Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Big "D"

Today I attended New Faculty Orientation. This was a good thing as I was previously quite disoriented. I kept walking into walls and everything. Now I am fully oriented to my surroundings.

Having been through different versions of these events at two institutions in my short career, I have concluded that they exist more for the symbolism of welcoming faculty rather than providing any actual information. Everything really important and useful that you will need to know (how to make copies, where to order books, how much you can penalize students for absenteeism, where the men’s room is located, etc.) come from your department (most likely your department’s clerical and administrative staff).

Universities are usually much too large to create an orientation that would be as beneficial to a chemist as it would be for a historian. Our research needs are quite distinct. Indeed, I remember sitting through a very long session at my old Texas institution’s orientation entitled “How To Obtain Permits for an Off Shore Drilling Facility.” While I am sure the two new petroleum engineering professors were riveted, I found it a bit boring. Fortunately my new university has more sense than to even try such foolishness.

As I sat through today’s sessions, though, several things occurred to me. The first is that undergraduates seem a lot younger than I remember them. The college invited in two students to give their perspective on teaching. How long have I been out of the classroom? I felt ancient. Actually, all the junior faculty also seemed really young to me. I am not old (a mere 33), but life in Texas really aged me.

The other main thought that I had centered on the way “diversity” got so much play from the various speakers. Don’t get me wrong – I am not knocking the use of the term exactly. Indeed, I applaud my new institution for fighting to maintain diversity even as enemies of the university seek to dismantle the little diversity that exists.

Still, “diversity” has become accepted as a convenient short hand for something that does not get much real discussion. If you ask almost any university administrator in the nation about their long-term goals for the students and faculty of their institution, they will likely include “increasing diversity” somewhere between “Becoming Number One in U.S. News and World Report” and “Ending the Great Urinal Cake Shortage.”

Universities aren’t the only place where the ambiguous “diversity” gets props, either. I hear many people express a desire to live (or actually do live) in an urban city like Boston, New York, Los Angeles, etc because they “want to be near diversity.” Those who live in small towns likewise complain about the lack of diversity in their locale. By “diversity,” I always assumed that they mean a wider variety of racial backgrounds and (sometimes) more queer people. They don’t often specify what they actually do mean.

The reality of the nation is not at all reflective of all this “celebration of diversity.” The United States, as I have mentioned previously, is more segregated today than it was twenty years ago. What are the most segregated areas? Urban centers, like my dear Boston.

Moreover, individuals, especially whites, are not likely to have serious friendships or relationships with people outside of their own racial group. So, while people want to live near the “diversity,” they seemingly don’t want that diversity in their house. To be honest, I am deeply suspicious of anybody who has never had a meaningful friendship outside of their own racial group (regardless of which group they identity with themselves).

For both universities and people’s individual lives, I think diversity is irreplaceable. Modern universities need the experience and intellectual inquiry that comes from multiple perspectives to function. As an individual human, the greater the number of people that you meet and with whom you can engage, the better off you will be.

Diversity, though, can be an allusive thing to determine. Tomorrow, for instance, I am hosting a cocktail party. By some measures, the guest list is quite diverse. People of white heritage, Latinos, people of Jewish ancestry, and African Americans will be represented. There will be citizens of the U.S. and citizens of several other nations.

By other measures, though, the guest list is quite homogenous (emphasis on the “homo”). We are all queer, have attained the highest level of formal education possible, and live comfortable middle-class lives. Depending on perspective, this same group is both diverse and insular.

It therefore makes me nervous when the term “diversity” becomes untethered from any type of intellectual grounding. It, instead, implies a hollow sense of universality and shared understanding (that I don’t think really exists). We “all know” what diversity means, but I am not sure that we actually agree.

For some, living in urban areas that are deemed appropriately diverse has become an acknowledged sign of an individual’s status and even a certain type of wealth. Yet, that same uncritical approach to diversity also ignores the material poverty that often hinders non-white “diversity” in this nation. Racial diversity, in that case, implies access to different types of restaurants with zesty spices, but not meaningful relationships.

Living near “queer diversity,” likewise, implies new trendy clubs and snappy fashion quips. It ignores, though, the real violence that occurs against queer people in our cities daily.

