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When Will Universities Understand Real Diversity?

High school senior Suzy Lee Weiss touched off a debate yesterday with her Wall Street Journal op-ed, “To (All) The Colleges that Rejected Me.” She capped that off with an appearance on the “Today Show” to discuss her piece. Two of the themes she touches upon are resume-padding and the notion of diversity:

For starters, had I known two years ago what I know now, I would have gladly worn a headdress to school. Show me to any closet, and I would’ve happily come out of it. “Diversity!” I offer about as much diversity as a saltine cracker. If it were up to me, I would’ve been any of the diversities: Navajo, Pacific Islander, anything. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, I salute you and your 1/32 Cherokee heritage.

Resume padding is always going to exist, although any diligent admissions officer (or employer) should be able to see through it, if not with a Google search than with a few quick phone calls. But diversity is a bigger issue. The sad fact is that universities—both private and public—are essentially racist: They will gladly boil down diversity to the color of skin. Take this story from today’s Yale Daily News:

Upon first examination, the University staff is not significantly less diverse than the student body, with 28 percent of staff employees identifying as ethnic minorities. But the leadership of the University is a different story — during a year of administrative transition, the top two University positions, provost and president, will remain filled by white males. When the groups of staff are broken down by rank, the percentage identifying as ethnic minorities steadily decreases to 17 percent at the managerial and professional level, 12 percent of the top 100 staff positions — which include University officers and those who report directly to them — and 10 percent of the 10 University officers, comprised of the University president, provost and eight vice presidents, all of whom but one are white.

Now, make no mistake: Yale’s administration is not diverse. But the problem won’t simply be rectified by skin color or ethnicity. New York City subways or any urban mall are places where students can be introduced to people from a lot of different cultures. Universities should become places where students can be introduced to a number of different ideas. Alas, this is exactly where they fail, as a quick look at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) website demonstrates.

Conservative ideas are sorely lacking, if not among the student body than among the faculty. Some universities, such as William College, make a special effort to bring more conservative speakers to campus, whereas others simply ignore the problem. Students and faculty may not like conservatives ideas. Indeed, they may think they are wrong. But simply from a pedagogical point-of-view, students must be honestly confronted with them if they are going to learn to rebut them. To wrap students in an ideologically homogenous bubble through their colleges years and then foist them into a job market and broader world that may dismiss the very premise upon which their assumptions are based does them a true disservice.

That rhetorical dedication to diversity and racialist thinking have become directly proportional is truly one of the saddest indictments of universities. And as for Suzy Lee Weiss: Love her piece or hate it, she deserves kudos for challenging assumptions and starting a real debate. Those universities that rejected her will be worse off for not one day calling her their alum.


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