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Campus Diversity & the Failure of Good Intentions
by Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D.
19 March 2003

The New York Civil Rights Coalition recently concluded that the color-conscious policies of many colleges and universities actually "support a new form of ethnic and racial segregation in higher education."



As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to visit anew the incendiary issue of affirmative action on American campuses, attention is simultaneously being refocused on the collateral--and equally thorny--issue of ‘diversity.’ It was, ironically, the Bakke affirmative action decision that brought the diversity concept into the lexicon of higher education some 20 years ago.

Although the Court found that the medical school at the University of California at Davis had used an unconstitutional quota system in denying Alan Bakke admission, Justice Lewis Powell made his now-famous observation that, notwithstanding the inherent defect of such a quota system, universities could likely enhance the quality of their enrollments by striving to create a "diverse student body," engaging in "a robust exchange of ideas," and that there was "a compelling state interest" in trying to achieve such a goal.

But in their zeal to construct an academic setting that reflects the true diversity of the nation--and simultaneous attempts to redress past discrimination and exclusion--universities have created campuses that have evolved in an entirely opposite direction. Rather than helping students adapt to the real diversity of society outside the campus walls, the diversity ‘movement’ has served to create balkanized campuses where victims of the moment segregate themselves into distinct and inward-looking racial and cultural groups -- exactly the opposite intention of the diversity credo.

In fact, as Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate have suggested in their insightful study, "The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses," diversity and multiculturalism programs, as practiced by universities, are frauds, through which the very use of such terms has, in their view, "become a politicized perversion of language." "All that the social engineers of diversity mean," they say, "is the appreciation, celebration, and study of those people who think exactly as they do about the nature and causes of oppression, wherever they are found and however nonrepresentative those thinkers might be of the broader groups they purportedly represent."

Students from ‘underrepresented’ minority groups, who may well initially arrive at campuses thinking of themselves as part of mainstream society, are taught, in the name of diversity, to think of themselves differently: as part of a racial, cultural, sexual, or political subset of American life. If they have not previously been aware of their victim status, then indoctrination about diversity, as Charles W. Sykes points out in A Nation of Victims, quickly helps them assume that identity and exploit it for social gain. "In the society of victims," he writes, "individuals compete not only for rights or economic advantage but also for points on the ‘sensitivity’ index, where ‘feelings’ rather than reason are what count."

More cynically, programs to promote campus diversity and multiculturalism have essentially become tools by liberal ideologues to construct a world view that is anything but truly diverse. Jay Bergman, a history professor at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, bemoaned this very point when he commented that "what is perhaps most striking about the obsession with diversity is that most of those who favor it seem to have no interest in fostering intellectual diversity [and] the inclusion of conservative opinions, which are woefully underrepresented on college campuses."

Coupled with the exclusion of all but liberal thought is the darker side of diversity: as victim groups become aware of their supposed classification as ‘authentic’ victims, they are prone to contradict the stated goal of diversity by limiting real dialogue and interchange between opposing points of view. Thus, while diversity proponents adamantly defend free speech in order to promulgate their own world views, they frequently move to stifle the speech of others--through calls for censorship, newspaper theft, and speech codes--and exempt themselves from having to live by the suppressive rules they write for others. In an article in the school’s Massachusetts Daily Collegian, for example, a University of Massachusetts at Amherst student made the oft-expressed claim that designated victim groups could not be held accountable for any negative thoughts they might harbor against other races or cultures--justifiable or not. "People of ALANA [African, Latino, Asian, and Native American] descent cannot be racist," the column observed, "because we don't hold the economic power in this country, though we may feel anger which is provoked by racists."

Most disingenuous is how universities use diversity as a cover for bringing outrageous, out-of-the-mainstream views to campuses--either in student-run organizations, in course materials and teaching philosophies, in the sponsorship of festivals and cultural events, or in the person of controversial speakers and artists. Just one month after a report on methods to enhance campus diversity was prepared for the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, for example, the university's Association for Campus Entertainment decided to hire the notorious rap star Ludacris for a March concert that will cost the school $120,000, half of that amount from student funds.

How did the decision to hire the former Pepsi spokesman strike a blow for diversity? According to Jessie Warren, homecoming chairman for ACE, Ludacris was selected because "the black students didn't feel we were catering to them at all, and with the diversity issues on the forefront we thought it would be a good time to do it." The second, pressing consideration was that last year black students had apparently criticized the selection of white pop singer Edwin McCain as the visiting singer, and wanted ‘equal time’ for their own cultural representative. McCain’s songs and country-rock ballads are laced with patriotism, faith, and abiding heterosexual relationships, themes that apparently do not fit in well on the ‘diverse’ modern campus.