If universities are serious about diversity, than we need to reframe the way that we talk about it. Most universities provide little institutional support despite their aspirations for a more diverse campus. In Texas, for instance, both the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, the state’s two flagship institutions, failed to even come close to reflecting the state’s non-white majority population. The few people of color who joined the faculty and the few students who attended those universities, moreover, were often isolated. The existing administration seemed unwilling or unable to change the climate on either of those campuses.

Universities should aspire to reflect the reality of the nation’s population in both their student bodies and faculty. Rather than “celebrating" it, diversity should be the state of affairs.


bardelf said...

Sadly, every year or few, a word or phrase will come to the attention of the media, and become so over-used that we begin to cringe whenever we hear it. A few years ago, "family" became one such word. And, how many times do you wince when you hear the words, "The American People"? "Diversity" has now fallen into a similar over-used status.

Those of us who come to this website are like one big, diverse family. ;)

tornwordo said...

Is this like the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

It still looks like you're in a far superior place to Texas.

vuboq said...

Did I hear someone say "Cocktail Party?" Perhaps my invitation got lost in the mail ...

Have a good Labor Day Weekend!

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gwoertendyke said...

at least your university has made a point of attempting to seriously engage diversity on multiple levels--while most, like the Texas institutions you refer to and the one I currently am housed at--do not come close to reflecting the range/ratio of diversity in the state. as is so often the case, class is the invisible barrier.

good post. i can't believe you had to sit through an oil drilling orientation...only in texas.

Steven said...

By the title of your post, I was expecting a review of Midwest Funky Town University football team's defense. :-(

Considering the recent (2 years ago?) debate/debacle on University of Michigan's "Affirmative Action" policy, true diversity, in the racial/ethnic sense, unfortunately has a long way to go.

It was interesting to note that "GLBT" never came to mind when you mentioned "diversity." It seems that diversity in the university "context" has always been in the racial/ethnic sense to me. Great post.

pacalaga said...

So, I have this question. A while ago (July 22, to be precise) you posted about queer space. Some of the commenters posted about other, mostly college-centric, spaces where students of like mind or background could gather and just be (comfortable). At what point does "comfort space" become segregation? Is it when it's a whole neighborhood, or a whole section of town? Or a school? Or one floor of a dorm? I'm not trying to be tongue-in-cheek here, but isn't having a space to feel comfortable because you're surrounded by people of "your own kind", whatever that may be, the opposite of diversity? Does "diversity" imply that you have to leave your comfort zone, or that you must be comfortable among any ethnic, religious, or sexually oriented group? It seems to me that if I work and play among a diverse group of people and then come home to my "comfort group", I'm still being exclusionary and segregating myself.

Anonymous said...

The question, again, becomes, "how?"

Earl Cootie said...

The business where I'm currently working is the most diverse place I've ever worked. Despite complaints I may have with the job itself, I do find the variety of cultures, races, ethnicities, gender identities, etc. oddly comforting, but I'll be damned if I could tell you why. Maybe that my own orientation does not leave me an outlier?

Oh, and haven't you learned anything from your students? You don't go to orientations to get oriented. You go to get orientated.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit dubious about the "diversity" fad. Saying we "value diversity" or "celebrate diversity" is clever sloganeering, but I'm not sure those phrases actually mean much, if anything.

In addition, beyond lip service at the administrative level, I've seen little/no work being done at the departmental levels to actually "foster diversity" (whatever that means.)

Nor is there ever any talk about the limits to what we'll value and/or celebrate about "diversity". (ie. if we're talking about intellectual diversity, just how far out of the mainstream are we willing to tolerate?)

But it's a nice phrase, and all the pretty colors look good on signs.

Marlan said...

Diversity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Back in my married/straight/closeted days, I would have been perceived as needing "diversity training" or something. Fact is, I was a big old fag back then, just in hiding. That, to me, illustrated the hypocrisy of the current diversity debates, which are largely focused on physical characteristics.

So now, my question becomes. Do I tell folks that I'm gay, so I can be part of their little diversity initiative?

Anonymous said...

A couple of weeks ago I joined an organized group of people that I had never met before for my vacation. The group of travelers was all white, and clearly had had little contact with people outside of their racial or socio-cultural experience. There was, however, a much greater range of educational and economic backgrounds than I encounter in my daily life, where I am primarily surrounded with privileged, college- (or higher) educated people.

It was one of those instances of having to confront the bubble that I live in in terms of my ability to be safely out (of both my queer and Jewish closets) but also of having certain of my own assumptions challenged. So I think you make an important point about different types of diversity.

