"If we are to safeguard the reputation of science, and to prevent the arrogation of knowledge based on a superficial similarity of procedure with that of the physical sciences, much effort will have to be directed toward debunking such arrogations, some of which have by now become the vested interests of established university departments."
--Friedrich August von Hayek in his 1974 Nobel Prize lecture The Pretense of Knowledge.
Professor Emerita Patricia Gurin submitted to the courts, in connection with the recently concluded admissions lawsuits, a statistical study in which she claims to have discovered that
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.
(from the "Summary and Conclusions" section of her testimony.)
I spent a fair amount of time over the winter studying Gurin's testimony. My conclusion was that Gurin did not support her conclusions and that some aspects of her testimony were blatantly dishonest.
You can read my detailed critique in Affirmative Action and the Degradation of Academic Integrity [http://m3peeps.org/aadai.htm]. You can also look at Diversity Research Links [http://m3peeps.org/divlinks.htm] for links to other critiques, to Gurin's testimony and to some of Gurin's responses to the critiques. But you can check out the major point for yourself, even if you don't know much about statistics. If you read Gurin's testimony, you will notice that what she claims to be measuring in her glowing summary ("racial and ethnic diversity in classroom settings") is not what she actually measured. In one study, she determined "classroom diversity" according to whether or not a student "Enrolled in an ethnic studies course during college." In another study, one of the factors going into her "Classroom diversity index" was "Extent of exposure in classes to information/activities devoted to understanding other racial/ethnic groups and inter-racial/ethnic relationships." Well, sure, that is a fine thing, but it is only weakly related to the general issue of "racial and ethnic diversity in classroom settings."
What Gurin actually did was take her political arguments and present them as "empirical analyses." That was a profoundly anti-democratic act. There are very few educated people willing to stick their necks out and publicly challenge the work of a well-known university professor, especially when such work seems to rest on a foundation of rather complicated mathematics. Even Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor seemed to step around Gurin's testimony. O'Connor mentions Bok, Bowen and others by name, but not Gurin. Essentially, O'Connor (wisely!) avoided the whole issue of the validity of the value-of-diversity testimony by writing, "The Court defers to the Law School's educational judgement that diversity is essential to its educational mission."
Still, I wonder: Given the blatant discrepancies between the limited conclusions allowed by the correlations actually drawn and the glowing, general claims made about the great benefits of diversity in the classroom, why did none of Gurin's colleges bring those discrepancies to her attention? The give-and-take of normal scholarly discussions apparently did not happen. Why? And if the point of "diversity" is to expose ourselves to great varieties of opinion and perspective, why was there so little true diversity among the people with whom professor Gurin associated? Either they were all alike in their thinking, or those who could recognize the truth were afraid to speak up.
Without integrity, diversity is pointless, and, most unfortunately, the University of Michigan, in supporting the highly questionable work of Patricia Gurin, has betrayed its mission to serve the truth.
Copyright © 2003
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