Friday, March 18, 2005

Deconstructing Diversity

This comes courtesy of Mal Kline.

From Accuracy in Academia’s

Diversity Deconstructed
by: Malcolm A. Kline, March 17, 2005

Recently, Texas A & M University invited a “diversity expert” from Harvard to give a lecture on her field of expertise but the Aggies can teach the visiting lecturer—Cathy Trower—more than she they.

Trower, of course, is upset by comments that her boss, Harvard President Lawrence Summers, made earlier this year about the natural reluctance of women to enter into the hard sciences, although her reactions were more muted than those of her peers. “It’s not so much what he said,” Trower is reported to have observed, “but how he said it.”

In other talks, Trower has been recorded saying that “academic values and norms can mask a great deal of bias and discrimination.” These values in turn, Trower claims, are “congenial to a white middle-class orientation.”

Texas A & M, where Trower spoke on March 11, is something of a novelty in academia. The university’s president, Robert M. Gates, is one of the rare retired cabinet officials from a Republican presidential administration to hold a decisive academic position: Gates served the first President George Bush as CIA director.

Republican CIA directors in academe are an even rarer breed than Grand Old Party regulars in general. And Gates does not downplay his iconoclasm. “Students at Texas A & M should be admitted as individuals, on personal merit—and no other basis,” Gates said in December 2003.

He was the only university president in the Lone Star state who refused to go along with the Texas college community, indeed the nationwide, consensus favoring race-based admissions, and one of the few who could then look back and show an increase in minority enrollments.

“While many other colleges, including some staunch advocates of race-conscious admissions, were suffering declines in their minority enrollment,” the Chronicle of Higher Education reported, “Texas A & M’s numbers were way up.”

“In one year, the number of black freshmen had jumped by 35 percent, from 158 to 213 in a class of 7,068, while the number of Hispanic freshmen had climbed by nearly 26 percent, from 692 to 865.”

The Gates plan emphasized outreach but had two interesting components: financial aid for low-income students and military recruitment support. On the former, critics of affirmative action have suggested that needs-based scholarships could serve as an alternative to racial preferences. Affirmative action, they argue, is a program that benefits the middle class, if it serves anyone at all, rather than the poor for whom it was originally intended.

Of the accommodation to U. S. military recruitment efforts, it is ironic that many of the same schools that pledge themselves to racial diversity adamantly opposed a program, the Reserve Officers Training Corps, which achieves this goal. “If we are just fishing in this prospect pool, diversity is taking care of itself,” Sgt. Major Dennis L. Hastings, assistant director in charge of recruiting for the Texas A & M Corps of Cadets told the Chronicle.

Nationwide, 80 percent of colleges and universities do not offer ROTC. Texas A & M is in the other 20 percent.

“Realizing that black and Hispanic students each account for about a third of those enlisted in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps programs in high schools,” the Chronicle reports, “the university has greatly expanded a program that brings JROTC participants to its campus for four days of leadership training.”

“This year it plans to bring about 370 JROTC participants to the campus—nearly three times as many as two years ago—and to eventually enroll 150 to 200, about half of them black or Hispanic.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.

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