Re: Pacalega's comment, I'm not sure the size or constitution of safe space is necessarily at issue here (ie a resource center, a neighborhood, a building, etc) but the difference between a self-defined safe space and a ghetto that becomes difficult, if not impossible, to leave.

GayProf said...

BardElf: I hope that we get along better than most families.

Torn: It is much better than Texas. I thank the goddess daily that I did not have to return to that land of suffering.

VUBOQ: If you flew to MFT, you would be the guest of honor at my cocktail party.

Absoluterik: I am always happy to be linked.

Adjunct Whore: Most four-year universities don't reflect the diversity of their cities/states/nation. Education continues to be deeply segregated.

Steven: You mean Big Midwestern University has a football team? Huh.

Pacalga: That's a tough set of questions. On one hand, because universities are not diverse places, there does need to be a place where minorities can gather and, at the very least, meet other people like themselves.

Still, I would be worried if those same students never reached outside of that group. A Latina student, for instance, who only has friends who are also Latino students (and not African American or Asian, for instance) is doing herself a disservice.

I don't think having friendships with a diverse group of people necessarily precludes that one would also want friendships with people with a similar set of experiences.

This, in many ways, is what made me think of my cocktail party. While I will certainly have gatherings that are mixed, in this instance I made a guest list that was exclusively queer. It's tricky, no?

Huntington: First, we need to radically reshape public education in this nation (especially funding structures). Too many students don't have any opportunity to obtain higher educatin because of the gross way that inequality is built into our system.

Second, humanities curriculum in universities needs to be reinvented so that "minority" histories and literatures are not "add-ons" to the [white-straight] canon.

Earl: I think that a diverse work place suggests that there is a general feeling of good will.

Alan: Well, queer theory is often considered far outside of mainstream. As a result, I would be very leery to start putting limits on intellectual inquiry (even from those on the right wing). As long as it is engaged discussion (and not sloppy demagoguery), universities should be committed to free speech.

Marlan: One of the reasons that queer folk are not discussed in the same ways as racial minorities is that they are not actually under represented in universities in proportion to their part in the population. The problem has been, though, that they have not felt comfortable being open about their sexual desires.

Sarah: Context and history are key for thinking about diversity, in my book.

Anonymous said...

In Boston when people talk about wanting to live in a "diverse" neighborhood they only mean that they want to have some fabulous white fags around. If they actually are thinking about race, they are referring only to middle class people of color with maybe a few African Americans thrown in for extra credit--but not too many. So I would prefer to not hear people say it anymore.

dykewife said...

canada has an official policy of "multiculturalism" where each ethnic culture is supposed to be as celebrated as the mainstream (read white, middle class, heterosexual male) culture. of course, it's quite ok to be different, so long as you're difference is the same as everyone else in your group who are different.

did you hear? canada's getting a human rights museum. interesting that the country that south africa used as a model for their apartheid laws is touting this.


have a fun time at the new university. and don't forget to get the underlings flowers because they rule your life. :)

goblinbox said...

You're only 33? Why, you're still a baby! A youn'un! A spring chicken, even!

And since you (practically) asked, I'll tell you that when I say 'diversity,' what I mean is that I'd like to know lots and lots and lots of different sorts of people - regardless of skin color, who (or what) they have sex with, edu-ma-cation, geographical origination, or religion - who can teach me lots and lots and lots of recipes. Because what people think of as comfort food - what they associate with holidays or home or mother's love - is fascinating! And strange! And wildly divergent. Yay diversity!

(It's 'elusive,' dear, not 'allusive.') (I'm not sayin', you know. I'm just sayin'.)

[begin rant]
And yeah: what the hell does diversity mean? Does it mean I'm an asshole if I don't hang out with people I don't actually like? Or with whom I share only the fact of existence and no other trait?

I'm as non-diverse (short of being male) as one can be in America: I'm white, middle-middle class, moderately intelligent, (mostly) straight, sound of limb, moderately educated, not so well-traveled.

But I also have a lot of non-white and non-straight friends, so I ponder diversity and 'equality' a great deal, and on the topic of 'embracing diversity' I wonder this: while we can all agree that everyone deserves equality, are we spending enough time differentiating between equality and homogenization?

