Phi Beta Cons

University of Michigan Students Prefer Real Diversity

Last Monday, the Black Student Union at the University of Michigan, under the guise of improving diversity, called for administrators to comply with seven racial demands. These included more money for racially segregated groups, race-based scholarships, and at least a 10 percent black enrollment quota. Most of the demands are plainly illegal under Michigan’s constitution, but the university’s conciliatory response to the bullying tactics from the group (with threats of “physical action”) prompted U-M’s college libertarians to question whether the university is serious about real diversity or the cheap, skin-deep imitation.

To date, university officials have championed superficial diversity, and not even the kind that matters. They have found great pride in praising U-M’s racial enrollment statistics and producing pretty brochures highlighting all the different skin colors on campus, while failing to acknowledge the abysmal “diversity” of graduation rates.

Two student leaders of the campus libertarian group, Derek Magill and Cody Chipman, sent a letter to university administrators and regents this week, asking the university to restore real diversity on campus — diversity of thought.

This group, of all groups, is keenly aware of just how monolithic the university is when it comes to intellectual diversity. In December, they filed a lawsuit against the university for political discrimination in denying funding to their group while happily funding other left-leaning political groups on campus. Not surprisingly, their lawsuit has not been met with nearly the same sense of urgency as the Black Student Union’s discriminatory and unconstitutional demands.

You can read their excellent defense of the “free marketplace of ideas” in its entirety below:

Dear President Coleman,

We are writing to you to voice our concerns about the state of the intellectual climate on campus. Last week, Provost Pollack addressed an email to the University of Michigan community which affirmed “both the university’s” and her “own strong commitment to diversity and to creating a welcoming and inclusive community.” We applaud this effort. We question however, as any student who has spent time on this campus must do, what exactly are meant by “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” If, by these two much abused terms, you mean primarily race, gender and religion, then we’d ask that you qualify your future statements about these matters to “diversity and inclusiveness within a narrow set of parameters.” If however, you meant to affirm your commitment to diversity as it is properly defined – a condition of being composed of differing elements or qualities – we ask that you question whether your administration has done an adequate job at promoting such diversity, and whether Provost Pollack’s email did not leave out gaping holes in the diversity program of the university.

As students at the University of Michigan, we have become keenly aware that there is a general under representation of libertarian and conservative views on campus. Nearly every course we have taken has been taught from a liberal perspective by a liberal professor. This is troubling not because liberalism is being promoted on campus, but because of the general lack of opposing viewpoints students have access to. A campus ought to be a free marketplace of ideas where students can reevaluate and refine the beliefs that will shape the rest of their lives. If all schools of thought are not more equally represented, many students may never encounter them in fair setting. For a university that prides itself on its supposed liberal values, this is unacceptable. Moreover, it is dishonest.

We would ask that you force students to take courses that fairly represent libertarian thought, as you have done so with other course requirements, but we could not do so without forfeiting our character as libertarians. Rather, we ask simply that you make these courses available, that, for example, the free market school of thought be entered into the economics curriculum to be taught by competent and fair free market professors; that history courses taught from perspectives other than the postmodern be made available; that for every course on race and ethnicity, there be a course on intellectual diversity which includes liberal, conservative and libertarian cultural and political ideas.

We ask, additionally, that an increased budget be developed and extra curricular programs created to help foster this intellectual diversity outside of the classroom. This would allow students from across the disciplines to engage in fair minded and open discussion with their peers about all ideologies, not just those that the university sanctions.

As a public institution, it is your obligation to represent all schools of political and cultural thought – and to better reflect the diversity of views in our state. Please live up to this duty, and to the standards you claim to have set for yourselves.

Humbly submitted,

Derek Magill and Cody Chipman

Young Americans for Liberty

P.S. Go Blue!      

— Jennifer Gratz is the founder and CEO of the XIV Foundation, named after the 14th Amendment, to defend the principle of equal treatment and a colorblind society.