Two weeks ago Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami, came to town to sing the praises of campus diversity. She told members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling that the global economy demanded no less than students who have been exposed to those of different races, religions and backgrounds while they were in school. She cited UM’s student body, which is about 28 per cent Hispanic and 10 per cent black, as a good example of a university walking the walk of diversity.
And in order for universities such as UM to continue to attract a sufficiently diverse student body, they had to rethink the way they did business, explained Shalala. She pointed to UM’s Ramadan-sensitive meal plan for Muslim students as a prime example.
Other speakers at the Tampa Convention Center also spoke to the need to recruit minorities as well as first-generation students.
Well and good, of course. It would be remiss of any university to deign to prepare students for a global economy in a hermetically-sealed environment where everybody looked and worshipped the same.
What’s typically missing from such higher education gatherings, however, are those officials who also make the very public case for ideological diversity. It almost never happens because diversity at the university level is almost never defined outside the easily quantifiable, politically safe criteria of race, religion and ethnic background. And that’s because those who do the defining are all from the same lockstep liberal camp. And if you’re not, well, why aren’t you at Bob Jones University?
How illogical is it that where faculty and students are on the political spectrum — and the subsequent impact on their world views across a myriad of subjects — is rarely cited as a diversity priority? How counterintuitive is it that what university people actually think is a non-factor in strivings for inclusion and diversity? Shouldn’t preparation for the marketplace of ideas include a robust diversity of them as part of the educational experience?
How ironic that on the day Shalala spoke, the big news out of the University of Florida was the protest march, led by a UF dean, on the student newspaper, the “Independent Florida Alligator.” The newspaper had run a racial-parody cartoon featuring rapper Kanye “Bush doesn’t care about black people” West holding a “race card” and a less-than-pleased Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The latter was reprimanding West in popular rapper parlance. As in “Nigga Please!”
UF officials didn’t see any First Amendment issues. They didn’t see rights – only wrongs. They didn’t see another way of looking at America’s racial double standards. They didn’t see satire – only insensitivity. They saw a politically incorrect time bomb that could make post-affirmative action, minority recruitment and retention even harder.
No chagrin-and-bear-it response when the subject has anything to do with (a protected) race. UF officials demanded an apology from the newspaper.
They certainly didn’t demand one from the activist dean. Nor did they demand that campus diversity include free and – this version of – unpopular speech.
But perhaps UF is making progress on its minority meal plans.