I have never opposed all forms of affirmative action. I have always opposed the radical forms of affirmative action practiced by the University of Michigan since the late '80s.
In the mid '90s, several lawsuits were filed against the University by white people who claimed that the university's policies were racially discriminatory and illegal. As part of its defense against the lawsuits, the University brought in a number of "expert witnesses" to bolster its claims that the racial preferences in its admissions policies were necessary to achieve an adequate level of "diversity" and that the educational benefits of that "diversity" for all students were large enough to constitute a "compelling state interest."
One witness who submitted such testimony was
the University's own Patrica Gurin,
a professor of psychology.
Gurin was chairperson of the Department of Psychology
from 1991 to 1998 and later served as Interim Dean
of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.
Her testimony and other expert testimony
has been placed online in
HTML format by the University.
The URL for the table of contents is:
The "file" citations in the following are to files in that directory.
Most Americans are opposed to racial preferences in college admissions. Those without personal financial motivations for racial preferences but who still support such preferences usually do so for some rather obvious social and historical reasons. I would support some level of preferences for African-American applicants, except for the fact that such preferences are contrary to these words from Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act:
No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
In the 1970s, the preferential admissions program of the University of California at Davis Medical School was challenged in court by Allan Bakke who had applied for admission to that school twice and was rejected both times. The case eventually went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a very complicated decision. It ordered that Bakke be admitted to the Medical School and that the school's use of hard racial quotas be eliminated. However, Justice Powell found a bit of preferential wiggle room in the concept of "diversity": ". . . the attainment of a diverse student body . . . clearly is a constitutionally permissible . . . goal for an institution of higher education." (from the Court's 1978 decision)
Thus, "diversity" became a legally recognized justification for racially discriminatory admissions policies, as long as they didn't involve "quotas". Powell also wrote that ". . . the interest of diversity is compelling in the context of a university's admissions program . . ." The word "compelling" is sort of a legal trump card. Some laws can be overridden if the government can show a "compelling" reason for the override. E.g., if the CIA needs a few people to spy on Peru, it might have a "compelling" reason to reject your application if you are not ethnically Peruvian.
Thus began the apotheosis of diversity. The resulting discrepancies between real motivations and legal justifications either led to or contributed to or revealed a shocking lack of integrity at the highest levels of our institutions of higher learning. The critique given in this paper of the testimony of Patricia Gurin is intended to illustrate that lack of integrity. I have not had formal training in psychology or statistics, so this is not a "rigorous" critique. But I did recieve a good education (at the University of Michigan in the '70s) and I am confident that I have discerned some serious inadequacies and a few outright falsehoods in material Gurin submitted to the court.
The point of statistical studies is to determine relations among different measurements. If a man owns a party store, for example, he might keep track of money spent on advertising and amount of beer sold. He wants some idea how the former affects the latter. He might keep more detailed information to help him decide which ads are the most effective, which media outlets yield the greatest return, which days of a week are best, and so on. These measurements are called "independent variables" because they are presumed to affect the dependent or "outcome" vaiable of sales. There are mathematical techniques for correlating changes in different independent variables with various "outcome" measurements.
The first fact that is drummed into every student of statistics is this: Correlation does not imply causation. Our hypothetical party store owner might place an ad every Friday and presume that the ads were "causing" increases in beer sales when, in fact, beer consumption always goes up on weekends, ads or no ads. Or he might take a more sophisticated approach and place ads to be run on different days of the week, in different media, etc. Then he could use some fancy mathematics to come up with how much difference in outcome could be accounted for by each independent variable.
Still, the causal relationships, even in the above simple example, are presumed, not implied by the abstract mathematical relationships among different sets of measurements. Warbling birds might correlate with flowers, but neither causes the other. Both are results of spring.
Challenging a statistical study can be an excellent exercise in critical thinking for the statistically challenged. The first thing to look at is the study's main conclusions. Find out what is supposedly connected with what and then ask yourself, "are these the things that were actually measured?" Then ask if there is any evidence for or any reason to believe, beyond mere correlation, that a causal relation has been uncovered. Then consider the strength of the relations. Are they only strong enough to justify a shift in an advertising budget, or are they strong enough to put before a court of law to support some policy as a "compelling state interest"? Using this approach, we can quite reasonably criticize a study, even if we don't know the underlying mathematics because even if the math is perfect, the conclusions of a study can still be totally wrong.
