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Walter Williams: Diversity obsession corrupting universities

Tribune-Review
| Friday, September 28, 2018 10:45 p.m.
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In this Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, file photo, Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, waits outside the Supreme Court in Washington as the court heard oral arguments in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin affirmative action case. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

I’m thankful that increasing attention is being paid to the dire state of higher education in our country. Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has just published “The Diversity Delusion.” Its subtitle captures much of the book’s content: “How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture.”

Part of the gender pandering at our universities is seen in the effort to satisfy the diversity-obsessed National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, each of which gives millions of dollars of grant money to universities. If universities don’t make an effort to diversify their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, they risk losing millions in grant money.

A UCLA scientist says, “All across the country, the big question now in STEM is: How can we promote more women and minorities by ‘changing’ (i.e., lowering) the requirements we had previously set for graduate-level study?”

Mac Donald says, “Mathematical problem-solving is being de-emphasized in favor of more qualitative group projects; the pace of undergraduate physics education is being slowed down so that no one gets left behind.”

Diversity-crazed people ignore the fact that there are systemic differences in race and sex that influence various outcomes. Males outperform females at the highest levels of math; however, males are overrepresented at the lowest levels of math competence. In 2016, the number of males scoring above 700 on the math portion of the SAT was nearly twice as high as the number of females scoring above 700. There are 2.5 males in the U.S. in the top 0.01 percent of math ability for every female, according to the journal Intelligence (February 2018).

In terms of careers, females are more people-centered than males. That might explain why females make up 75 percent of workers in health care-related fields but only 14 percent of engineering workers and 25 percent of computer workers. Nearly 82 percent of obstetrics and gynecology medical residents in 2016 were women. Mac Donald asks sarcastically, “Is gynecology biased against males, or are females selecting where they want to work?”

“The Diversity Delusion” documents academic practices that fall just shy of lunacy at many universities. Nowhere are these practices more unintelligent and harmful to their ostensible beneficiaries than in university efforts to promote racial diversity.

UC Berkeley and UCLA are the most competitive campuses in the University of California system. Before Proposition 209’s ban on racial discrimination, the median SAT score of blacks and Hispanics at Berkeley was 250 points below that of whites and Asians. This difference was hard to miss in class. Renowned Berkeley philosophy professor John Searle, who sees affirmative action as a disaster, said, “They admitted people who could barely read.”

George Mason University, where I am a professor of economics, held “Black Freshmen Orientation”
Aug. 25. , advertising it as an opportunity for students to learn more about the black community at the university GMU is not alone in promoting separation in the name of diversity and inclusion. Harvard, Yale, UCLA and many other universities, including GMU, have black graduation ceremonies. Racial segregation goes beyond graduation ceremonies. Cal State Los Angeles, the University of Connecticut, UC Davis and UC Berkeley, among others, offer racially segregated housing for black students.

University administrators and faculty members who cave to the demands for racially segregated activities have lost their moral mooring, not to mention common sense. I’m sure that if white students demanded a whites-only dormitory or graduation ceremony, the university community would be outraged.

Some weak-minded administrators might make the argument that having black-only activities and facilities is welcoming and might make black students feel more comfortable. I’m wondering whether they would also support calls by either white or black students for separate (themed) bathrooms and water fountains.

Walter Williams is a professor of economics
at George Mason University.

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