“The vast majority of Americans now understand that diversity isn’t only acceptable but desirable in all aspects of life, especially education.” The writer is Bill Powers, President of the University of Texas at Austin, in an opinion piece entitled, “An Admissions Policy That Prizes Diversity,” in the Wall Street Journal edition of October 10, 2012.
Dear President Powers: What is your source for that opinion? Can you document it? You and your colleagues may have repeated this sentiment for so long, and used your control over grades and tenure to bully so many of your students and employees into muting their disagreement with you, that you believe it to be true. I am an American (and a Texan), and you certainly do not speak for me, and I am hardly alone in this.
For the record: While acceptable and occasionally even useful, DIVERSITY IS NOT NECESSARILY DESIRABLE, certainly not in higher education. In fact, when it becomes a threshold criterion for admission to a university, and thus necessarily displaces (or reduces the significance of) other criteria such as GPA and difficulty of high school courses taken, DIVERSITY IS HARMFUL. If, as one would presume, UT Austin continues to aspire to be considered an elite university, it should be admitting the best and the brightest, not the most diverse. If the best turn out to be primarily Asian, or Jewish, or Indian, great; if they turn out to be more diverse, also great. I, for one, have seen the harmful effects of intentional diversity – it imposes quotas on the non-diverse, such as limitations on admissions of extraordinarily well-qualified Americans of Asian descent. Just take a look at the history of UC Berkeley: it is sad, harmful, and deplorable. Same story with quotas on Jews and Catholics, in previous generations. What UT Austin seeks to employ is, effectively, a quota on people who are neither African American nor Latino. Let’s call it what it is.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of other colleges that seek, or are resigned to accepting, the not-best and not-brightest and are delighted – for a fee – to educate those students; it is not as though those students will never go to college if they cannot get in at UT. If UT is willing to drop to the level of those other colleges as the price of achieving your social goal of diversity, that is its privilege – if the taxpayers will let you get away with it. But please drop the charade that diversity is more important than intellectual superiority in “preparing young people to lead in an increasingly global civilization” (as you put it). You want leaders? Then find the kids who do the best in math and science and the humanities and take them to the next level. If you also want to school them in getting along with a diverse global population, fine – it shouldn’t be that hard, if they are, in fact, the best and brightest. But don’t start with the most diverse and expect to be able to teach them to be smarter than they are. You do the taxpayers no favors, and in the long run, there is no compelling evidence (and you offer no evidence) that you do any substantial favors for the nominal beneficiaries of these quotas, either.