Sunday, July 15, 2007

Single Minded Diversity

I have seen numerous articles about UW Parkside's efforts to achieve racial and ethnic diversity. There was another such article in today's Journal Times.

I have yet to see an article about any efforts to improve the quality of instruction, or to improve the curriculum, or to improve the quality of research, or to attract a more academically qualified student body.

The efforts to improve UW Parkside seem anything but diverse.


Anonymous said...

Maybe if they get their $40 million for an upgraded Comm-Arts building, we will start seeing diversity. Remember, their biggest donor ($4.5mil) to date is Kandar Dhaliwal, a successful Indian businessman. There's one example of diversity.

Denis Navratil said...

The meaning of the word "diversity" has unfortunately been reduced among many to pertain only to ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation. But this constrained use of the word is harmful.

A basketball team may be comprised only of gay black men, for example, and still be "diverse", if the team has a few speedy guards, some defensive specialists, a few great shooters, some tough rebounders, and a tall and agile center or two. The relevant "diversity" in basketball has nothing to do with race or sexual orientation, but rather with height, skills, speed, and shooting ability, to name a few.

I would argue that the same is true in acedemia. A good university would want to be anything but diverse in student and professor selection. They should not try to attract poor students or lousy professors in the interest of diversity any more than a basketball team should seek out blind paraplegics to fill the roster.

I would maintain that color, gender etc... have nothing to do with educational excellence, and as such, efforts to diversify universities on such a basis will harm the educational mission of a university while also discriminating against cabable people who are born of the wrong color or ethnicity.

This is not to say that diversity, of the relevant variety, should not be a proper goal of a university. For example, perhaps a university might seek to attract some conservatives to the sociology department. That will be the day.

eric said...

Denis, whether we view the USA as a melting pot, salad bowl, or whatever the latest catch-phrase/interpretation is, we've been a nation of mixed race/ethnicity compared to other nation states since our beginning. For a long time I think most Americans viewed this as a good thing and a strength. So Parkside striving for racial/ethnic diversity strikes me as very American.

Your point that there are other dimensions of diversity that also should be achieved makes sense. Is Parkside failing in those areas, or is the RJT just not reporting about those? I don't know. As a student there I find myself pre-occupied with studies. I do find that the classes I've taken thus far are of the same standard I encountered in Madison, UK, and Washington DC. Perhaps the university is not as professionally and institutionally diversified as it should be - do you know?

Of course ethnic diversification may conflict with other dimensions of diversity and that's where good leadership should come in.

Denis Navratil said...

"Is Parkside failing in those areas, or is the RJT just not reporting about those?"

I am not sure Eric, but it sure seems like the only efforts that I hear about are related to racial diversity. This could reflect poor and biased reporting by the JT or an overemphasis on achieving racial diversity at Parkside, or as I suspect, some of both.