If only 8% of the population is physically disabled, then do we need more than 8% of our parking spaces to be reserved for their needs? Does every single building need a ramp? Does every entrance need a ramp? Does every bathroom have to have lowered counters for our wheelchair-bound bretheren?

We have to ask ourselves when we cross the line between helping those who need it and handicapping everyone else in an effort to make us all equal? (Vonnegut, may he RIP, wrote a great story about a society in which 'equality' was so valued that anyone, even the talentless, were allowed to do what they desired, regardless of ability. In the professional ballet, the ones who were too good were handicapped with weights during performances so as not to outshine those who utterly lacked any talent. That's the logical outcome of too much 'equality,' and it's terrifying.) Equality does not mean homogenization, and we forget that the point is not to laud the lowest common denominator but to engender compassion for one another.

I've been reading up on queer studies lately, and I find that there are some very indignant, militant, pissed off people out there and they're vociferously demanding what they call 'equality' for everything, even very rare, specific circumstances that only happen to a statistically small portion of the population - circumstances such as those experienced by those born intersexed, for example. I grok that those who live through such horrendous difficulties deserve compassion and understanding from the societies they live in, but is demanding that the rest of society, the members of which are not faced with such issues, be utterly reorganized for the benefit of these very few reasonable?

Extrapolate these trends of vehement demands for 'understanding' of rare situations to the broader issues of race or even orientation, and we find that we have many statistically small(er than the mainstream) groups demanding to be 'accepted' and even downright lauded by the mainstream for expressions, and even choices, that are not mainstream. I believe we may be confusing diversity with this unbalanced demand for 'equality' misunderstood as homogenization. (Plus, I grant you the right to live a weird life, but you can't require me to think that it's as cool as you think it is, because that's just silly.)

Now, as a card-carrying member of the mainstream, I have to say that even I - as a lucky, privileged white middle-class citizen of moderate income and education - have to hide any drug paraphernalia or sex toys that might be around when my mother comes over. In other words: some things are not supposed to be mainstream by virtue of not being mainstream. Some things cannot be universally accepted, period. They belong behind closed doors, and practitioners don't 'deserve' the 'right' to shout their proclivities from the rooftops, because they make up a small part of the culture at large. The right to make choices in private is not the same as the right to demand across-the-board acceptance of statistically insignificant, non-mainstream lifestyles.

'Celebration of diversity' is a fantastic idea, in the sense that it challenges us to look at our gut reactions when we're confronted with something new, different, or foreign to us - things like unfamiliar sexual orientations, lifestyle choices, or racial or cultural customs. But does it really mean equal time for every possible configuration, every possible platform, every possible decision? Are we really serving the greater good when we attempt unsuccessfully to spend equal time on literally everything?

I embrace diversity to the point that I expect my fellow citizens to accept, for instance, that 10% (or whatever the number really is) of the population is homosexual, and that homosexuality is as normal (and I won't digress into a discussion of 'normal' here; yes, you're welcome) as heterosexuality. I expect my fellow citizens to be diverse enough to live comfortably next door to a gay couple, or even a thruple who follow all the other standards of the culture they live in. I do not, however, expect my mother to accept living next door to a house roaring with a constant stream of fetishists spanking one another on the front lawn during the hours of Sunday brunch, or cult members who stake their pets out under full moons and paint themselves with their own blood, or any other lifestyle that while being perhaps utterly valid, is germane to only a small portion of the members of her culture.

Diversity should mean 'live and let live,' with respect and humor, shouldn't it? Not anger, forcefulness, or skewed personal agendas ostensibly based on race or orientation but which are actually very personalized demands for attention and not requests for the right to live free of fear?

Finally, is it rational to expect all people to resonate with those with whom they have little or nothing in common? There are lifestyles I don't want to be around, but I can feel that way while still believing that others should be allowed to pursue their own needs with dignity and respect. Can I ever truly embrace all 'diversity' when some of it is so removed from my own experience that I can find no commonality? It's quite possible that there are folks in the world with which I cannot forge any kind of meaningful relationship or communication whatsoever, period. And if that's so, it's not my job to rally to their cause, but merely to peaceably allow them their choices in the privacy of their own lives... as long as they're not hurting me or my ability to pursue my own. Isn't that the point of the call to 'embrace diversity' in the first place? It's not integration, misguided 'equality,' handicapping to make everyone equally useless, or focusing the resources of the majority onto the demands of the very few: it's a guide, to remind us all that lifestyles and rituals and orientations and accidents of birth not our own are valid and deserve the space in which to play themselves out without fear or judgment.
[/end rant]

Oh hell, I'll shut up now. Sorry for the huge long comment! You just get me thinkin'. Nice post. Very thinky.

