Politics & Policy

Pepper-Spraying Taxpayers

“Diversity” boondoggles are the real scandal.

As protesters festively (oops! I mean “heroically”) rally on college quads across California in the wake of the gratuitous macing of a dozen Occupy Wall Street wannabes at University of California–Davis last Friday, UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion declared that the rising tuition at California’s public universities is giving him “heartburn.” It should, since Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri and his fellow diversity bureaucrats are a large cause of those skyrocketing college fees, not just in California but nationally.

It is to be expected that students will be immaculately ignorant of the matters they protest, but it takes a special type of gall for a bureaucrat such as Basri to shed crocodile tears over California’s tuition increases, which had been a seeming target of OWS-inspired protest before the brutish UC Davis pepper-spray incident provided a more mediagenic reason to cut classes. OWS-ers are theatrically calling for a general strike of the University of California for this coming Monday.

Basri commands a staff of 17, allegedly all required to make sure that fanatically left-wing UC Berkeley is sufficiently attuned to the values of “diversity” and “inclusion”; his 2009 base pay of $194,000 was nearly four times that of starting assistant professors. Basri was given responsibility for a $4.5 million slice of Berkeley’s vast diversity bureaucracy when he became the school’s first Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion in 2007; since then, the programs under his control have undoubtedly weathered the recession far more comfortably than mere academic endeavors.

UC Berkeley’s diversity apparatus, which spreads far beyond the office of the VC for E and I, is utterly typical. For the last three decades, colleges have added more and more tuition-busting bureaucratic fat; since 2006, full-time administrators have outnumbered faculty nationally. UC Davis, for example, whose modest OWS movement has been happily energized by the conceit that the campus is a police state, offers the usual menu of diversity effluvia under the auspices of an Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Campus Community Relations. A flow chart of Linnaean complexity would be needed to accurately map all the activities overseen by the AEVC for CCR. They include a Diversity Trainers Institute, staffed by Davis’s Administrator of Diversity Education; the Director of Faculty Relations and Development in Academic Personnel; the Director of the UC Davis Cross-Cultural Center; the Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center; an Education Specialist with the UC Davis Sexual Harassment Education Program; an Academic Enrichment Coordinator with the UC Davis Department of Academic Preparation Programs; and the Diversity Program Coordinator and Early Resolution Discrimination Coordinator with the Office of Campus Community Relations. The Diversity Trainers Institute recruits “a cadre of individuals who will serve as diversity trainers/educators,” a function that would seem largely superfluous, given that the Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Campus Community Relations already offers a Diversity Education Series that grants Understanding Diversity Certificates in “Unpacking Oppression” and Cross-Cultural Competency Certificates in “Understanding Diversity and Social Justice.”

If the OWS campus campers really wanted to understand California’s growing tuition costs, they might also check out the University of California, San Francisco, which created a Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Outreach earlier this year at the height of the state’s budget crisis. Naturally, this new sinecure was redundant with UCSF’s existing Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the Diversity Learning Center (where you can learn how to “Become A Diversity Change Agent”), the Center for LGBT Health & Equity, the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention & Resolution, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Diversity, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women.

The OWS-ers should also look into UC San Diego, which announced the creation of a Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in May 2011, even as the campus was losing three prestigious cancer researchers to Rice University and was cutting academic programs. Needless to say, UCSD’s Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion replicated an equally fearsome mountain of diversity functions.

Do not think that the exploding diversity bureaucracy is confined to public universities. In 2005, Harvard created a new Senior Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development, responsible for $50 million in diversity funding, and six new diversity deanships. Whereas Harvard’s previous diversity bureaucrats collected mere diversity data about faculty hiring and promotions, the new SVP for D and FD would be collecting “diversity metrics.” Yale already has 14 Title IX coordinators (not enough to stave off a specious Title IX investigation by the Office of Civil Rights in the federal Education Department), but it nevertheless recently put a Deputy Provost in charge of assessing the “campus climate” with respect to gender and overseeing the 14 Title IX coordinators. All these new bureaucrats in campuses across the country — nearly 72,000 non-teaching positions added from 2006 to 2009 — cost $3.6 billion, estimated Harvey Silverglate in Minding the Campus earlier this year.

