Diversity Study Exercise
January 13, 2016

The Fall 2015 issue of LSA Magazine has news about diversity. Andrew D. Martin, the Dean of the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA), claims that "enhancing diversity" is "one of the College's highest priorities." He and U of M president Mark S. Schlissel agree on "the centrality of diversity to excellence and the pursuit of knowledge." ( Vive La Différence, by Andrew D. Martin, p. 3)

The University of Michigan has been pimping for diversity for the last 25 years. If it were a truly powerful idea, like Maxwell's equations or the laws of gravity or perspective in Renaissance art or the Periodic Table of the Elements, or like the Tarot or the Kabbalistic Tree of Life or the Emerald Tablet, then the magazine would have at least a few jaw-droppingly amazing accounts of the application of the great concept. Instead, the key article, The Case for Diversity by Elizabeth Wason, is mostly a cluster of oddly irrelevant notions related to "diversity" that have been evolving since the late 1980s.

The advocates of "diversity" have the advantage of giving the word diverse meanings in diverse contexts. Sometimes it is presented as a kind of silver bullet that will allow us to achieve racial equality. Sometimes it is supposedly desirable in and of itself as a sort of turbo-charger for any group decision making process. I say "diversity" is a propaganda artist's wet dream because it always means whatever the user of it needs it to mean.

All quotes in the following are from the "LSA Magazine" article. In order to convey its essential character, I would have to quote or paraphrase huge sections of it. So I'll just say, hey, read the whole thing. Print yourself a copy. Read it carefully. Make notes. When you are done with all that, get back to this article and compare your notes with mine.

My Notes

Netflix

The article begins with an account of a competition sponsored by Netflix in the hope of increasing the accuracy of its "movie rating algorithm by 10 percent." One team achieved a 6.8 percent improvement. It joined with another team with similar results. The combined group got just over a 10 percent improvement, as did another combination of groups that had started out independently. When Netflix combined ideas from both combinations, the results were even better.

This anecdote supposedly "makes an airtight case for the power of diversity," but it does not. For all we are told, all participants of the winning teams might have been cis-gendered, heterosexual, white Irish Catholic men between the ages of 45 and 55 all of whom graduated from the same university. (The story does illustrate a valid mechanism for approaching somewhat amorphous problems that probably do not have precise solutions. You let small groups follow their hunches in isolation. This avoids the problem of premature consensus, a.k.a. "groupthink.")

Mathematical Model

A caption under the article title on page 18 reads:
Diversity is good for you. Not just in a warm and fuzzy way, and not just for select groups of people. Diversity creates better outcomes for everybody, as LSA professor Scott Page (A.B. '85) has shown to be mathematically true.
Prof. Page did not prove anything. He "built a few mathematical models." The trick is always to illustrate or "prove" that a given mathematical model corresponds to some aspect of the real world. "Force equals mass times acceleration" is a good model for the dragstrip, but not for a starship. Page is quoted, "In my model, diversity trumped ability." (Italics in original.) Big deal. In my mathematical model, identity trumps diversity.

China Syndrome

Corporations and industries with diverse teams tend to have greater productivity and profits.
Even in China? I'm just asking....

Mock Juries

An experiment in Michigan's Washtenaw County compared mock juries that were either all white or diverse, and it found that diverse juries made fewer errors, discussed more of the evidence, and engaged in longer deliberations.
I believe that. People would be more attentive, more uncomfortable, we might say, but in jury deliberations, that could be a good thing. People might be more likely to argue from evidence instead of relying on racially influenced stereotypes.

Success

. . . groups of expert individuals aren't guaranteed to succeed.
Groups of doofusses are not guaranteed to succeed. No group is guaranteed to succeed.

Student Body and Faculty

Likewise, diverse perspectives are vital to the liberal arts mission of LSA. Departments throughout the College see value in diversity—with benefits both tangible and intangible—and are taking action as a result: They're developing plans and programs to create a more diverse student body and faculty.
The aspects of diversity mentioned so far have no strong similarities with a student body that would allow us to conclude that a benefit of diversity in one would be similarly beneficial in the other.

