Monday, September 22, 2008

The Clarence Palin Problem

One of the most discouraging things I have experienced in my profession was the realization that "diversity" did not really mean diversity. Several years ago a recruiting committee of which I was Chair made what is to my mind the most extreme effort ever made to hire diversity candidates. Of course, not everyone was on board. We were, however, able to find a candidate who was willing to interview with us who seemed to cover every base -- elite school, high class rank, minority. Who could oppose such a candidate especially after a fine job talk.? Actually, to my shock, those opposed were the most aggressive about diversity. It seems the candidate may have uttered a few words in an interview session that indicated he would not always toe the line when it came to political issues.

The idea that I had often heard that even "facial" diversity was important went out the window when he was revealed to have conservative views on some issues.

It really is amazing how calls for racial or gender diversity grow silent when the candidate fails a particular litmus test. As we know from the Clarence Thomas episode, it never really was about being an African American. Politics was more important than race. Having gone through that experience, what was John McCain thinking. Was his thought process really that Hillary voters were so wedded to gender as her main appeal that they would switch to Palin when Hillary was not nominated. Give me a break!

Race and gender may carry some weight with the choir but they are always second to ideology.


Observer said...

I'm surprised that you're surprised by this. "Diversity" in higher education has never meant real intellectual diversity. The concept was invented and used solely as a means to justify racial preferences (and perhaps some gender preferences, although those were well under way before the diversity term became popular). Absolutely the last thing most liberal faculty members want is a minority or a woman who doesn't toe the party line. A token white conservative or libertarian might be (barely) acceptable, but not one that might show differences within the favored groups. Why would you have ever thought otherwise?

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Actually I am not surprised, at least not in the last 15 years.