“You can have diversity or a meritocracy, but you can’t have both”–Heather MacDonald, author of The Diversity Delusion
Given the binary choice suggested by MacDonald, my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, has opted for diversity, so we’ll see how that works out. It’s not surprising, given the fact that the mantra of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or DEI as some have shortened it, is breaking out all over, particularly at every level of higher education. At the student admissions level, it has been manifest in the various “affirmative action” policies in place for many years, nowhere more visible than at UT, which has spent considerable time and money in defending its policies in this area all the way to the Supreme Court. At the hiring and staffing level, the diversity policies have been more subtle and less definitive, with unspoken goals, but that is rapidly changing, consistent with the priorities at the federal level under the Biden administration.
At UT-Austin, the new management under President Jay Hartzell has taken a top-down strategy approach, with his “Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan”, a draft of which was circulated last July. It received quite a lot of pushback, including from the National Association of Scholars (NAS), but not enough to slow down the effort, and the final plan was enacted in April. According to an analysis by the NAS, the Plan is based on a 2017 UT-Austin blueprint plan called the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, which was created “to reflect upon how the best education can be provided for students from all backgrounds, especially those that historically have been marginalized.” From there it establishes the goals for achieving “diversity and inclusion” in eight “focus areas”, primarily intended first to address faculty, with four objectives: (1) attract, recruit, and employ a diverse faculty; (2) retain, develop, and promote a diverse faculty; (3) establish an equitable and inclusive climate; and (4) support innovative and diverse scholarship, teaching, and service. At no place in the Plan’s definition of diversity is there any mention of worldview or ideology.
The Plan goes on to describe the necessity of “diverse hiring training”, the affirmative inclusion of “diversity skills” in every job posting, the hiring of a diversity officer in each college to oversee DEI policy, an annual audit of each college’s faculty salaries and selection for endowments and leadership positions to detect disparities, “inclusivity” training for all faculty and administrators, etc., etc., etc. You get the point. The entire thrust of the plan is clearly to increase the numbers of faculty from “underrepresented” groups; “diversity skills” are the new touchstone; and the Provost is the enforcer. Obviously, none of the concerns of the NAS or the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which also weighed in on the discussion draft, were seriously considered.
So what we have here is a litmus test for faculty hiring and promotion at UT-Austin that is in alignment with the “woke” culture of the progressive left and undermines the principle of meritocracy, which should be of serious concern to every alumnus, student, parent, and donor.