Gurin's main claims are given on the "Summary and Conclusions" page:
Students who experienced the most racial and ethnic diversity in classroom settings and in informal interactions with peers showed the greatest engagement in active thinking processes, growth in intellectual engagement and motivation, and growth in intellectual and academic skills. [summ.html]and:
Students educated in diverse settings are more motivated and better able to participate in an increasingly heterogeneous and complex democracy. They are better able to understand and consider multiple perspectives, deal with the conflicts that different perspectives sometimes create, and appreciate the common values and integrative forces that harness differences in pursuit of the common good. [summ.html]
Those are spectacular claims, but Gurin's data and reasoning do not support them.
Gurin's testimony is based on studies of three separate data sets. The CIRP (Cooperative Institutional Research Program) data is from a nation wide survey of students about to enter college in 1985 and follow-up surveys done in 1989 and 1994. The MSS (Michigan Student Study) was based on data from entrance surveys of all U of M students in 1990 and follow-up surveys of selected students at the end of their senior year. Finally, there is IRGCC data from the Intergroup Relations, Community, and Conflict Program. (Why it is not called IRCCP, I do not know.) I will describe and discuss this data later.
Gurin recognizes three kinds of diversity: "structural diversity, classroom diversity, and informal interactional diversity." [model.html] Diversity of the structural variety has to do with the percentage of students who are minorities. The "informal interactional" stuff is about personal contacts with members of other groups. Now, one would think "classroom diversity" would be a measure of how much intermingling of groups takes place in a typical classroom. Not so! "Classroom diversity" is "the incorporation of knowledge about diverse groups into the curriculum that colleges and universities present to this more diverse array of students." [model.html] Departments of history, geography, language, literature, social science and political science have always done that. What is Gurin really going to measure that is at variance with long academic tradition? For her CIRP study, she measures a student's experience of "classroom diversity" according to whether or not the student has "Enrolled in an ethnic studies course during college." [gurinapc.html]
I have never taken such a course. I have only read about them in various conservative periodicals, so my opinions are biased. My understanding is that these courses are rather strongly politicized in a negative, sectarian sense. In a positive, more general sense, the institution of the university is itself "political" in that we members of a democratic society wish to enable those who are capable of it to reach high levels of knowledge according to their potentials. Plus, we want to instruct future voters, commentators etc. of the basic values and intellectual underpinnings of our society. Of course. We like our society, we want it to continue and we wish to educate our youth so that they can contribute to that continuation. I think most U.S. Citizens of the more common political orientations would be comfortable with that perspective.
It is a general perspective. In 1975 I took a course in political science. The teaching assistant was an avowed socialist. Of course, we disagreed on many things, BUT his grading was always based on how well I knew the course material and how well I presented my arguments. So I learned about various political theories and I improved my ability to argue and write about my ideas. Thus, the general and completely appropriate political goal of teaching theory and argumentation was well served by that fine young left-wing intellectual who graded my papers. He did not hide his opinions, but the focus of the class was on the assigned readings.
No doubt, some "ethnic studies" classes are well taught, fairly graded and have some kind of balance in their reading assignments. But, based on having read many accounts of these things over the past fifteen years or so, I suspect that a fair proportion of them tend to be much more highly "politicized" than the political science class I took.
This much I can say with confidence: Such classes are controversial, and I completely reject the notion that any "benefits" of ethnic studies classes are necessarily also benefits of high levels of minority enrollments.
In her statistical analyses, Gurin is looking for two kinds of result: "democracy outcomes" and "learning outcomes." You can get a good idea of what she is correlating with what by reading APPENDIX C (THE STUDIES, METHODS, AND MEASURES) [gurinapc.html] of her report. Many of the outcome measures seem reasonable. For example, in her CIRP data study, things such as self-reported
General knowledgeare included under the heading of "learning outcomes." Things such as the importance a person places on "Influencing the political structure" or "Influencing social values" [gurinapc.html] are, I suppose, reasonable measures of "democracy outcomes."