Jessica said...

I will say that I do like my University because of the 'diversity' of the student body, as well as within the professors, advisors, and staff. Such 'diversity' helped me grow. However, I do see that some people who attend my school never seem to grow beyond what they were when they entered. Therefore, it's not so much the school as it is the person, I realize.

But I'm young and have much more of the world to see.

Marius said...

As usual, excellent post! Pacalaga brought up some very interesting issues. I do think that most people try to surround themselves with people who are like them. And many don't look outstide of their comfort zone. I'm guilty of that, as are most Americans, I think.

Michael said...

I attended a party in Ann Arbor. It was held by a Faculty member of the social work department at the University of Michigan. It was a diverse group of people at the party, all very PC. One of the guest asked where my parent were from I stated from Kentucky. She told me I was the child of interbreeding and my family was amoral and backward.When I confronted her about her statment, she refused to believe that they stereotypical and bigoted.

Carl said...

Canada's "multiculturalism" policy came into being in the late '60s for one reason and one reason only: to allow the then-ruling Liberal party to ignore the "biculturalism" part of the mandate of the commission of inquiry that the government it formed had itself created in 1963, under the name of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism ( Faced with a majority French-speaking Québec that was quickly becoming more assertive, a two-pronged policy response was developed: the first one, official biligualism, made Canada bilingual by fiat, from coast to coast, while the numbers of French-speaking Canadians had been falling (and have continued to fall) in all provinces but Québec and New Brunswick for decades, due to that process that (in Canada) dares not speak its name, assimilation.

The second prong, originally meant to focus on biculturalism, morphed into multiculturalism when it was realized that a) underlining biculturalism would strengthen Québec government's demands for additional powers under the British North America Act (which served as Canada's constitution at the time), as Québec's gov't could make the valid claim to be the government of the 'other culture' and b) this would run against the (one-)nation-building efforts that the Canadian Liberal Party has always seen as its mandate from heaven. By officially endorsing a policy of multiculturalism, one affirms that every cultural expression is equally valuable and worthy of protection. Therefore, any single culture's claim to uniqueness must be denied. Hence, integration into the larger body politic is to happen naturally, without intervention by the state. Conversely, policies designed to foster integration into a specific culture should be questioned and eliminated.

This policy framework quite conviniently provides -- as the numerous Canadian Supreme Court decision regarding Québec's Charter of the French Language demonstrate -- the perfect rationale to attack the Québec gov't policies regarding integration of immigrants into the French-speaking majority there. Since both languages are equal and all cultures are equivalent, the fact the new Canadians would choose to speak English in Montréal and integrate into English Canadian culture should not be a problem. Therefore, laws designed to ensure that new Canadians living in Québec integrate into the French majority are, by their very nature, offensive and must be removed.

So, in a nutshell, in Canada it's ok to be diverse if you do so in English.

Anonymous said...

Carl: Have you been to Montreal lately? I don't think anyone is attempting to oppress the French language there and I don't think they could if they tried. I am going to make the bold suggestion that Canada's multicultural policy is actually well intentioned and has worked well in practice even if the intentions in the 60's were not pure. Whatever strategy was need to keep a united Canada is fine by me.

Michael: I hate people who think it's ok to throw around idiotic stereotypes of Appalachian people. It is a widely accepted prejudice amongst those who think that b/c most people in that area are Republicans they must be stupid. The thing I hate most is that part of what they say is true. I also hate the fact that at least part of the reason that "hillbillies" are Republican is that they are perfectly aware of the disdain that liberals have for them and so they are continually duped by and receptive to the folksy crap the Republicans feed them. Of course anyone can see that it would be in their best interests to vote Democratic--but to vote for a party that represents a mainstream and a perceived elite that thinks you are inbred and dim is not an option I think.


Roger Owen Green said...

Great post.

I'm mostly in favor of diversity. I'm generally against it, though, when inviting me CREATES the diversity. I believe they call that tokenism.

AcadeMama said...

"Universities should aspire to reflect the reality of the nation’s population in both their student bodies and faculty."

