Phi Beta Cons

Diversity versus Diversity

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a commentary piece titled, “Want More Innovation?  Get More Diversity.”  As you would expect, it is a plea for universities to hire more African American faculty, in particular, because diversity in background and perspective will (according to some dubious data) result in more creative and innovative thinking.  The piece concludes that since “even if people from different backgrounds have exactly the same skills and knowledge, diverse teams may still do better than more homogeneous ones,” therefore administrators should “[s]top hiring people who look like you.”  My posted response:

“Three obvious problems with this (there may be additional, methodological ones, too): (1) It assumes that skin color diversity should be used as a proxy for diversity of background and perspective. Of course, this is just stereotyping: Two people of different color may have very similar backgrounds and perspectives, and two people of the same color may have very different backgrounds and perspectives. (2) It assumes that skin color diversity can be achieved without sacrificing qualifications based on “skills and knowledge.” That’s not true either: If you weigh race in addition to merit, then you are going to be weighing merit less. (3) It ignores the fact that it’s illegal to “Stop hiring people who look like you.” The courts have, alas, allowed a limited amount of race discrimination in student admissions, but they have not done so (thankfully) for faculty hiring. More here.

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