15 or 20 years ago, Patricia Gurin, a U of M professor of psychology, set out to prove that students learned better with they were part of a diverse student body. I read her reports carefully. I wrote about them. In my opinion, she did not prove much of anything beyond the fact that if you give questionnaires to people who have taken an ethnic studies class, they will give answers reflecting the fact that they have taken an ethnic studies class. Big deal. Garbage research, in my opinion, but it was included in the University's case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The funny thing is, The Case For Diversity does not mention that one huge historic study that supposedly proved the benefits of a diverse student body. The paragraph I quoted above is the only reference in the entire article to the undergraduate student body. I guess undergrads are expected to absorb the diverse brilliance radiated by their faculty.

ADVANCE

The diversity movement is a parasitic institutional sub-culture. If you are a believer, you advance your career by networking with other believers and helping them advance their careers. You recruit new members by appealing to material interests:
ADVANCE invited nearly 50 people to a workshop called NextProf Science. All participants were approaching the faculty phase of their career and had an interest in promoting diversity in universities.
I wonder how they came up with the invitation list. Do they monitor PhD candidates for their "interest in promoting diversity"? Do they have secret diversity handshakes? While the Elect 50 are being groomed for faculty positions, who is not being groomed?

We wonder what has all of the secret selection, all the grooming, all the propaganda and preaching accomplished, other than job security for believers? There is no mention of any great thing all this battening diversity has accomplished. Nothing! No Model T, no Reardon Metal, no September Issue, no Friends, no delta vee delta tee, no Delta Blues, no Midsummer Night's Dream, no Girl With a Pearl Earring, no Moneyball, no Topsey Tail, no Resurrection Symphony, no Atom Bomb, no Motown.

Just a blob of diversity believers that will continue to grow larger and larger every year until it consumes every college and university in America and it will continue growing thence until it has ingested all of America into a huge, ugly red glob of undifferentiated inclusiveness.

Getting Excited

I don't want Cagliyan Kurdak, who "gets excited when he sees a male applicant is an enthusiastic member of the Society of Women in Physics," standing over you in judgement. I don't want him deciding which "students will have a positive impact on society." That is a code phrase suggesting that he is partial to students who share his political views.

If, based on transcripts, test scores, sometimes life experiences, sometimes accomplishments, you seem to have a level of academic talent that would allow you to benefit from an "elite" education, then you should have a chance to be admitted. Cagliyan Kurdak needs to stay out of the loop.

Concluding Remarks

Diversity can be a positive experience. Candice Miller, the young woman on the cover of the Fall 2015 issue of LSA Magazine wrote an account of her trip to South Africa as part of an HIV/AIDS community education project. It was a positive, life-changing experience for her. When I criticize the exponents of diversity in academia, I do not mean to belittle the experiences of people like Candice Miller.

But the experience of going to an unfamiliar, distant place and doing positive work with people having very diverse cultural backgrounds is not the kind of "diversity" you can import into a student body. If you want to have a similar experience, you can't order it online and have it show up in your mailbox. You have to sign up for the trip.

Yes, there are ordinary ways and situations where diversity is beneficial. Many working groups in business, government, and entertainment need people with diverse talents, backgrounds, and perspectives. In some situations, racial, ethnic or gender diversity might be valuable. Everybody knows that.

Once we eliminate the obvious positive examples, we are left with material that is misleading, highly questionable, preposterous, grandiose, tendentious, disingenuous and just plain bullshit. "The Case for Diversity" is full of it.

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Addendum, April 1, 2016:

In the mathematical model of Professor Scott Page, "diversity trumped ability." A post on VDare.com, "Diversity or Ability: Which Promotes Intelligent Nonconformity?" (Steve Sailer) mentions a study which suggests that, in the real world, it's the other way around.
 

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