To some extent, isn't the situation a Catch-22? That is, a university can actively try to recruit students who would increase diversity on a campus, but if those students already recognize said school as one that lacks diversity - lacks others with whom they can identify and create community - then those students aren't likely to rush out and enroll. Short of false advertising (which I've seen take place at a midwestern school) by which the school sends out recruiting material and brochures with images of African Americans and Latinos that make it *look* like they have a "diverse" student body, what's a school to do? It takes a brave freshman to enroll, knowing that he/she will be one of the few minorities on campus, surrounded by people who ignore or resent their presence and/or don't value diversity as a concept to begin with. I guess I'm just not sure how many students are willing to take such a step.

dpaste said...

Well, I feel all smug about myself, having good friends who are Asian, African-American (technically he's Carribean-American) Latino, straight, female, and non-Jewish. Some are even gay white males. Not sure about the diversity of education, although income certainly spans the map.

Do I win?

Anonymous said...

Great post Gay Prof!
So many of the comments strike a familiar chord. Diversity as a catch phrase can be as annoying for me as the phrase politically correct.Do they really mean anything anymore or are they just code words.
Class has replaced race for some as a barometer of diversity.I frequently ask others " When was the last time you were the ONLY one of your ethnic type at a social event?" The answers are usually eye opening.

Tenured Radical said...

I am devastated that I will not be at your cocktail party. On the other hand, even if you had invited me, I would not have made it home in time to finish my syllabus.


Carl said...


I go to Montréal on a very regular basis, thank you very much. Being from Québec City and now living in Ottawa, I go through (and to) that city quite often. And if Montréal is the way it is right now, it is most certainly not because of any policy of the Federal government, which, though various instruments (including its illegitimate interventions in education rooted in 1982's constitution) would rather promote the return to the status quo ante. If Montréal is the way it is today, it is in spite of the Canadia gov't's policies, not because of them.

JZY said...

Dear Gay Professor,
In spirit, there is that nobleness in what you advocated; you should be saluted in this backlash period. However, regarding your response to Huntington's question (a loaded but important one), you came short to offer anything novel or enlightening- especially to historically diverse places like California, New York...etc, where the d word is not only tired but arguably expired (taken for granted or suffering from extreme cynicism). The fact is, definition and aspiration for "higher learning" and "success" is diverse among diverse groups. It is also becoming more and more apparent that in the past effort to make "higher learning" more egalitarian has also instead devalued it. You see, a college education is more than a degree or some skill acquisition. In fact, a vocational school fulfills even more in this day and age; there are so many more overeducated citizens today who would tesify.

It's not a secret that among all the most selective liberal arts colleges and research-one universities the actually diverse group of "Asian Americans" have been lumped up and determined as "disporportionally" making a far larger presence. Isn't that just plain "unfair"? Should there be a polical compaign challenging Asian Americans/Asians for making our "elite campuses" less diverse? With what other programs could we "level off" Asians in order to admit more "under-represented" minorities to higher learning campuses? Then, would that finally be "fair"? You see, it is pandora's box. The University of California has struggled with this issue for decades, and it has more than often perpetuated racial distrust and voluntary segregation along old boundaries.

This thread has yet another focus, which is the "getting along together" part, which I believe ought not to be mixed up with the racial/ethnic make up of an education institution. The most important reason for that is, a productive and harmonious multicultural collective actually does NOT depend on some percaentage make-up, nor should that statistics become the prerequisite of vibrant transcultural society.

I welcome the multicultural pedagogy in which American college curriculum wisely include canons from diverse cultures, esp. in this "global era." However, you do know that academia has always been a fundamentally conservative environment that builds and secures itself with an inertia against rapid changes or instibility. The establishment of university canons from diverse cutures of all humanity is therefore an arduous and enormous task for an academic, a job that is not to be done by direct democracy. I sincerely wish you the very best of luck.

r said...

Your post and the many thoughtful responses to it have got my mind turning.

It seems that so much of what we call diversity is actually asking people who identify as anything other than mainstream to come into the mainstream fold.

Socio-economics play such a huge role in this. Someone this summer said that I keep going back to that because it's easier to talk about than race or sexual orientation or religion, but it's in addition.

As usual, you've hit on something with your readers. Your students are lucky people.

GayProf said...