Just where do the OWS-ish student protesters think that their tuition money is going? In the vast majority of colleges and universities, there are no greedy shareholders sucking their profits from the livelihoods of workers or other “community stakeholders.” Rather, rising tuitions funnel straight into the preposterously unnecessary diversity bureaucracy and the rest of the burgeoning student-services infrastructure, as well as into the salaries of professors who teach one course a semester, the arms race of ever more sybaritic dorms and social centers, and the absolute monarchies of the football and basketball programs. It is particularly amusing to see New York University’s Andrew Ross spearheading a campaign against the student-loan industry; we may safely assume that Ross’s princely salary as Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis (achieved when NYU outbid Princeton for his services) was impervious to what should have been Ross’s reputation-destroying unwitting publication of a hoax parody of cultural-studies gibberish in his journal, Social Text, in 1996.

If students think that they are paying too much for college — and either they or taxpayers most surely are — they should take up the matter with their college president and her retinue of deans, provosts, and vice chancellors, not to mention with the federal government, whose easy loans allow colleges to jack up their tuition even further. The problem lies not with the lenders but with the institutions whose undisciplined appetite for bureaucratic growth and for hiring trendy academic superstars, no matter the speciousness of their scholarship, makes such loans necessary. Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor Basri intones: “We don’t believe that higher education is a private right but a public good.” Federally funded, free college tuition, the goal of Ross and other OWS-ers, would, however, simply remove any last restraints on academic greed, and put the full burden of that greed on taxpayers’ shoulders.

As for the Davis pepper-spray incident, one’s sympathy goes out to those individuals who were subjected to the painful and excessive use of police force. But may one also observe that, however unjustified the pepper-spraying of the protesters (who had refused the lawful order to remove their illegal camping equipment), the coverage of their plight has grown just a little maudlin? A 22-year-old pepper-spray victim told the Los Angeles Times that after hearing someone yell “pepper spray!” he “kissed his girlfriend and closed his eyes. ‘At that point,’ [he said,] ‘I entered a world of pain. I wanted to breathe, but I couldn’t. My face was covered with pepper spray. . . . My hands were covered with pepper spray. I was afraid. I was paralyzed with fear, and that’s the truth.’”

The pepper-spray victims have been recounting their very real pain in media venues across the land. By now we get the point. But the melodrama showered on the Davis casualties is stoically restrained compared with the glamorization of the OWS movement both before and after the Davis fiasco. For once, student protesters spoke with impeccable accuracy when they called a post-pepper-spray encampment at UC Berkeley a “pajama party.” The only sacrifice incurred by students who sleep over in their college quads is having to forego widescreen TV; otherwise, they’re having a ball, not least because they are so certain of their moral superiority.

And here’s another reality check: American college campuses are not police states, pace UC Davis English professor Nathan Brown. (“The fact is,” he wrote in an online letter, “the administration of U.C. campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly.”) To the contrary, despite the presence of a few abysmally trained clunkers of campus guards, they are zones of maximal freedom (unless of course you challenge certain campus orthodoxies) and of privileged leisure and comfort, into which millions of striving Chinese and Indians are desperately seeking entry.

The Big Lie of the campus diversity industry has been that without constant monitoring by diversity bureaucrats, faculty and other administrators would discriminate against minority and female professors and students. In fact, anyone who has spent a day inside a university knows that the exact opposite is demonstrably the case: Hundreds of thousands of hours and dollars are wasted each year in the futile pursuit of the same inadequate pool of remotely qualified underrepresented minority and female applicants that every other campus in the country is chasing with as much desperate zeal. The hiring process has been thoroughly corrupted. Faculty applicants are brought onto campus who have no chance of being hired, either because the hiring committee incorrectly assumed from their names or résumés that they were the right sort of minority (East Asians don’t count) for a position set aside for just such a minority, or because, although they were the right sort of minority, their qualifications were so low that their only purpose in being interviewed was to fill an outreach quota.

In the wake of Peppergate, it looks like two other Big Lies are quickly forming: the campus as gulag and unscrupulous banks as the source of burdensome student debt. The first new conceit will soon evaporate of its own patent insubstantiality. But the push for wholesale debt forgiveness and even easier taxpayer funding of tuition will have staying power and will simply inflate the campus diversity bureaucracy further.

— Heather Mac Donald is the John M. Olin fellow at the Manhattan Institute and co-author of The Immigration Solution.

editors note: This article has been amended since its initial publication.


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