Analytical and problem-solving skills
Ability to think critically
Foreign language skills
On the other hand, things like the importance a person places on writing poetry, stories, etc., or making paintings or sculptures seems more like a matter of personal taste or the evolution of personal values rather than a "learning outcome." In any case, I can't see how a marginal increase in the production of marginal poetry can possibly be regarded as a compelling government interest. If I want marginal poetry, I'll write my own.
The dissonance between what Gurin claims to be measuring and what she is actually measuring is more pronounced in her use of MSS data. As with the CIRP study, the MSS study suffers from tortured definitions. The factors going into the "Classroom diversity index" are "Extent of exposure in classes to information/activities devoted to understanding other racial/ethnic groups and inter-racial/ethnic relationships" and "Had a course that had important impact on student's views of racial/ethnic diversity and multiculturalism." [gurinapc.html] Again, not what most people would think of when discussing the general issue of "diversity" in a classroom. Note that a physics major who took exactly one ethnic studies course might score quite low on the "Extent of exposure" scale, and might also answer "no" on the "course that had important impact" question. So, for the MSS (and IRGCC) studies, the "Classroom diversity" measure is even weaker than the "took an ethnic studies course" measure used in the CIRP study. The MSS index boils down to: took an ethnic studies course and really liked it. That this correlates positively with outcome measures such as "Have learned a great deal about contributions to American society of other racial/ethnic groups" [gurinapc.html] is not surprising. Such knowledge is, of course, a fine thing. I'm just saying that the correlation here is utterly unremarkable and proves nothing about "diversity" in general.
Some of the outcome variables for the MSS study are even more tendentious. Consider Gurin's "Complex thinking index" based on these factors:
Enjoy analyzing reasons for behaviorThose questions might be a reasonable measure of what I would call social thinking. It's a fine thing to cultivate and, for some students, ethnic studies type classes can further that cultivation. So could Dale Carnegie classes or the old "T Groups" that used to be popular among psychology students. Growth in human understanding is important (and far from easy!) in all human societies, diverse or otherwise.
Prefer simple rather than complex explanations (reverse)
Don't enjoy discussions of causes of behavior (reverse)
Take people's behavior at face value (reverse)
But if I'm going to spend vast amounts of time and money to improve my own "complex thinking" skills, I want something more substantial. In fact, I got something more substantial when I was an undergraduate student in the '70s. All of the courses I took in math, philosophy, physics, literature and computer science helped me greatly to become the complex, deep thinker that I am. In terms of my interpersonal relations, I was a dork, but my U of M education was still the most amazing, wonderful intellectual experience of my entire life. If someone wants to claim improvement in "complex thinking," then that's the sort of thing that needs to be measured. Not the expected results of some inter-racial group psychology session hobby horse or whatever.
As I mentioned earlier, I don't have any formal training in psychology, so perhaps an increase in ability to think complexly about human behaviors is always (or usually, or to an extent not likely to be the result of pure chance) accompanied by increases in ability to think complexly in the abstract worlds of mathematics and philosophy or in the concrete worlds of engineering and manufacturing, but I have my doubts. If that were the case, one would think the effects would be bi-directional, i.e., that increased skill with abstract complexities would be accompanied by increased understanding of human behavior, but I and tens of thousands of computer geeks can attest that such is not the case.
Let me quote from a bit earlier in the "SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS" page:
Extensive research in social psychology demonstrates that active engagement in learning cannot be taken for granted. In fact, much "thought" is actually the automatic result of previously learned routines; most people do not employ effortful and conscious modes of thought very often. For an educational institution, the challenge obviously is to find ways to engage the deeper, less automatic mode of thinking. Complex thinking occurs when people encounter a novel situation for which, by definition, they have no script, or when the environment demands more than their current scripts provide. Racial diversity in a college or university student body provides the very features that research has determined are central to producing the conscious mode of thought educators demand from their students. [summ.html]
My own experiences do not support that view. I have encountered novel social situations that resulted mainly in embarassment, not complex thinking. Sometimes I resolve issues arising from such experiences by learning about or more fully appreciating some rule of common human etiquette. Sometimes the resolution consists of realizing circumstances in which the teachings of Miss Manners should be ignored. Sometimes the simplest lessons are the hardest to learn. The biggest multicultural mistake of my life was when I, out of pure ignorance, addressed a female co-worker from Germany with "du" instead of "Sie." She was offended and I was embarassed, but I don't think the incident did anything at all for my complex thinking skills, nor for hers.