Whit: One of the downsides of living in a "left" place like Boston is that people imagine that racism/sexism/homophobia have all be resolved (because it is at least not like the rest of the U.S.).

DykeWife: I had not heard about the Human Rights Museum. Perhaps we can consider Canada's pledge to Human Rights as another legacy of Pierre Trudeau.

Goblinbox: If you were part of that 8 percent who were physically disabled, your answer would be "yes" to all of those questions. I take your point about homogenization, but I don't think the rights of a minority should ever be determined by the majority.

Jessica: It's always easy to isolate oneself.

Marius: I don't see anything wrong with wanting to share experiences with people who are similar to yourself. It only seems problematic if that is all that you do.

Michael: For whatever reason this is the third or fourth bad anecdote about the University of Michigan's Social Work program that I have heard recently. What the hell is going on over there?

Carl: You provide an interesting perspective on Canada's history. I tend to agree that Canada side-steps many issues (particularly about race) by hiding behind institutionalized multiculturalism. New Mexico also had an official policy of bilingualism, btw. Yet, the U.S. government worked (and still works) to quash out Spanish whenever possible.

ROG: That seems to be the main problem with institutions who claim to be in favor of Diversity. If they invite a couple people here and there, they consider it a job well done.

Academama: I take your point about it being a Catch-22. Indeed, I would discourage any minority faculty member or student from attending a Texas institution unless they had other compelling reasons to do so.

Still, there will always be a few people who are willing to take on those institutions because they do have other compelling reasons (I did, for instance). It therefore matters how the administration responds to the existing problems and climate. If, for instance, the administration largely ignores that minority faculty are being harassed in their home departments, it makes it less likely that more minority faculty will appear (and probably the minority faculty who are there will leave, if they can). If the general attitude on campus is something along the lines of "Change is hopeless," than it will be.

David: Yes, you get the Rainbow Seal of Approval.

Brian: For some reason, discussions of economic class don't occur at all anymore (Along with the fact that almost everybody in the U.S. considers themselves "middle class.")

Tenured Radical: If you are in my neighborhood, I will throw a cocktail party just for you.

Jason: I'm sorry that I didn't have the immediate answer that you wanted. Alas, I don't have an instant solution for the many problems in universities/cities/states/the nation. If I did, I wouldn't be putting in a blog. I would be ruling over the nation as a benevolent emperor.

What I can do, though, is point out the problems as I see them. We can only try to make interventions in the discussion, not immediately transform them.

Rebekah: I think that we do need to go to socio-economic class. Economic class and race are frequently intertwined in this country. Moreover, poor whites are often left frustrated by institutions that serve only the wealthy or the middle class. If we start to address economic disparities, it will be a good step forward to solving other problems (without, of course, neglecting the discussion on race/racism/sexism/homophobia).

goblinbox said...

Uh. Maybe so. But maybe not.

You're able-bodied; how can you speak for the disabled?

I'm a woman (still oddly enough considered a minority), and I don't happen to believe that men should suffer because/if/when I do. I'm not convinced the entire world needs to be modified to suit my needs when or if my needs diverge from what's generally available. I'd assume that one with special needs would want reasonable concessions from her society, not absurd insane wastefulness.

It probably ends up looking like shame anyway, the mad scrambling to make everything equal. I mean, modifying everything to meet the needs of the few is a giant waste of resources. It's not a matter of opinion, it's true.

I'm originally from the Northwest, which is the crunchiest, most PC place in the country, but I've learned something valuable living among the pragmatic rednecks in the Midwest: people are not all the same. And acknowledging that does not make one a jerk! It's such a liberating stance!

I used to be so PC I couldn't even look at, let alone acknowledge or talk to, someone who wasn't just like me. Now I can say, "Hey, you're gay/black/in a wheelchair/unable to read," and strike up a friendship or offer assistance or ask a question.
It's awesome.

Such a fantastic post, you.

Mike said...

"Universities should aspire to reflect the reality of the nation’s population in both their student bodies and faculty."

When I was a kid, college was something for two groups of people...the extremely rich and the extremely smart.

I remember filing into the classroom to take the SATs and one of the older faculty members remarked "Back in the Sixties in this town, only about twenty-five kids per graduating class even took the SATs. Now every does it."

Who really belongs in college classrooms? That's a hard call.
A lot of the demographic disparity comes from a large segment of the population who just can't afford it.