Brown University doubles down on "diversity"

Ten years ago, Ruth Simmons, then president of Brown University, said in a speech to students that she was concerned about reports about “the lack of diversity of opinion on campus.” People at Brown need to ask themselves, she said, “why the university has a reputation for ‘limiting debate’ and ‘fostering hostility to particular ideas and different perspectives.’”  

A question she heard frequently from alumni and parents, she told the Brown Daily Herald, is, “What is the University doing about the lack of diversity of opinion on campus?”  

One of the main reasons why Brown has that reputation for “fostering hostility to particular ideas and different perspectives” is —some will find this ironic; I find it predictable — the zeal with which it has moved to impose the orthodoxy of “diversity” across all areas of campus life. 

The latest example, as reported recently by Inside Higher Ed, is the “bold promise” made last month at its inaugural National Diversity Summit “to double its proportion of underrepresented minority faculty by 2025.”

There is probably no university in America lacking a committee-produced statement declaring its devotion to faculty diversity and “inclusive excellence” or some similar platitude. Almost universally, these documents founder on the shoals of attempting to explain exactly why faculty diversity is so important. They go in circles, merely asserting that “diversity” is “intrinsic” and it’s intrinsic because “one must be inclusive,” and so on. 

Brown’s attempt is no more successful. Its Building and Sustaining Inclusive Excellence: A Guide for Faculty Search Committees states that “Brown University is committed to pursuing the benefits of diversity among its faculty because new brilliant scholars are essential for keeping the institution productive, creative, competitive, and successful in its mission to train the next generation of leaders in all fields of endeavor.”  

Exactly what those “benefits of diversity” are and why only new diverse scholars are brilliant, creative, etc., is never explained. 

Brown’s actual purpose is probably revealed inadvertently by Inside Higher Ed’s simple recitation of relevant numbers: “Currently, 9 percent of Brown’s faculty is underrepresented minority (an additional 11 percent is Asian-American). That’s relatively high among Ivy League colleges, but still far below the percentage that would mirror Brown’s proportion of underrepresented minority undergraduates, which is about 20 percent (another 13 percent is Asian-American…).”  

Lower the bar via affirmative action to admit more “underrepresented” minorities and you create pressure to hire more underrepresented faculty members to “mirror” them. Diversity, in short, constantly ratchets itself upward.  

How diverse should Brown be? That’s a moving target, but the short answer is: more. “There is no ‘diverse-enough’ Brown,” an editorial in the Brown Daily Herald declared last month, “as long as structural and social forces continue to impede low-income individuals and people of color.” 

Despite howls of denial, there can be no doubt that “diversity” hiring (i.e., hiring faculty who wouldn’t have been hired but for their race, ethnicity, gender expression, etc.) produces “diversity hires” with lower academic qualifications just as surely as lowering admission standards to enroll more underrepresented minorities admits students who have lower qualifications. 

Brown admits as much when it says in Building and Sustaining Inclusive Excellence, “Recruiting and selecting our future faculty requires more than simply reading the scholarship of potential candidates and making one’s own informed choice. There are more dimensions to faculty recruiting than scholarship (although excellence in scholarship is paramount).”  

It’s starkly revealing that “excellence in scholarship” appears in a parenthetical.  

The rationale for dramatically increasing the numbers of underrepresented minority faculty may be unclear, but Brown’s method of doing so is straightforward. Liza Cariaga-Lo, Brown’s Vice President for Academic Development, Diversity and Inclusion,” described some of the prongs of Brown’s “multipronged approach”: 

  • creating new postdoctoral fellowships for minority scholars;
  • plugging the “leaky pipeline between graduate school and the professoriate, when many students leave academe for industry or other jobs,” by bringing “a small ‘cadre’ of advanced outside [minority] graduate students” to conferences on campus to work with faculty members;
  • bringing in young “scholars from underrepresented backgrounds, including women” to present their work and be mentored;
  • “helping faculty of color and women in the physical sciences — which are particularly lacking in diversity;
  • closely monitoring departments for “‘accountability’ related to climate, so that underrepresented minorities are not only hired but want to stay at Brown.” 

Note that, as is typical of universities’ current fixation on “diversity,” nothing in any of these “prongs” would do one whit to alleviate — and in fact would probably aggravate — “the lack of diversity of opinion on campus” that so concerned former president Simmons.  

The intensity of Brown’s diversity mania is accompanied by a number of other typical but troubling features.  

One is disdain for what is seen as the sorry state of the current campus culture. As the December 2014 Interim Report of the Task Force on Sexual Violence flatly stated, “the current norms and culture of the Brown University campus are not acceptable, and as a community we must seek in word and deed to fundamentally change that culture in order to ensure that the Brown campus is a safe and welcoming place….” (Emphasis in original) 

The necessary deeds, the April 2015 Final Report reveals, make Brown seem more like a forced re-education camp than a traditional university. 

Since “the expectation that students, faculty and staff should just know the right thing to do and the resulting campus culture should be safe for all is unrealistic in the absence of appropriate intervention and support,” its Recommendation 7 states that “All students, staff and faculty should be required to participate in mandatory annual evidence-based education programs on sexual and gender-based violence and harassment.”  

The Final Report also makes clear that the “intervention and support” it calls for is an integral part of the overall push for diversity, since it wants “to ensure sex education at Brown focuses on the diversity of different types of relationships, including LGBTQ relationships, and that our training and awareness language around sexual assault must be inclusive of male survivors and genderqueer survivors, and survivors whose assailants do not identify as cisgender men, among others.” 

Why must an American university concern itself with sex education? Because it is completely caught up in the mania over diversity. 

Since all the required monitoring of faculty search committees and “climate” improvement projects requires an army of apparatchiks to implement, “diversity” at Brown, as elsewhere, is a growth industry. “Let’s face it,” Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of Brown’s  Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, told a convention of those diversity apparatchiks at a convention at Disney World a few years ago, “[d]iversity has created jobs for all of us. It is a career. It is an industry.”  

Finally, Brown’s “diversity” programs, like all such programs, depends upon discriminating for and against individuals based on their race, sex, sexual persuasion, and ethnicity, and thus would trigger the cutoff of federal funds if Title VI of the Civil Rights Act still had any teeth. In fact, although no one seems to have noticed, those myriad and ongoing discriminations also violate Brown’s own anti-discrimination policy, which prohibits “unfavorable or unfair treatment of a person or class of persons because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.” 

Perhaps, however, in the long run all this indoctrination will not work. Students, even today’s Brown students, sometimes demonstrate stubborn recalcitrance in the face of attempts of their elders to improve them. A poll at Brown in the Fall of 2012 found that more than 58 percent of students opposed the university’s consideration of race in student admissions and 56 percent opposed considering race when hiring faculty members.

If support for the old anti-discrimination principle of treating individuals “without regard” to their race, etc., can survive all the “appropriate intervention” inflicted on Brown students, there may yet be hope for the rest of us.