randombio.com | political commentary
Friday, June 22, 2018

Diversity at Snowflake State

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, we now have loyalty oaths as a condition of employment.

Last week I came upon the following statement in one university's vacancy announcement:

Please describe how you would promote diversity and inclusion in your research program.

How would I do that, I wondered: use mice of both sexes, maybe, or equal numbers of black mice and white mice? Or maybe use a diverse collection of cells and include a variety of analytical techniques? It turns out that's not what they mean.

There are lots of websites telling you what you must say in these statements. They say you should tell your story. If you're “privileged,” you must admit it—despite the fact that doing so would prevent you from being hired. You must write about racial oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other “commonly recognized forms of oppression.” Talking about poverty in Appalachia, they say, doesn't count: those people are white and therefore privileged.

Snowflake Snowflake State school insignia

I'll mention that to that woman in West Virginia with dark circles under her eyes the next time she comes up to me in the grocery store parking lot asking for money to buy food. I should have told that to the poor white guy behind me who commiserated with me about the price of meat when he saw me putting a slimy-looking piece of pork back in the display case.

Or that time I called up a rural contractor, who told me, his voice barely audible over the sound of some woman yelling at him in the background, that he couldn't take the job because he'd just gotten a divorce and his ex-wife had gotten his excavator and he had no way of making a living. I should have congratulated him on how wonderfully privileged he was.

The one thing you cannot say is that you will treat everyone equally. This is not what diversity means. A diversity statement is nothing less than a loyalty oath to a political ideology in which we are required to profess to believe. This is deeply problematic. It's unethical to force anyone to declare allegiance to a political tenet, especially a controversial one, as a condition of employment.

There are principled and reasonable objections to the contents of the oath as well. It wasn't so long ago that a color-blind approach, where opportunity is distributed equally, was regarded as the ideal solution to the challenge of achieving fairness. Many fair-minded and reasonable people still hold the view that skill, intelligence, and dedication, not personal political opinions, are what matters. Yet they are the ones this oath is specifically designed to discriminate against.

Those people believe that having a policy of special treatment toward a favored group undermines any progress that group might make. It deprives the favored ones of the knowledge that they succeeded because of their skill instead of political favoritism. They'll always wonder whether they are really as good as everyone says.

And it's a bad precedent. A group that benefits today may easily find itself discriminated against tomorrow. It perpetuates an endless cycle of injustice and resentment. And it opens the door to other, even nastier oaths in the future.

I came across another university that tells us what comes down the road after this sort of thing. The first thing they sent me after I contacted them was a summary of their crime statistics.

The report has signatures of the president and chief compliance officer, a suitably Orwellian title, but the signatures look awfully shaky. The document itself told me why.

It tells us about all the students who got raped, assaulted, robbed, beaten, and murdered. Apparently the state passed a law saying the school will be fined if they don't disclose this fact to prospective students and employees. It says their campus police have full police and arrest powers and direct radio communication with their city counterparts. In the back is a long series of tables showing the numbers of crimes that have been committed on campus.

This isn't your typical Snowflake State, though they do mention that any crimes in which the person is selected by race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, or disability will result in a campus-wide alert, which consists of a mass notification by PA, tones, sirens, lights, after which an All Clear announcement is made, much like the All Clear after a bombing raid during the London Blitz. They also mention that if there's a nuclear, biological, or chemical contamination incident on campus you'll get an announcement of where to evacuate.

One imagines the students huddled together under a tarp, nervously going from class to class, their Geiger counters clicking, planning the most strategic route to Chemistry 101. The school has a Cannabis Screening Day, Suicide Prevention Day, and Heroin Training Day. This does not sound like a big party school.

I guess it beats indoctrination sessions. And maybe, after you've divided everybody up into mutually hating tribes, crime prevention sessions are what you get next.

jun 22 2018, 4:46 am. edited 6:07 am; minor revision 6:25 pm

Related Articles

How long can a crazy ideology riddled with contradictions survive? An interesting new article explains it.

Friends of coal
What life is really like in the ‘downscale communities’ of Appalachia—and why the critics are wrong

On the Internet, no one can tell whether you're a dolphin or a porpoise

book reviews