Phi Beta Cons

Diversity Mania Hits LaCrosse

Students who attend the University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse, a middling school located in the quiet, rural southwestern corner of the state, are going to have to pay considerably more in the future so that the school can afford a new “diversity” initiative. The story on Insider Higher Education is here. (The plan has been approved by the UW Regents, but still needs to get past the state legislature and Governor Doyle.) 
The justification offered by the administration is the standard line about the educational benefits of diversity. Quoth the vice chancellor for administration and finance, “We need to prepare students for future realities. This is the right thing to do — it’s reflective of the world out there.” 
The reasoning of UW-LaCrosse officials therefore seems to go like this: Most of the students there are going to need to understand how to deal with a “globalized” world and the best way to prepare them for that is by inducing a few more American black and Hispanic students who would rather be somewhere other than LaCrosse to enroll there so that everyone will be able to see what the big, diverse world is truly like. That argument is absurd. 
Most of the kids at UW-LaCrosse will never have any need for close encounters of the diversity kind, and for those who do, having sat in some classes with a few more black and Hispanic students is not going to make the least bit of difference in their ability to figure out how to respond to business people from China, India, Turkey, Estonia, Brazil or anywhere else.
The LaCrosse students are no more at a disadvantage in dealing with the world than are students at all-black colleges in the US or the all-Japanese universities to be found in the world’s second largest economy. Has anyone noticed that the Japanese have been extremely successful in their dealings with others all around the globe despite the fact that their schools are not “diverse”? If the “diversity is necessary for cultural competence” theory were correct, the Japanese should be hopeless in international commerce.They aren’t and that’s because the ability to figure out how to cooperate and transact with others doesn’t depend on having had minority “representation” in classrooms. 
The idea that this new tax on students to fund diversity is for their own good is ridiculous. It’s for the good of the administrators, who want to be able to crow about their “success” in marginally changing the ethnic composition of the campus. There are more important things for them to worry about.

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

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