I am a computer programmer by profession. Complexity in the programming business is like mayhem in the military world: part of the job, but still something to be reduced whenever possible. There are well known techniques for managing that complexity: Keep the code neat, document all abbreviated variable names, eliminate complex relations among different modules, use visually expressive constructs for branching and looping, and so on. We programmers have to stretch our brains for those complexities that can't be eliminated, reduced or managed. My ability to deal mentally with the inherent complexities of a task is a matter of geek pride. My preference for "simple rather than complex explanations" (when they can be given) is a matter of professional ethics.
But this does not matter. "Complex thinking skills" does indeed sound like a major "learning outcome" that a university would be interested in fomenting. So the real question is not, "do ethnic studies courses improve a student's comlex thinking skills," but rather, "which courses, or what combinations of courses, or what kinds of curricula or distribution requirements are MOST effective in enhancing the student's complex thinking skills." The answer might speak more loudly in favor of calculus or foreign language classes than in favor of affirmative action or ethnic studies courses.
Finally, if affirmative action and the resultant structural diversity have such wondrous effects on complex thinking skills, why are the arguments given in favor of these policies so frequently inane? The diversidons and editorialists shrieking, "It levels the playing field!" or, "It's the only way we can guarantee equal opportunity!" don't impress me at all. I would think that people who have imersed themselves in novel situations would at least once in a while be able to offer a novel argument for that which has had such a purportedly positive effect on their intellectual abilities.
The IRGCC program is ethnic studies on steroids. Here is Gurin's description:
An evaluation study followed for four years the undergraduate entrants to the University in 1990 who as first-year students took an introductory course in the Intergroup Relations, Community, and Conflict Program. This course covered the history of group experiences in the United States, a contemporary analysis of group inequalities in the economic, educational, and political arenas, and an analysis of political issues and policies (such as immigration, bilingual education, affirmative action, sexual harassment, Middle East peace initiatives) that are contested by various groups in contemporary United States. The course also covered theories of conflict and conflict management. All students in the course attended lectures, participated in discussion groups, wrote papers and exams, and took part in a ten-week dialogue group.Here is how the program was evaluated:
The explicit goals of the dialogues within the context of this course were to: (1) help students discern and understand differences and similarities between the groups' viewpoints on contested issues, (2) examine differences in viewpoint within each of the two groups in the dialogue, (3) help students identify and negotiate conflicts that arise in the dialogue, and 4) challenge the groups to find a basis for coalition and joint action on a specific issue. [gurinapc.html]
An equal number of first-year students who did not take the course were measured with the same questionnaires at the same times (at entrance, at the time the participants completed the IRGCC course, and at time of graduation) that the participants were measured. The non-participant group of comparison students were chosen to match the participants as to in-state and out-of-state pre-college residency, first-year residence hall at Michigan, ethnicity/race, and gender. Selection was done randomly within these categories from students who had completed entrance questionnaires in the Michigan Student Study.
. . .
