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Commentary By Heather Mac Donald

At Yale, ‘Diversity’ Means More of the Same

Education Higher Ed

A 2018 dispute between two students prompts yet another expansion of the massive bureaucracy.

Yale President Peter Salovey announced a major expansion of the school’s diversity bureaucracy this month, providing a case study in how not to lead a respected institution of higher education.

The pretext for this latest accretion of bureaucratic bloat was a May 2018 incident in a graduate student dorm. Sarah Braasch, a 43-year-old doctoral candidate in philosophy, called campus police at 1:40 a.m. to report someone sleeping in a common room, which she believed was against dorm rules. Yale administrators knew Ms. Braasch had psychological problems and that she had a history of bad blood with the sleeping student, Lolade Siyonbola, a 35-year-old doctoral candidate in African studies. But because Ms. Braasch is white and Ms. Siyonbola is black, the administration chose to turn the incident into a symbol of what Mr. Salovey called the university’s “discrimination and racism.”

Yale leaders immediately announced a slew of new initiatives: “implicit bias” training for graduate students, grad-school staff and campus police; instruction in how to run “inclusive classrooms”; “community building” sessions; a student retreat to develop the next phase of equity and inclusion programming. Despite this flurry of corrective measures, Kimberly M. Goff-Crews, Yale’s secretary and vice president for student life, ominously declared there was still “much more to do.”

That “more” was soon in coming. Yale commissioned an outside diversity bureaucrat—Benjamin Reese, vice president of institutional equity at Duke—to evaluate its diversity infrastructure, which, predictably, he found sorely lacking. Never mind Mr. Reese’s acknowledgment that Yale receives “few” student complaints about what the diversity industry calls “D&H” (discrimination and harassment) or his own claim that diversity training is of “little long-term utility.” What Yale needed, according to Mr. Reese, was even more “expert”-run training “related to race and other aspects of identity and difference.”

Most predictably, Yale accepted Mr. Reese’s recommendations. Yale will create a costly new diversity sinecure: a deputy secretary for diversity, equity, and inclusion. The university will also hire a cadre of diversity “specialists” to teach the Yale community about a “culture of belonging,” in Mr. Salovey’s words.

These new positions come on top of Yale’s existing diversity bureaucracy: a deputy provost for faculty diversity and development; the president’s committee on diversity and inclusion; the president’s committee on racial and ethnic harassment; the diversity and inclusion working group; the Yale College Intercultural Affairs Council; the director, representative, and support specialist of equal opportunity programs; the chief diversity officer; the associate dean for graduate-student development and diversity in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the assistant director of diversity in that same school; the associate dean for graduate student development and diversity in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; the assistant director of diversity and inclusion in the Law School; the director of community and inclusion in the School of Management; the deputy dean for diversity and inclusion in the School of Medicine; the assistant dean of community and inclusion in the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies; the associate vice president for student life (a diversity function); the Student Advisory Group on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; sundry Title IX coordinators; and the directors of the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Asian American Cultural Center, the Latino Cultural Center and the Native American Cultural Center.

In addition to the new hires, the Yale Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration will receive further funding for diversity events and speakers.

What is the evidence of Yale’s “hate and exclusion,” as Mr. Salovey has put it, to justify this ever-growing antibias apparatus? There is none. The Reese report cited a controversy “over a message to students regarding Halloween costumes,” as well as “a reported racist incident at a fraternity party” that never actually happened.

That 2015 Halloween controversy consisted of a two-hour student mob tirade, complete with cursing, directed at Nicholas Christakis, a respected sociologist and physician, after his wife, Erika, who also taught at Yale, suggested that students could choose their costumes without administrative oversight. Four diversity bureaucrats were present for the mobbing of Mr. Christakis but said nothing in his defense. Continuing student harassment eventually forced the Christakises from their positions as masters of a Yale residential college and Ms. Christakis resigned from her teaching position.

No administrator ever rebuked the student thugs, and Yale conferred the Nakanishi Prize on two of the instigators. According to the school’s website, the prize is given in recognition of “exemplary leadership in enhancing race and/or ethnic relations at Yale College.”

The Reese report also cited Yale’s initial decision not to rechristen Calhoun College, another residential college, named for Yale alumnus and antebellum slavery defender John C. Calhoun. In that instance, Mr. Salovey quickly caved in to student pressure and reversed himself.

Far from harboring “hate and exclusion,” Yale has spent millions of dollars trying to outbid competing universities for the small number of blacks and Hispanics in the faculty hiring pipeline. In 2015 Mr. Salovey pledged $50 million for faculty diversity, money that has netted more than 60 “diverse” hires. In 2016 the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences disclosed that no “underrepresented minority” professor had lost a tenure bid during the previous five years. Needless to say, this isn’t the case for professors who happen to be white men. While Yale doesn’t reveal the SAT scores of its freshman class by race, it is a virtual certainty that the college extends preferences to black and Hispanic applicants.

By perpetuating a false narrative about its own racism, Yale, like the vast majority of colleges and universities today, encourages its minority students to think of themselves as victims. That mentality is contrary to fact and will hinder those who adopt it from fully seizing the boundless opportunities for learning that Yale and other universities offer to all on an equal basis. The ever-growing diversity bureaucracy at Yale and elsewhere is an invitation for endless student complaint and protest. The ensuing agitation is a boon for bureaucrats. For the rest of us, it augurs a country ever more primed to see bias where none exists and ever more divided by group identity.

This piece originally appeared at The Wall Street Journal


Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, contributing editor at City Journal, and the author of the bestselling War on Cops and The Diversity Delusion (available now). Follow her on Twitter here.

This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal