. I wanna see something else. I don’t go on a walk in the woods in order to see blackness. I go in order to see a squirrel or a creek or something. I don’t look at TV thinking I want to see people doing things that I’ve seen my relatives do it. You want to see something else.

. . .Of course, it’s better to have the representation that we have now. But that idea that you’re being deprived by not seeing yourself in your education, in your popular culture.

I’m reading a book right now where there’s this wonderful chapter on Du Bois. He would’ve been horrified. He’s learning German, he’s talking about Kant, et cetera. Nobody told him that he wasn’t black enough. That didn’t come up. The only people who said that to him, frankly, were white people. And yet here in our post-1966 age, you have that line.

. . . Or if we’re that afraid of white people, we can’t be comfortable until we see one of our own? Again, nobody was told to think that way until 1966. Here, Glenn, I think it’s a pose that we’re encouraged to take. “White people make me nervous. I need to see black people.” No white people don’t make you that nervous. In 2023, you’re told that you’re supposed to say that they do, because it gives you a sense of identity. But it’s an act, and it’s a dangerous one because it stanches curiosity, and curiosity is what makes a human being human.

Loury gives one explanation for the “look like me” trope: if you’ve been a victim of mistreatment at the hands of other groups, then seeing people who belong to your group (he uses black lesbian as his example), makes you relax more, makes you more comfortable and able to enjoy college. That can’t, of course, be rejected out of hand.

McWhorter doesn’t pull any punches in his response: if you’re that freaked out by those “who don’t look like you,” , he says, you need “compassionate help”, i.e., therapy of the cognitive behavioral sort:

McWhorter: But if you really are balling up your fist, if you’re really that uncomfortable when you don’t see people like you around you—in our times, as opposed to a distant day—if you’re that uncomfortable, then there’s something dysfunctional going on, and you need to find some kind of compassionate help.

Now these days, we’re supposed to feel that when it comes to race and identity issues, I’m not supposed to say that. I’m not supposed to say that you need to be trained out of that reflexive crouch. But no, I see no exception at all in the twenty-first century, given the sorts of things that you are likely to face, or I should really say not face, I don’t see that you need to be that nervous about not seeing yourself in this setting. And given that you’re going to go out into the world and find that people like you are rare in many settings that you’re going to go into, I think you should be prepared. Life is not always comfortable, and that’s part of what college is for.

So with all compassion, I say, if you’re that nervous, then you need cognitive behavioral therapy that will make you happier. Because you’re not always gonna be surrounded by people like you.

I can imagine how well that will go down with the nervous people! “Upset by not seeing enough people of your ethnicity? You need therapy.”  But, you know, he might be right, at least in extreme cases where a person’s function is inhibited by feeling left out. This is the claim, which I most often reject, that people are “harmed” by not seeing enough people who look like them.

And Loury distills the issue to this:

In other words, bottom line, suppose your goal is to advance the wellbeing of the race of people who look like you. You inhibit yourself from realizing fully your potential to advance that goal by restricting your attention to the doings of people who look like you.

But they both agree that restricting yourself to associating with those of your race, or concentrating on reading or studying only works by those of your race, is a form of intellectual constriction. Yes, that activity might reduce your ability to “advance the wellbeing of the race of people who look like you,” but is that the main point? This kind of constriction prevents you from apprehending the whole of the human condition, reducing that experience only to the “condition” encountered by people who look like you. Even if advancing your race is your goal, don’t you want to know your enemy—your presumed enemy?

McWhorter give his distillation:

McWhorter: And so a modern black person is supposed to only read Alice Walker and Walter Mosley, even though they read Tolstoy. They were old fashioned.

That doesn’t cohere. That doesn’t make sense. The only way that would make sense is if racism is worse. Now, what is it that we know now that Ralph Ellison didn’t? I think only a serious partisan would deny racism is not as bad now as it was in 1950, so we can afford even more than them to read Joyce Carol Oates as well as Gayl Jones, et cetera, not less. And so if W.E.B. Du Bois read all over the place, we can even more. Lynching was legal in the prime of his life. We live in very different times. So we can’t reject those people because the photos are black and white. It’s better now. We have a widened opportunity.

There are those like Kendi who claim that racism now is worse than it’s ever been, but I don’t think you can find any metric showing that.

By all means we should ensure equal opportunity for all Americans, a hard task that will take decades—if it can be done at all—but in the meantime the claim that you’re “harmed” if there aren’t enough people who look like you in your environment doesn’t sit well with most, for it’s an unconvincing claim of victimhood. The harm is not palpable, and is said to be psychological—which is why McWhorter recommends therapy for those crippled by this syndrome.

And of course, the statement can also be taken to mean that you want to be around people who think like you, for people of a given group are supposed to share a homogeneous set of ideas. (McWhorter and Loury are often criticized for not thinking is the way black people are supposed to think.) But how can you learn, or grow as a person, if you surround yourself or seek out only those people who think like you?

One issue that neither man addresses, but I’d love to see addressed, is that of historically black universities (HBUs) like Howard or Spelman College.  Back in the old days, they existed because black students simply couldn’t get into white colleges. Now, however, there’s a land rush in nearly all colleges to snap up qualified minorities, and the rationale for HBUs must now be that these entities are self-segregating because they increase the comfort level of students, as nearly everyone “looks like them,” (I’m just guessing here.) But isn’t that exactly the attitude that McWhorter and Loury find harmful?