The Corner


The Crazy New Mania in Higher Education for ‘Equity’

(Chris Ryan/Getty Images)

For many years, American higher education was obsessed with “diversity,” constantly trying to ensure that every group was “represented” on campus in proper percentages. (Well, not every group; firearms enthusiasts didn’t count, nor did opera lovers.) But within the last couple of years, a new mania has taken over — equity.

In today’s Martin Center commentary, Professor Caroline Breashears of St. Lawrence University looks at this new campus rage. She thinks it’s as crazy as Don Quixote in his mad adventures. Professor Breashears writes, “Don Quixote’s errors foreshadow those of today’s knights errant: the ‘equity practitioners’ for whom a new narrative of ‘inequity’ has given purpose. Like Don Quixote, they see oppression everywhere, especially within higher education. And like Cervantes’s knight errant, they are determined to destroy the supposed villains.”

One problem is the meaning of the word. In ordinary usage, equity means treating people justly and fairly. In law, courts of equity existed to bring justice to people where there was no remedy in a court of law. But, Breashears points out, in the new usage, equity is supposed to require arranging equal outcomes for each group. (Rather, not each group, but only those with political clout.) And that means treating some people differently than others. Asians on the whole are too successful, so they have to be sent to the back of the higher-education bus, under this system.

Also, “equity” demands that instruction and grading be changed so that outcomes by groups won’t be unequal.

Another characteristic of the equity zealots is that they won’t debate their ideas. Anyone who disagrees is likely to be subjected to personal attacks.

Breashears concludes:

And now, like Don Quixote’s audience, those of us in higher education have two choices: agree or “do battle.” If we agree, we must accept a world of forced “equality” by the modern knights errant of equity. We must agree to accept their definitions, their vision, their categories, their force.

Successful resistance will require a different narrative.  Ours should be that forced equality always fails but freedom enriches everyone. Let’s tell it.


George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


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