TOC’s need to mention Kurt Vonnegut’s short story Harrison Bergeron is accelerating. It’s time to convert “bergeron” to a verb.
A recent example from Beth Mitchneck (professor emerita at the University of Arizona), and Jessi L. Smith (associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Colorado.)
We Must Name Systemic Changes in Support of DEI
DIE is diversity, equity and inclusion. I don’t think “associate vice chancellor” is a particularly diverse, equitable, or inclusive title, but within the article’s context “professor emerita” is most amusing:
Most of the academy functions by using a narrow definition of merit limited to a neoliberal view of the university: that merit is indicated by obtaining funding dollars or by producing lots of peer-reviewed journals or juried exhibits in prestigious outlets that garner a high number of citations or visits. Some institutions also include attracting many doctoral students or obtaining high numbers of student credit hours in their definitions of success…
Admitting that the normative definitions of success and merit are in and of themselves barriers to achieving the goals of justice, diversity, equity and inclusion is necessary but not sufficient to create change.
Far be it from me to disagree that Universities’ metrics are corrupt, but to suggest the soaring growth in employment of administrative positions in diversity, equity and inclusion is ineffective must be heretical.
Four years ago The University of Michigan already had:
nearly 100 diversity administrators, more than 25 of them earning over $100,000 a year (see chart below). Collectively, they cost the University of Michigan, with fringe benefits, about $11 million annually. Adding in other costs such as travel and office space expenses, the total cost rises to perhaps $14 million, or $300 for every enrolled student at the U of M in the fall semester 2017.
If this level of DIE oversight hasn’t solved the problem, what would?
Professors Mitchneck and Smith make some hand waving attempts to specify the metrics they would find meritorious, but mostly it’s subjective.
Beth suggested in a recent webinar that we move toward impact portfolios, modeled in part on the portfolios that artists routinely produce, that would demonstrate the ways in which our work as defined by institutional missions has indeed contributed to achieving those missions. For example, Utrecht University has just announced a new faculty recognition and rewards system that aligns with institutional values about open science and excludes the use of impact factors.
While these examples stand out for the good, that is, in many ways, the problem. While we can point to the few institutions that are trying to change merit structures, many others seem resistant to change. Why is that? Do people fear that tenure will go away? Maybe. We believe that fear would be unwarranted if we developed more equitable procedures, practices and policies that reflected the true diversity of the research and societal impacts that our institutional missions espouse. It is time to start living those missions.
TOC is always ready to help. The number of papers published, number of citations of those papers, number of doctoral students attracted, and number of grants received don’t tell the whole story of a professor’s value. Especially in the social sciences, huge numbers of junk papers are published and cited. Quality is lacking.
But ‘impact portfolios’ of diversity? Inclusion? Equity? Haven’t we been trying that? The UofM horde of DIE enforcers is typical. If they don’t have as much merit as the professors upon whom they turn their gimlet eyes, maybe we could fire the entire diversity cadre and enhance the salaries and job security of the profs based on existing metrics. Salaries and job security, after all, are what they’re on about.
To reinforce the logic (can I say that?) of this plan, let’s look at how the University of California-Davis advertises for an assistant professor of sustainable aquaculture and coastal systems. It lays out the productivity metrics essential to the educational mission these DIE martinets enforce.
Note that there are 18 words about research and teaching in the job description above and 176 words (in bold) about a candidate’s commitment to DIE (diversity, inclusion, and equity).
(Thanks to Mark Perry for both examples.)
Some dismiss proposals such as Mitchneck’s and Smith’s as mere left-wing academiot nattering. Not that it isn’t left-wing academiot nattering. But it is not “mere.” This is redefining the word “merit” the same way they redefined “equity;” as “Equal Outcome.” However “merit” is interpreted, we’ll know we failed if everyone doesn’t come out equal.
There are many other head shaking instances of this clap-trap most of us ignore, but the evidence that we should pay close attention has become overwhelming. An excellent example is Jordan Peterson’s objection to compelled pronoun usage in 2016. Peterson was vilified as a transphobe, and his suggestion that the full legal weight of the State would be brought to bear was mocked. Now, various institutions are mandating the use of ‘zir,’ or whatever the flavor of the day is.
When statues of Columbus were attacked, those who it said it wouldn’t stop there – that Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington were next – were mocked. Well, in Wisconsin a statue titled “Forward” was torn down because it included an American flag in the same riot where the statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg (a Norwegian immigrant and abolitionist who fought for the North in the Civil War) was toppled. They’ve removed a 70-ton boulder from the Madison campus, which, over 90 years ago, a newspaper referred to, once, using a slur for blacks.
The usual suspects were calling for removal of a Lincoln statue a year ago.
Our National Archive has placed a “harmful language” warning on the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.
National Archive recommends removing ‘charters of freedom’ description from founding documents | Daily Mail Online
If merit must be redefined, let’s be very, very careful about it. And objective, not fashionable.