Education

Standing on the Shoulders of Diversocrats

(Photo: Darren Baker/Dreamstime)
The mania to achieve racial and gender equity in the hard sciences and tech will hurt American competitiveness.

Editor’s Note: The following piece originally appeared in City Journal. It is reprinted here with permission.

Another academic year, another fattening of campus diversity bureaucracies. Most worrisomely, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields are now prime targets for administrative diversity encroachment, with the commercial tech sector rapidly following suit.

The most significant new diversity sinecure has been established at the University of California, Los Angeles, where the engineering school just minted its first associate dean of diversity and inclusion. The purpose of this new position is to encourage engineering faculty to hire more females and underrepresented minorities, reports the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper. “One of my jobs,” the new dean, Scott Brandenberg, told the paper, is “to avoid implicit bias in the hiring process.”

The new engineering-diversity deanship supplements the work of UCLA’s lavishly paid, campus-wide vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion, Jerry Kang, whose 2016 salary was $444,000. Kang, one of the most influential proponents of the “implicit bias” concept, already exerts enormous pressure throughout the university to hire for “diversity.” Even before his vice chancellorship was created, any UCLA professor hoping for the top rank of tenure had to write a “contributions to diversity” essay detailing his efforts to rectify any racial and gender imbalances in his department. The addition of a localized diversity bureaucrat within the engineering school can only increase the focus on gender and race in hiring and admissions decisions. (Brandenberg, of course, expresses fealty to California’s beleaguered ban on racial and gender preferences in government. But it would be naïve to think that the ubiquitous mandate to increase “diversity” does not inevitably tip the scale in favor of alleged victim groups.)

No evidence exists that implicit bias is a factor in the engineering school’s gender and racial composition. Its percentage of female undergraduate and graduate students — about one quarter — matches the national percentage reported by the American Society for Engineering Education. I asked the school’s spokesman, Amy Akmal, if UCLA Engineering was aware of any examples of the most qualified candidate being overlooked or rejected in a hiring search because of implicit bias; she ignored this fundamental question. (She also ignored a question about the new dean’s salary.) Every science department in the country relentlessly strives to improve its national ranking through hiring the most prestigious researchers. It would be deeply contrary to their interests to reject a superior candidate because of gender or race. And given the pools of federal and private science funding available on the basis of gender and race, hiring managers have added incentive to favor “diverse” applicants. Contrary to the idea that females are being discriminated against in hiring, Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci found that female applicants for STEM tenure-track positions enjoyed a two-to-one advantage over similarly qualified males in paired résumé experiments.

The director of UCLA’s Women in Engineering program trotted out the usual role-model argument for gender- and race-conscious decision-making. Audrey Pool O’Neal told the Daily Bruin that she never saw anyone who looked like her (black and female) when she was an undergraduate and graduate student. “When I do teach classes, the female students let me know how much they appreciate seeing a woman in front of their classroom,” O’Neal said.

Why not appreciate seeing the best-trained scholar in front of your classroom? Any female who thinks that she needs a female in front of her in order to learn as much as she can, or to envision a career in a particular field, has declared herself a follower rather than a pioneer — and a follower based on a characteristic irrelevant to intellectual achievement. If it were really the case that a role model of the same gender is important to moving ahead, it would be impossible to alter the gender balance of a field, assuming such a mission to be worthwhile, which — absent a finding of actual discrimination — it is not. Marie Curie did not need female role models to investigate radioactivity; she was motivated by a passion to understand the world. That should be reason enough to plunge headlong into the search for knowledge.

The only thing that the academic diversity racket achieves is to bid up the salaries of plausibly qualified candidates, and redistribute those candidates to universities that can muster the most resources for diversity poaching.

The Columbia University Medical Center has just pledged $50 million to diversify its faculty and student body, reports the Wall Street Journal, part of a new $100 million diversity drive across the entire university. Never mind that Columbia University has already fruitlessly spent $85 million since 2005 toward the same end. Never mind that there is a huge gap between the MCAT scores of blacks and whites, which will affect the quality of subsequent hiring pools. Columbia’s vice provost for faculty diversity and inclusion regurgitates another classic of diversity boilerplate to justify this enormous waste of funds. “The reality is that you can’t really achieve excellence without diversity. It requires diverse thought to solve complex problems,” says Vice Provost Dennis Mitchell.

Mitchell’s statement is ludicrous on multiple fronts. Aside from the fact that the one thing never sought in the academic diversity hustle is “diverse thought,” do Mitchell and his compatriots in the diversity industry believe that females and underrepresented minorities solve analytical problems differently from males, whites, and Asians? A core plank of left-wing academic thought is that gender and race are “socially constructed.” Why then would females and underrepresented minorities think differently if their alleged differences are simply a result of oppressive social categories?

Columbia’s science departments do not have 50/50 parity between males and females, which, according to Mitchell, keeps them from achieving “excellence.” Since 1903, Columbia faculty members have won 78 Nobel prizes in the sciences and economics. The recipients were overwhelmingly male (and white and Asian); somehow, they managed to do groundbreaking work in science despite the relatively non-diverse composition of their departments.

The only thing that the academic diversity racket achieves is to bid up the salaries of plausibly qualified candidates, and redistribute those candidates to universities that can muster the most resources for diversity poaching. The dean of UCLA engineering, Jayathi Murthy, laments that of the 900 females admitted to the undergraduate engineering program in 2016, only about 240 accepted the offer. “There are (about) 660 women there that are going somewhere else and the question is . . . is there an opportunity for us to do something differently?” she told the Daily Bruin. Presumably, those 660 non-matriculants are getting engineering degrees at other institutions. If the goal (a dubious one) is to increase the number of female engineers overall, then it doesn’t matter where they graduate from. But every college wants its own set of “diverse” students and faculty, though one institution’s gain is another’s presumed loss.

The pressure to take irrelevant characteristics like race and sex into account in academic science is dangerous enough. But Silicon Valley continues to remake itself in the image of the campus diversity bureaucracy. Dell Technologies announced in September a new “chief diversity and inclusion officer” position. Per the usual administrator shuffle, the occupant of this new position, Brian Reaves, previously served as head of diversity and inclusion for software company SAP. Reaves will engage the company’s “leaders” in “candid conversations about the role of gender and diversity in the workplace,” said Dell chief customer officer Karen Quintos in a press statement. “Candid” means you are free to confess your white cis-male privilege. “Candid” does not mean questioning Dell’s diversity assumptions, as this summer’s firing of computer engineer James Damore from Google made terrifyingly clear to any other potential heretics.

According to the Austin-American Statesman, over the last three years Dell’s existing diversity programs have not changed the company’s gender and racial balance. Dell’s share of women (28 percent) and “people of color” (27 percent) is consistent with the academic pipeline. But magical diversity thinking holds that adding another administrator will somehow conjure forth previously overlooked “diverse” hires. If they don’t materialize, one can always fall back on racial and gender double standards.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has similar confidence in the power of diversity bureaucrats. Cook said in 2015 that diversity is a “readily solvable issue,” according to CNN, and announced that he would hire more women. Failing that, he can at least hire more diversity functionaries. In May, Apple created a new vice president of inclusion and diversity, who will report directly to Cook. This new executive position comes in addition to Apple’s existing director of inclusion and diversity.

Official scientific organizations have all turned obsessively to the diversity agenda. Any academic scientist who wants to move up in administration — or apply for grants, leave, or access to the conference circuit — must be on a crusade against his fellow scientists’ microaggressions and implicit bias. This is good news for the diversity industry, but bad news for America’s scientific competitiveness.

READ MORE:

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Diversity: History’s Pathway to Chaos

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