I hypothesized that the IRGCC Program would foster both learning and democracy outcomes. To test this hypothesis, the senior questionnaires were constructed to assess complex thinking, perspective taking, appreciation of socio-historical causation, acceptance of conflict as a normal aspect of social life, mutuality of interest and engagement in one's own and other groups, interest in politics, and citizen participation on the campus. As indicated in Tables I1 and I2, the analyses indicate that all of these outcomes were greater for students who participated in the IRGCC Program than for those who did not. Of course, a program as visibly focused on groups as the IRGCC Program might be expected to attract students who as first-year students already had higher scores on these cognitive measures before taking the course. Thus, it is important to check if the senior year differences persisted when initial scores (made available by the Michigan Student Study) were statistically controlled. Our analyses indicated that these differences were still statistically reliable, and that participation in the IRGCC Program had a genuine effect on complex thinking, perspective taking, and socio-historical thinking. [gurinapc.html]
Ms. Gurin is "one of the key individuals and main spokespersons for" the IRGCC program. (University press release of May 28, 1998) If you design a course and then design a set of questions to see how well students are absorbing the main ideas of the course, then it isn't surprising that students who haven't taken the course don't do as well on those questions as students who have taken the course. Any IRGCC participant can be expected to display an increase in "Degree of agreement" with statements like, "Since coming to college, I have enjoyed learning about the experiences and perspectives of other groups;" or "Since coming to college, I have thought more about my memberships in different groups" As another example, under the "Citizen engagement" section of the "Democracy Outcomes" there is a "Interest in group inequalities index" with questions like, "Thinking about the causes of poverty is not my idea of a good way to spend time (reverse)." I guess what this means is, there is at least one place on the campus of the University of Michigan where, "Say, would you like to go out for a beer and, oh, talk about the causes of poverty or whatever" is actually a good pick-up line.
Seriously, though, it is a fatal flaw to confuse interest in one kind of issue with the general issue of citizen engagement. I know of a forum on the Internet where the participants have huge discussions about copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, patents, etc. The more engaged are always exhorting the less engaged to DO something -- call a congresscritter, write a letter to the editor, get your friends interested, make a political donation, join the Electronic Freedom Foundation or the American Civil Liberties Union. It's a great forum. Keyboard activists denounce other keyboard activists for their keyboard activism -- I love it!
The deeper problem here is what's known as "self selection." If Playboy Magazine included in some issue a survey that readers could fill out and return with questions like "Nude images are immoral," they would be wrong to make a claim like, "Only 1.7 percent of Americans believe nude images are immoral" because they are "surveying" people who presumably enjoy such images. They would even be wrong to claim, "Only 1.7 percent of our subscribers believe..." To be completely honest, they would have to say, "Only 1.7 percent of readers who sent in last month's survey..." When people decide for themselves whether or not to participate in a survey, the results cannot be projected onto a larger population.
What Gurin is essentially doing is profiling a certain sub-species of Smart Young Liberal. Now, I think SYLs are by and large really fine people, and I would be the last person in the world to deprive them of their group differences dialog courses. But I can easily imagine that the SYLs in the study, the students attracted to "a program as visibly focused on groups as the IRGCC Program," [gurinapc.html] will not only score more highly on Gurin's favorite "cognitive measures" before they start the course, they would also develop statistically significant improved scores for those measurs, whether they participated in the IRGCC or not. If you look at Table I2 [tablei2.html] , just about every statistically significant result seems to be either something taught in the course ("Perspective-taking", "Thought more about my memberships in different groups", "Positive views of conflict", etc.) or a development towards which a typical IRGCC-SYL would be predisposed ("Interest in politics in general", "Involvement in student government", etc.).
While Ms. Gurin's findings for the IRGCC study would be worthy of inclusion in a brouchure promoting the program, those findings tell us nothing at all about the general benefits of "diversity."
Even if Gurin's studies drew a statistical connection from some acceptable measure of classroom diversity to some reasonably defined measurements of outcome, we are left with the question: How strong is that connection?
Gurin is claiming that certain measurements have "statistically significant" correlations with certain outcome measurements. She writes:
In reviewing the results in the body of the Report, I concentrated on the relationships between the campus diversity measures and each of the learning and democracy outcomes considered. A basic indicator of the strength of these relationships with the outcome measures is found in the assessment of its statistical significance. A relationship is judged to be statistically significant when its strength is such that it is unlikely to have emerged from the data simply on the basis of chance. We use the most common indicator of statistical significance in reviewing these results. For the white student sample, I only judge relationships to be significant when the odds are less than 1 in 20 that the relationship was simply due to random chance. Since probability levels are related to sample size, I use a slightly different criterion for the samples of African American and Latino students, the odds of less than 1 in 10 that the relationship was simply due to random chance. This approach provides clearly defined statistical evidence on the strength of relationship between the predictors of interest and each of the dependent variables. [gurinapc.html]
The point here is that "odds are less than 1 in 20 that the relationship was simply due to random chance" is indeed a reasonable definition of "statistical significance," but it does NOT necessarily imply a relationship of large magnitude. Let us return to the anecdote of the Party Store Statistician. He might detect a statistically significant relationship between the size of the polka dots on the bikinis in his newspaper ads and weekly beer sales. Maybe the big dots increase sales by 6 percent. Depending on some technical issues, that 6 percent could be "statistically significant" and the owner would be justified in running only the big dot ads.
