Williams College Drops Diversity Requirement
November 22, 2006 11:15 PM
Well, well, well. If blogs had existed 10 years ago, you would have heard a lot about this from NBS. That was back when NBS was editing the conservative student newspaper at a college that was fixated on the U.S. News and World Report rankings. The college leadership wanted Sewanee to be like Williams or Amherst, and thought that by mimicking academic fads at other schools that were supposedly more elite, Sewanee's prestige would rise. We had a field day making fun of Sewanee's Vice Chancellor for buying into such shoddy thinking. He even declared in our pages that he wanted Sewanee to be more like Williams because Williams was the No. 1 ranked school in the country. We pilloried him for saying that. I believe our point was that institutions of higher ed should be true to themselves, stick with teaching, and not jump on every bandwagon that came flying round the bend.
It was a crazy, youthful theory, I know.
One of the fads that Sewanee became quite obsessed with was "diversity." Which is a fine idea in theory, but seldom in implementation. Sewanee's ideas about diversity were pretty similar to Williams's,
The old system at Williams was pretty basic. Students had to take a course about a minority group or a non-Western group. Anything that met that basic criterion could count, and got a “people and cultures” asterisk. “It was a good idea. It grew from nice liberal white guilt,” but it stopped being effective some time ago, according to Christopher Waters, a history professor who is overseeing the new system.
Never mind that decisions about what kind of curriculum a school offers should not be based on guilt. Especially not "liberal white guilt." Or that fact that ten years ago, no liberal academic admitted that the motivating factor for diversity requirements was "liberal white guilt." When conservatives pointed this out, we were accused of being racists.
At any rate, now Williams has recognized just how anti-intellectual the notion of "diversity" really was:
“This requirement was seen as a joke,” Waters said. “We were sticking things with the asterisk without a solid intellectual justification. I think a lot of our international students wondered what on earth this was about, and many of our non-white students viewed it as tokenism. Why would our minority students need to take such a course?” (A series of articles and editorials in The Williams Record, the student newspaper, reflect widespread student frustration with the requirement — regardless of students’ ethnicity or politics.)
Precisely the argument conservatives were making 10 years ago!
Edward Burger, a professor of mathematics who was chair of the Committee on Education Policy, the faculty body that led discussion of the changes, said that the old system was premised on the idea that Williams students were white. “It identified us. It said, ‘we’re white guys who are now taking courses to learn about people of other colors.’ At its core, that’s very racist if you think about it.”
Yes. You read that right. Williams has decided it's diversity requirement was, in fact, racist. I wonder if other schools will come to the same conclusion?
Keep in mind that Williams is still the No. 1 College in the country, and others will follow their lead. Is the "diversity" mania over?
HT: National Review Online's Phi Beta Cons Blog