Lies, Damned Lies and University Lies
Lying is an inescapable part of public life but not all liars are equally tolerated. Lying politicians are sufferable but the when it comes to universities, the bar is much higher. After all, if universities refuse to separate truth from falsehoods, who will? It's not that universities always get it right; rather uncovering the truth is, or at least should be, their paramount mission.
Unfortunately, as the PC virus continues to spread plague-like, universities have increasingly embraced falsehoods and, to make matter worse, they do so publicly and proudly.
Don't believe this? Let me offer Exhibit A: a full-page advertisement in the June 30th New York Times titled "Diversity in Higher Education Remains an Essential National Priority." The ad was sponsored by 37 educational organizations, a Who's Who of the higher-education establishment, from the Association of American Law Schools to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. The ad was triggered by the recent Supreme Court decision Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin involving racial preferences in university admission that might eventually result in limiting or even abolishing racial preferences.
The advertisement offered a stout defense of racial preferences under the guise of defending diversity in higher education.
Everything in the ad was an outright lie or a vacuous, impossible to prove banality. It makes "I did not have a sexual relationship with that woman" look like rank amateurism.
It begins by claiming that today's manic infatuation with campus diversity as a legal doctrine can be traced back to a 1957 statement by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. A breathtaking lie. I've studied racial preferences/diversity for a half century, and I've never encountered Frankfurter's statement and, more importantly, his celebration of academic freedom has zero to do with racial preferences in university admissions. Zero.
At best, the value of diversity for higher education first appeared in the 1978 case of Bakke v. Regents of the University of California as an aside-- race could be "a plus" factor in admission but the decision itself explicitly excluded admission by race. The idea that universities had a commitment to diversity via racial bean counting only surfaced in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger and even here, it could be only one of many admission factors. If a multiple choice question was "When did diversity first appear in a Supreme Court case, all 37 sponsoring organization would fail.
Then comes the Mother of All unverified contemporary higher education clichés: the benefits of diversity have remained unchanged as if they were akin to Boyle's Law. Absolutely wrong -- no scientific study has ever demonstrating this endlessly repeated "fact." Then comes yet more unsubstantiated verbiage -- diversity in higher education helps prepare students for success in today's "interconnected world" and is, allegedly, central to providing a rigorous, horizon-expanding intellectually challenging education, all the while strengthening American democracy. Again, all unverified claims and since the absence of hard evidence is undoubtedly known, all this verges on outright lying. And what would happen if racist but diversity-minded hillbillies demanded a few places at Harvard, since few Harvard students had ever encountered such folk?
Indeed, the entire skin-color-as-diversity argument is profoundly racist since it ties thinking to melanin levels so an upper-class Shaker Heights, Ohio black is assumed to think different than his wealthy white high school classmate thanks to his skin color. Shades of "Jewish thinking" under the Third Reich. Actually, the diversity rationale treats blacks and Hispanics as akin to classroom resources (e.g., computers, a slide projector) whose very presence will (magically) assist whites and Asians to learn more.
Reality is just the opposite -- racial preferences have huge costs and little upside. Admitting less academically qualified blacks and Hispanics probably encourages negative stereotypes regarding their intellectual ability while redirecting resources into intellectual unproductive endeavors such a remedial education, dumbed-down majors, and bureaucratic bloat, e.g., Deans of Diversity and Inclusion. Most plainly, racial preferences subvert meritocracy, and if anything will help America in today's ultra-competitive world economy, it is meritocracy. And how is "democracy" served by imposing a racial color-of-the-skin caste system? A total, complete lie -- democracy is oblivious to skin color.
So, why the lies, and lies known to be lies? Let me suggest careerism -- on today's campus, would-be administrators who refuse to drink the diversity Kool Aid are un-hirable. Interviewing for a school president will resemble a frat beer blast with the winner chugging the most PC Kool Aid without coming up for air. Think officials in the defunct Soviet Union -- acknowledging that the latest Five Year Plan has failed was a one-way ticket to the Gulag even though everybody knew it had failed.
This charade is not especially arduous. If asked about the sorrowful academic records of "diversity admits" just announced that "yes, we face obstacles but thanks to our new million dollar initiatives, success is just around the corner." And for heaven's sake, don't be a party pooper and confess that past identical measures all failed. Keep the faith and ye shall be rewarded.
More important than crass careerisms, however, is the corruption that this lying brings to the academy. Outsiders seldom grasp its corrosive impact (I've spent 35 years in the academy). The need to sustain blatant falsehood in the face of mounting contrary evidence rewards malleable types who favor ideological conformity over truth. George "I cannot tell a lie" Washington would never make the short list for any administrative position. What self-respecting person would even apply for a university job knowing that lying was a job requirement?
It is easy to underestimate the poisonous impact of lying about racial preferences now tarted up as "diversity." As disconcerting facts intrude, new falsehoods must be invented. The high dropout rate of affirmative-action students will have to be explained with such factors as "invisible campus racism" and if that cannot be documented, reality will be spun so that whites but not blacks and Hispanics are incapable of detecting it. If a black denies this invisible force, that denial will have to be explained away with "he's just brainwashed by white culture." Meanwhile, bogus research will be commissioned to show how white culture unconsciously debilitates blacks but only a few Black Studies Department professors can perceive this "invisible" culture. Manufacturing lies will be on an industrial scale. So many lies to invent, so little time and who can remember them all?
Clearly none of this is about diversity, at least diversity of ideas. Heaping mendacious praise on "diversity" (that is, racial preferences) is just a public surrender to those who demand admission by quota. The New York Times advertisement merely announces, "You win and we are willing to humiliate ourselves in public to demonstrate our submission." No different than a captured soldier throwing down his rifle, raising his hands and pleading for mercy.
But, to be fair, surrender is perhaps justifiable. Universities regardless of prestige have proven themselves unable to resist racial shakedowns. The fear of being called "racist" and suffering campus disruptions, let alone a Department of Justice investigation is very real. This is the lying that comes from cowardice. You can smell it. "Diversity makes us strong" is the wrong slogan; it should be "if we were strong we would not need diversity."