We can get some idea of the magnitudes of the "statistically significant" relations in Gurin's studies from some of the figures mentioned in the "Emperical Results from the Analyses Conducted for the Litigation" [empir.html] page. For example, Figure 3 [Fig3s.jpg] illustrates "Classroom diversity effects on learning and democracy outcomes (CIRP study, nine-year data)". The outcomes being illustrated are "Intellectual engagement and motivation index" and "Citizenship engagement index," on scales going from zero to 100. The outcomes are further broken down by race (White, African American and Latino) and finally by "Exposed to classroom diversity" (Yes or No).
The interesting thing here is the smallness of
difference between the "Yes" values and the
"No" values. On the intellectual side of the
figure we have
White, No: 63
White, Yes: 72
African American, No: 70
African American, Yes: 72
Latino, No: 65
Latino, Yes: 73
These numbers give us a hint as to the magnitudes of "effects" which are "statistically significant." The "Emperical Results from the Analyses Conducted for the Litigation" [empir.html] page also references a set of tables giving more detailed results from the CIRP study. In Table C1 [tablec1.html] , we see that three out of four correlations of "classroom diversity" with measures of "Nine-year learning outcomes: engagement and motivation" for white students are "Positive"; the corresponding section of Table C2 [tablec2.html] shows that for African American students, none of the correlations with "classroom diversity" are positive. From the Figure 3 [Fig3s.jpg] data, we can see that even the positive correlations can be too small to justify Gurin's exuberant claims, such as:
The relationships might be positive, at least for white students, but they are neither striking nor consistent.
1. The analyses show a striking pattern of consistent, positive relationships between student learning in college and both classroom diversity and informal interactional diversity. These results are consistent across several dimensions:
- racially/ethnically different student populations (African American, white, and Latino Students);
Gurin's testimony includes many tables with many rows and columns. The cells in the tables have little squares when there is a positive, statistically signifant relationship between the variable in the column heading and the variable in the row heading. Diamonds indicate negative relationships and empty cells indicate the lack of a statistically significant relationship.
If you take just about any of those tables showing results for white students and compare it with the corresponding table for black students, you will notice a striking inconsistency. In many cases, the white table will be filled with squares and the black table will be almost devoid of them. Check out Table D1 [tabled1m.html] and Table D2 [tabled2m.html] to see what I mean. For all her gushing over the wondrous benefits of "diversity," she seem oblivious to the apparent conclusion that only white people enjoy those benefits. Gurin's claim that her "results are consistent across . . . racially/ethnically different student populations" is simply a lie.
Gurin mentions in a note, "White students composed 85 percent of the students in the IRGCC study. . ." [notes.html] The IRGCC is Gurin's showcase. She has been deeply involved in the program and it is the IRGCC study that shows the most dramatic "learning" and "democracy" outcomes. And an overwhelming number of the participants are white. So all the diversity stuff isn't about Smart, Young Liberals in general, it's about Smart, Young, White Liberals in particular. Hardly the sort of thing I'd want to brag about in front of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
A more subtle form of dishonesty pervades Gurin's testimony. Her constant talk about "minorities" and "diversity experiences" obscures the basic historical facts that might justify some level of preferential admissions for African Americans. As an American white person, I have no interest at all in "minorities." Most "minorities" came to America voluntarily or descended from people who came to America voluntarily, just like most white people. Big deal, let them spend a generation or two in relative poverty, just like my own forebears. I don't have to kowtow to them just because they are "not like me." And I don't have to pretend that their presence somehow stimulates my brain or makes me a better citizen.
