Phi Beta Cons

When Black Is Not Enough

Even before the rash of protests in the wake of the recent racial violence across the nation the volume of demands for more of what students and faculty call “diversity” — more black faculty and students — has been rising dramatically. After the unpleasantness last fall at the University of Missouri, Inside Higher Ed reported, students “called on administrators to increase the share of black faculty members to 10 percent by 2017-18.”

Another typical example comes from the Black Liberation Collective: “1) WE DEMAND at the minimum, Black students and Black faculty to be reflected by [sic] the national percentage of Black folk in the state and the country.” 

Indeed, the influential web site examined in detail the demands from students at 51 colleges presented on a site called (what else?) The Demands and found that the most common demand was to “increase the diversity of professors,” listed at 38 of the 51 schools. Next, at 35 schools, was to “require diversity training.”

Inasmuch as the demand for black professors threatens to far outrun the supply, there are obvious logistic problems with meeting these student commands. But there is another, under-appreciated problem that will pose a difficult challenge to administrators, hiring committees, diversity trainers, and even black candidates vying to be new “diversity” hires: Who, exactly, is black?

Simply being black is quite obviously not sufficient to satisfy the increasingly shrill “diversity” demands. In its July 11 survey of campus responses to the recent week of racial violence, Inside Higher Ed discusses a petition circulated by Vanderbilt students to suspend Carol Swain, a controversial (because she is both black and conservative) professor of law and political science. (I have discussed her work several times, including here, here, and here.) 

Swain’s current offense: calling the Black Lives Matter movement a “very destructive force” in an interview with CNN. 

The petition calling for Prof. Swain’s dismissal also demands the creation of a mandatory “diversity training program for all Vanderbilt faculty — including Professor Carol Swain — to increase their cultural awareness, foster inclusion of various identity groups, prevent discrimination in the classroom, and to protect the University against inadvertent civil rights violations.”

It would be interesting to see what the curriculum of Vanderbilt’s  mandatory diversity training program would include on how to instruct a black woman professor to be more “inclusive” and “culturally aware,” as well as who would presume to teach her. And it would also be interesting to see how the student “diversity” demanders at any of the 38 colleges listed on The Demand site would react if Prof. Swain were to be considered for a position at any of them.

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