Ludacris, on the other hand, brings a much broader world view, replete with sociopathic psychobabble, lyrics that simultaneously revile women, blacks, the white establishment, and law and order, and contain language and sentiment that could never be uttered on campus by anyone not in an ‘underrepresented’ victim group without severe consequences, censure, and indignation.

"Welcome to the United States of America," he says in one characteristically inspiring rendition, "Coming 2 America." "Time to roll out the red carpet on y'all bitch asses. / Hailin from the filthy, dirty South, where the Kings lay . . . The throne has been taken, so kiss this nigga's earring./ Luda throw some grapes on these bitches!" When not reviling the South, he has words for inner city life, as well: "I feel a ghetto rage let's turn the ghetto page / My bitch will stick you wit ghetto metal stilleto thangs / And I got a ghetto aim with diamond 'bezeled rangs / So while my index is working my pinky's blinding thangs / I hit em at close range I spit em at most brains."

One ironic suggestion of the UNCW diversity report was that the school reach out to local black ministries and host "events that show the community precisely what is occurring on campus as far as programs are concerned and as related to the institution’s commitment to diversity." How does bringing such a performer to campus further the intent of diversity, and what message of inclusion do the students give who push for inviting him?

A similar cultural disjoint occurred recently at Yale University when the Afro-American Cultural Center and the Black Student Alliance invited Amiri Baraka, former Black Panther and the recently-dismissed, and embattled, poet laureate of New Jersey to speak. It surprised and annoyed some in the Yale community that Baraka--a virulent anti-white, anti-Semitic, anti-Establishment leftist--was invited to the University in the first place, but not Pamela George, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Cultural Center, who drew a comparison between Baraka’s hate-filled visit to that of Yoni Fighel, a former Israeli general and soldier who came to Yale earlier to engage in apolitical discussions on Middle East security and Israel.

Perhaps the comparison was made precisely because Mr. Baraka has been under assault by many who were shocked by the conspiracy-laden anti-Semitism of his poem "Somebody Blew Up America" in which he refers, among other wild claims, to Israel’s foreknowledge of and complicity in the bombing of the World Trade Towers. But the poem also has words to denigrate American culture, imperialism, the white race, Zionism, and other sinister powers in Baraka’s cynical imagination. Though he persistently denies his anti-Semitism, earlier poems have included such descriptions as "poems like fists beating niggers out of Jocks or dagger poems in the slimy bellies of the owner-jews . . . Setting fire and death to whities as-."

But at Yale, world-domination fantasies--gleaned from the Arab press and the Internet--apparently carry great weight, and Mr. Baraka received a riotous standing ovation and affirmative support from the black audience, just as he had from a similar audience at Wellesley College this fall when invited there by the black group Nubian. One has to wonder how exactly Mr. Baraka appeals to the sense of the inclusion and diversity normally promoted by minority groups, and why black students at the nation’s elite universities wholeheartedly embrace and find comfort in the rantings of a leftist, America-hating bigot.

One possible answer lies in the way that the diversity movement has segregated minority groups contrary to its original intent. A recent study prepared for the New York Civil Rights Coalition, for example, reviewed "the color-conscious policies" of more than 30 major colleges and universities and found that current practices actually "support a new form of ethnic and racial segregation in higher education."

When a white Daily Campus columnist at the University of Connecticut recently criticized this very separatism by black students on his own campus and claimed the school’s African American Cultural Center was racist, the reaction was immediate, vocal, but not surprising. Immediately, some 9000 copies of the newspaper were stolen from distribution spots in an effort to silence any further criticism, a tactic that has been used against other college newspapers, usually when expressing conservative views. Later, at an emergency forum sponsored by UConn black student groups, participants came up with several pernicious suggestions for preventing further analysis from the newspaper: namely, sensitivity training for staffers, avoiding future commentary on volatile issues, or, as some preferred, outright censorship of the paper to prevent such articles again-in other words, silencing dissent and controlling thought and attitudes of opposing, unpopular views.

The trend toward segregated dorms, cultural centers, functions, even separate yearbooks on some campuses, does not bode well for the diversity movement. It may be time to recognize it for the fraudulent solution it is and begin to let students be judged, to paraphrase Dr. King, by their character and intellectual makeup not by their race or cultural background. John W. McWhorter, Berkeley linguistics professor and author of Authentically Black, thinks this would be a move in the right direction, that "a university culture truly committed to erasing the sins of the past would champion diversity in its true sense, infusing its discourse on race with a range of views wider than variations on victimhood. Since 1978, diversity has served as a flimsy and evasive perversion of justice. It has helped no one, least of all black students. It’s high time we swept it into the dustbin of history."

Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., writes frequently on law, public policy issues, social issues, and real estate.

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