Friday, June 18, 2021

Diversity managers at colleges are thought police


Safe spaces, trigger warnings, thought police, and sensitivity have been in the news quite a bit of late, mostly in reference to college campuses.

A dining hall at Harvard University, Boston (Jon Mannion/Flickr CC)

Some universities have even hired people to serve as “diversity managers,” charged with redesigning spaces and policies at the university in order make the environment more welcoming to a diverse group of students, the New York Times reports.

“On your first day of class, you enter the chemistry building and all of the pictures on the wall are scientists who are white and male,” the Times quoted Sheree Marlowe, the chief diversity officer at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, as saying. “If you’re a female, or you just don’t identify as a white male, that space automatically shows that you’re not represented.”

The term “safe spaces” has taken on a broad meaning and that makes it obscure to many students, some of whom say they’re afraid to say what they think because university officials have warned them that certain thoughts and words might be offensive to other students on campus. Safe spaces are probably a physical place and a state of mind, the Chronicle of Higher Education opined.

In the picture above, taken at Harvard University in Boston, what color and sex do you suppose the individuals in the portraits are? And realize, it doesn’t matter what they actually are; it only matters what you imagine them to be.

This is the way “diversity officers” think, but in a way, the universities have given them a hammer, which makes everything look like a nail. That is, if you’re a police officer, every person looks like a perpetrator; if you’re a “diversity officer,” every comment or portrait or research paper looks like an offense to a certain group of students.

The prophecy of hate speech is self-fulfilling in many ways, just as it is self-perpetuating. If we pay a diversity officer to find “microaggressions” or uncover aspects of the campuses that “victimize” certain groups of students, they are duty-bound to find them.

Here’s a good one: A small proportion of microaggressions involve what is known as “microinvalidation.” These are comments like, “Everyone can be successful if they work hard enough.” They may be viewed as invalidating the hard work certain people truly devote to a task.

According to some diversity managers, this sentence, which I have said to many students over the years, is heard differently depending on a student’s race or the past history of people of their race not being successful in a white-centric traditional sense.

It would be like saying to an obese person, “You can run the 100-yard dash in under 10 seconds if you work hard enough,” according to diversity officer theory. Of course, it’s nothing of the sort, but when the thought police get hired and paid out of my tax dollars, I expect some more common sense. We can’t rewrite the history of chemistry research in order to put more pictures of African-Americans up on the walls where university students eat dinner.

Likewise, we can’t fail to provide words of encouragement to students just because they are members of a certain race. We aren’t learning how to work together or how to love each other. All these mental giants are teaching us is that we had better not talk to others if they are of a different race, since even words of encouragement will offend someone.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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