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Liberal Colleges Need A Different Kind Of Diversity By: Jay Bergman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 23, 2002

There is much talk on college campuses in Connecticut and around the country about the virtues of "diversity." Richard Judd, the president of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, recently stated that "academic excellence requires a diverse learning environment." Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University in New York, has gone further, claiming that diversity is more important in a university than studying Shakespeare and mathematics.

The kind of diversity that universities favor, however, is purely cosmetic. They seek a racially and ethnically diverse faculty and student body, and they do so on the spurious grounds that people of particular races and ethnicities think certain things and that they do so because of their race and ethnicity. But there is no uniquely black or Hispanic or Asian perspective on quantum theory, the origins of the universe, abortion, abstract expressionism in art, prayer in schools or even on the virtues of diversity itself.

Moreover, there is no evidence that students learn more or learn better when the environment in which they are taught is racially and ethnically diverse. The study cited most often by proponents of diversity, the Gurin Report, commissioned by the University of Michigan to use in defending the racial preferences it believes are necessary to achieve diversity, in fact shows that a racially and ethnically diverse environment has no positive effect on learning.

What is perhaps most striking about the obsession with diversity is that most of those who favor it seem to have no interest in fostering intellectual diversity. I have yet to hear any advocate of diversity on any campus in Connecticut or anywhere else in the United States call for the inclusion of conservative opinions, which are woefully underrepresented on college campuses. There are far fewer conservatives on college faculties than there are blacks and Hispanics.

The Campaign for Fairness and Inclusion in Higher Education, headed by David Hotowitz, has compiled statistics, based on voting records it examined, in which faculty who voted Democratic or for Ralph Nader in 2000 were presumed to be liberals, while faculty who voted Republican were presumed to be conservatives. At Brown University, 5 percent of the faculty are conservative under that definition; at the University of Colorado, 4 percent; at the University of New Mexico, 7 percent; at the University of California in Los Angeles, 6 percent; at the University of California at Santa Barbara, 1 percent. In the humanities, the imbalance is even more extreme: In the Colorado English department, there are 85 liberals and no conservatives; in the history department at the University of California at Berkeley, 54 liberals, one conservative; in the Berkeley English department 57 liberals, no conservatives. At Brown, there is not a single conservative in the English, history, political science, or sociology departments.

Given these disparities, it is no wonder that American college students rarely, if ever, hear conservative opinions.

This is certainly true at CCSU. In my 12 years there, not once has an academic program or department sponsored a lecture by someone critical of abortion, racial preferences or feminism. Nor am I aware of any speaker defending Christian fundamentalism, which at CCSU is often an object of ridicule. In lectures and discussions on foreign policy, criticism of the United States and other democratic countries such as Israel is matched by a near-virtual silence on the multitudinous, often murderous thug- ocracies around the world that deny their own people the very freedom my colleagues take for granted in their classrooms and lecture halls here in America.

Among the worst offenders in presenting only one perspective is the Women's Studies Program at CCSU, which, in one of the informational fliers it distributes, states proudly that "the discipline of women's studies began as an academic arm of the feminist movement." Surely a program that claims to represent the views of women should find some way of exposing students to the views of the millions of American women who are not feminists or who happen not to share the kind of feminism the Women's Studies Program espouses.

The only kind of diversity that matters educationally is intellectual diversity. Without it, students cannot make informed choices about the social and political issues they face. Elected officials and everyone else in Connecticut who is concerned about higher education in our state should do what they can to ensure that Connecticut universities are truly in the business of educating students, rather than indoctrinating them. Demanding that conservative opinions be heard along with others would be an excellent start.

Jay Bergman is a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and president of the Connecticut Association of Scholars, an affiliate of a national nonprofit group concerned about the politicization of teaching.

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