Thursday, June 14, 2012

Diversity Thursday

I've had friends and co-workers grumble about it. I've had through the years doing DivThu people email me complaining about it.

What is "it?" Well - "it" are those people who just happen to be the people the Diversity Bullies are focused on. They also happen to be true professionals who only want to be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

They know that they can not only compete on a level playing field, they can win on it - but they can't prove it. Why? Because everyone knows there are different standards and some who don't meet everyone else's standard are given special dispensation.

Sad thing is - you know why he is anon? Simple; the Diversity Bullies are vicious, nasty, and have no mercy for anyone who wanders off their reservation - as are most insecure people who cannot defend their position with truth and honor in the light of day.

I don't blame him for being anon. The Diversity Stalinist would make his life miserable.
When I was hired at my current position, I knew I was good at what I do. I had published more than many people at my stage in their careers, I had presented at conferences regularly, I had won a couple of awards, and I was a good teacher. However, once I joined my institution, it seemed that all of that was forgotten. All that was ever talked about was the "diversity statistic": how the institution had hired x number of faculty of color, y number of women in science and so on.

To stand up and be introduced at the new faculty orientation and the first faculty senate meeting, was for most of us an uncomfortable experience, to put it mildly. Are we the sideshow at the circus? Step right up, step right up! Here before you is the black lesbian academic, over to the left is your woman in science, and to the right you will find a brown woman of indistinguishable background, and on your way out please stop and say hello to the dark-skinned man with a thick foreign accent of some kind who may or may not be gay.

To some extent faculty of color feel like we are on display for the college (take a quick look at college websites, pamphlets or look books and you’ll see what I mean). It is as if our presence is proof of the college’s benevolence and progressiveness, and not of our abilities and accomplishments and what we add to the college.
When you constantly tout only the diversity of a candidate, you have in essence minimized all the accomplishments of that candidate in everyone else's eyes. Self-congratulation about diversity hiring may be good for the college (and for the presidents and provosts), but it leaves individual faculty members marginalized by putting an emphasis on their "otherness" instead of their academic worth. Furthermore, because colleges are content with simply increasing their diversity numbers, they haven’t given much thought to what happens after faculty of color join a college community. So the real issues and challenges — partly exacerbated by the much ballyhooed diversity initiatives — that diverse faculty deal with, are swept under the rug once we're hired.

We should be more than our skin color, our sexual orientation, or our country of origin. We should be more than a checked category, a percentage, or an initiative. Unfortunately, we’re not. I know that there are many more like me. And many of us are wondering how long that invisible number is going to follow us around.
Those who deserve what they earned are insulted; everyone else is patronized.

We are doing the same thing in our Navy. We are better than that.
As a side note - I had a very interesting visit with a college counselor who works with high school students to see what colleges are best for them given their desires and backgrounds.

He has very interesting graphs to help pick what schools are "in your students zone." Among them are charts for the last five years of graduates from that high school admitted to specific universities. Each school has its own graph that shows who was let in, who was admitted early admission, who was admitted spring admission, and who was not. Simple graphs with GPA on one axis and SAT/ACT on the other. Once dot on the graph represents each student, with colors representing admit, not admit, early, spring, etc - and a little border on each dot if they accepted or not. Kind of like this about Annapolis, but with a lot more data points and a lot more information.

There were letter codes next to some.

Interesting thing those graphs - you easily see what different universities cut-off points are ... and the exceptions are clear. So, asks Sal - what do these codes mean? .... a slight pause, and off we go.

Oh yes, very clear. It isn't just athletes with a scholarship that are well out of bounds. That is why I love statistics; it is so clear. I also liked how it didn't bother the counselor at all - for him it is a known truth in his line of work that if you self-identify as certain minority groups, you get in under different standards.

He also keeps stats on who graduates as well. Those numbers are clear too - different standards going in the door do not help the students. The administrators just want their numbers - they don't care if the student will graduate.

Sad - it is better to graduate from a B-school than to drop out of an A-school, but then again - this isn't about the students anyway, is it?

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