Most African-Americans descended from people who were brought here as slaves. That huge difference has played out in many ways, some cruel and tragic, in the long story of America. It is totally reasonable to take those historical circumstances into account when discussing public policy options. Maybe the "colorblind" approach favored by various political factions isn't the right one. Maybe some forms of actual quotas would work best, at least in some circumstances. But the moral, historical and social urgencies that many Americans, black and white, feel for Americans of African descent simply do not apply to Latinos, Women, Homosexuals, Hmong tribespeople, Aryans, recently arrived Bantus, Lapplanders or Pitcairn Islanders. This is not to disparage any people in those categories ("some of my best friends," etc.) but they should be neutral as far as public policy goes.
The really weird truth is: "diversity" is not a sincere effort to address America's racial problems. It is a business model. Gurin is part of what is often called "the diversity industry." The amount of money devoured by this industry is staggering. And everywhere you find diversity-as-obsession (in contrast to the normal diversity of life in America), you will find Patricia Gurins putting on training sessions, giving seminars, cranking out bullshit propaganda and calling it research, and raking in some really nice piles of moolah.
The fact that Gurin had such a high position at the University and the fact that her work is so highly esteemed by top administrators at the University indicate a high level of institutional corruption. There is no other word for this. Her submission to the court is not a result of someone searching for truth and sharing what she learned with a public that supports her privilege of devoting her life to that search. Society gave her a position as a scholar; figuratively speaking, she functioned in that position as a political whore.
The blatant dishonesty in Gurin's report is an indication that, at the highest levels, the University does not care about truth. An institution created to discover and teach the truth has no regard for it. The word for this is: corruption.
On Monday, 17 Feb 2003, the University of Michigan is planning a press conference extravaganza in Washington, D.C. one day before the deadline for the filing of briefs in connection with the admissions lawsuits. From an advisory released by the UM News and Information Services on Feb 7:
Immediately following the lunch, the University will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. in Balcony C/D of the hotel. Speaking at the news conference will be representatives of organizations filing amicus briefs on behalf of the University. We expect more than 50 briefs to be filed, and more than 200 organizations to sign on to those briefs. Briefs will be filed on behalf of a wide array of organizations, including Fortune 500 corporations, former military leaders, labor unions, members of Congress, civil rights groups, law schools and legal associations, Asian/Pacific American groups, Jewish groups, social science organizations and researchers, the medical/health professions, several states, and numerous higher education groups, colleges and universities.
I think I see in the above blurb the University's true understanding of "democracy": spamming the Supreme Court of the United States with brief after brief, many saying the same thing: "We need diversity because we're global corporations!! It's good for business!!"
I do not doubt for a minute that there is some "good for big business" angle in all of this. Exactly what it is, I don't know. But if you were to approach any of those Fortune 500 outfits or civil rights groups or social scientists or colleges or whatever and say, "I've thought long and hard about affirmative action and related issues and I'd like to discuss some of my ideas with you," what do you suppose would happen? Most of the time you would be summarily refused. In a few cases, you might be humored. I doubt that you would actually have any serious, meaningful conversations, regardless of how much time, thought, creativity and intelligence went in to the formulation of your views.
Gurin preaches a form of "citizen engagement" that seems to consist mainly of "public service" sorts of things. You won't find "held a press conference" or "spoke up at a Regent's meeting" or "spent many hours posting political flyers" or "held a demonstration outside of a faculty meeting" in any of Gurin's "democracy outcome" indices. But those are the kinds of things that can be done to increase public awareness and public involvement.
That is the kind of activity that is really needed. A dedicated, persistant involvement that will, just for example, motivate people to really study the hell out of something and then go up to a big institution and say, "Institution, I don't care how big you are, I don't care how many powerful people you have on your side, but you are doing something wrong, and you must stop." Make the best case you can to the institution itself and to your fellow citizens.
I hope people join this effort to force the University of Michigan to live up to the true ideals expressed in its motto Artes, Scientia, Veritas. Because the University simply cannot function as it should in this democratic society if it abandons its committment to truth.
Copyright © 2003
The author has lived most of his life
in Southeastern Michigan. He graduated from the
University of Michigan in 1977.
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