The Corner

Education

The Diversity Distortion

For decades, higher education leaders have been caught up in a mania for “diversity.” To prove their dedication to progressivism, they have made it a top priority to hire more and more women and minorities. But to do so, argues Georgetown professor John Hasnas in today’s Martin Center article, they have had to create lots of new positions that appeal almost exclusively to scholars in those groups.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Hasnas explains, colleges and universities cannot discriminate in hiring any more than other employers can. “These legal restrictions,” he writes, “mean that to diversify their faculties, universities must create new positions that would appeal only to women or minority scholars or for which women and minority scholars are likely to be the most qualified candidates. The surest way to do this is to increase the number of positions in women’s studies, critical race theory, LGBTQ studies, and other cultural identity-based programs. To a significant extent, the growth of what the Sokal Squared authors derisively refer to as grievance studies is a by-product of universities’ efforts to obtain a more diverse faculty.”

That is a problem, he argues, because it distorts the curriculum. Growth has been dictated not by academic considerations, but by the supposed need to have more “diversity.”

Hasnas explains: “The drive for diversity now diverts the development of the university’s curriculum away from the path dictated by its educational values, needs, and goals. In a classic example of the tail wagging the dog, the university’s academic mission becomes subservient to its drive for diversity. Call this the diversity distortion. When the quest for diversity drives the proliferation of cultural studies programs beyond their academically justified level, it distorts universities’ curricula in ways that are detrimental to their educational missions.”

He’s right. There is an opportunity cost to the expansion of all the identity studies courses and programs, namely others that impart knowledge rather than stoke grievances.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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