Some Further Questions about Diversity

Will a diverse college campus – where “diverse” means that there is at least a “critical mass” of students and faculty members who are regarded as being members of certain “underrepresented” groups – lead to better results than if the school did not make any effort at being “diverse?” In my previous Clarion Call essay, I looked at the argument that diversity is beneficial because it causes people to better relate to one another. I didn’t find that argument very persuasive. What I want to do here is to examine some other arguments that have been advanced as justifying the hiring and admission preferences that are integral to the diversity movement.


The first argument is that diversity helps prepare American students for the diverse and increasingly globalized world they will live and work in. A “diverse” campus is therefore good preparation for the future. A college that failed to give its students that preparation would be remiss, wouldn’t it?

Some Questions about Diversity

The Pope Center’s 2006 conference, set for October 14 will focus on the much-discussed topic of diversity in higher education. Coincidentally, The Chronicle of Higher Education recently devoted an entire 40 page section to diversity, packed with articles on diversity and advertisements by schools large and small touting their commitment to diversity. A reader with no familiarity with American higher education would probably conclude that having more “diversity” is an unquestioned good – that one would no more ask if it’s beneficial to have more diversity than one would ask it’s beneficial to have better health. Not once in the entire section (and very rarely in anything written about higher education) is there a hint of skepticism about the diversity movement.

There is something odd about the insistent adulation of diversity. Individuals don’t usually tell themselves, “I’d be better off with more diversity in my life. I’m going to listen to all the different kinds of music available, not just the stuff I’ve been enjoying. I’m also going to have more diversity in my diet, eating many kinds of food I don’t normally eat.” Of course, we sometimes choose to try something new – a country-western fan could tune into a Met broadcast because a friend said that she might enjoy the music in The Marriage of Figaro – but that isn’t the same as a determination that a more diverse array of music would necessarily be better.

NCSU Manager Fired after Audit

RALEIGH — A project manager at North Carolina State University was fired after he received compensation from contracts that he was responsible for administering, according to a report released Monday by the Office of the State Auditor.

The project manager, who was unnamed in the auditor’s report, was also involved in submitting a bid by a company he managed on the side, interacting with other companies that submitted bids to NCSU, selling equipment to those companies from his own organization, all of which are violations of state law, according to the audit. According to the state General Statutes, no employee may receive a direct benefit from a contract in which the employee is responsible for the administration of the contract.

The case has been sent to the 10th Prosecutorial District for review and possible criminal charges. In his response to the audit’s findings, Chancellor James Oblinger said the project manager was fired in May.

Cleveland introduces bill to overturn scholarship provision

RALEIGH – A state legislator is calling for a controversial budget provision seen by many as a gift to athletic booster organizations to be overturned before the costs get out of hand.

Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, said that a budget provision in last year’s budget that allowed UNC institutions to consider out-of-state residents as in-state residents for purposes of awarding scholarships was bad fiscal policy for taxpayers. Cleveland has since introduced legislation to overturn the provision. The bill is House Bill 2423.

Taxpayers, Cleveland said, should not front the costs of a program that helps out-of-state students.

“I don’t see why taxpayers should worry about it,” Cleveland said about scholarship funding. “That is a school problem, not a taxpayer problem.”

Easley releases budget document

RALEIGH – The University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College System are slated to receive budget increases of more than 10 percent in a budget proposal released Tuesday by Gov. Mike Easley.

Easley’s budget announcement, which was announced during a press conference, came on the same day legislators returned to Raleigh for the start of the short session. More information about the budget is expected to be released Monday during a Joint Appropriations Committee meeting that will include a budget briefing.

In all, Easley is recommending a state budget of $18.85 billion, up from $17.2 billion for the current fiscal year. The budget request increases spending thanks in part to a $2 billion surplus in revenues.

Bowles innagurated as president

GREENSBORO – Erskine Bowles was inaugurated Wednesday as the 16th president of the University of North Carolina. His official swearing-in was held at UNC-Greensboro, four months after he took the job on Jan. 1.

The festivities began with a faculty procession down Spring Garden Street led by the N.C. A&T State University marching band. Wake Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. administered the oath of office, and Crandall Bowles held a family Bible for her husband. About 1,500 people filled Aycock Auditorium to hear the former U.S. Senate candidate outline his plan for the 16-campus system.

Arizona Study Recommends Student-Grant System of Higher Education Funding

On March 14, the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona think tank that favors market-based solutions to public policy issues, released a study that education leaders and policy makers in North Carolina should read and consider. Entitled “Cash for College: Bringing Free-Market Reform to Higher Education,” (available here) the paper argues that Arizona’s higher education system would benefit from the adoption of a new policy that would grant higher education money directly to students rather than appropriating funds to public colleges and universities.

The author of the study, Dr. Vicki Murray, makes a strong case that “Giving grants directly to students would expand their educational options and would help make the delivery of higher education in Arizona more efficient.” Undoubtedly, those are goals worth pursuing.

Campus events should promote debate, not anger

On the afternoon of Friday, March 3, an act of terrorism at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill left the university community in disbelief. Why would a former student would ram an SUV into a group of students?

Mohammad Reza Taheri-azar, 22, an Iranian native who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill last December, rented a Jeep Cherokee Laredo and launched his attack on a student assembly area known as “The Pit.” Nine people were injured in Taheri-azar’s rampage. He appeared in Orange County District Court on Monday where he was arraigned on 18 charges, including nine counts of attempted murder.

Given that Chapel Hill is a university that prides itself on its welcoming and inclusive environment for students, the question is why Taheri-azar would attempt to kill some of his former classmates. The Associated Press reported that Taheri-azar “allegedly made statements that he acted to avenge the American treatment of Muslims.” He also told a 911 dispatcher that “the reason is to punish the government of the United States for their actions around the world.” Comments he made to police detectives and court officials indicate that Taheri-azar thought he would become a hero in the radical Islam community for injuring and attempting to kill college students.

Panelists at UNC event tell students free-press fight crucial to freedom

CHAPEL HILL — Journalists need to defend their First Amendment Rights in order to protect them, or “there’s not going to be a torch to pass to the next generation.” That’s the assessment of one of North Carolina’s leading free press advocates.

“I hope people don’t look back years from now and say, ‘Those guys were surrounded, and they all went down,’” First Amendment lawyer John Bussian said during a free press forum in Chapel Hill on March 6. The event was organized by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

Bussian compared today’s journalists to the defenders of the Alamo. The forum at the University of North Carolina was scheduled on the 170th anniversary of the last day of battle at that Texas fortress.

BOG considers projects

CHAPEL HILL — With three months before the 2006 General Assembly short session begins, the UNC Board of Governors is trying to decide which projects the system will submit to legislators for approval.

Recently, in a work session before the monthly board meeting, members received updates on several projects and their budgets. No decisions were made on the budget appropriations. That is expected to come in April at a board meeting in Greensboro before inauguration ceremonies for UNC’s new president, Erskine Bowles.

In all, seven funding proposals were discussed during the workshop. Some are seeking a change in budget appropriations that were approved during the budget negotiations last year.