Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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Stupidity rules. With a vengeance. South Dakota, among other states, is considering a bill on "cultural diversity" which will require state-run universities to make an annual report on what they are doing to enhance cultural diversity.
A new class of higher retardation is taking form. Another dean is in the making. The dean of diversity. And the old joke about deans gets renewal: a dean is a person not stupid enough to be a college president but too stupid to be a faculty member. Any faculty member who supports this bill is probably bucking for a deanship. And any dean who supports it is entertaining dreams of being a president.
No matter what absurd palaver may accrue around this bill, its purpose is clear and well publicized. It is a bill devised to require the hiring of more conservative faculty members. Those who label themselves conservative are constantly whining and whimpering about being outnumbered. This is the new politicization. Make no mistake about it, the idea behind this bill is to establish a quota system based on political affiliation. This from the same folks who have whimpered in such shoulder-shaking fury and made the loudest howling and whining about affirmative action.
The author who devised the "cultural diversity" requirement is David Horowitz. In explaining his idea, he complains about seeing political-oriented materials on bulletin boards and commiserates over conservative students who sit in classes presided over by liberal professors and feel intimidated.
Until fairly recently, I was not aware of the political orientation of professors. Even after representing them in faculty organizations that negotiated with administrations, I was not aware of what parties most professors were affiliated with. That's because there were professional issues involved that were not matters of political doctrine. Academic freedom, due process, equal rights, and competence were issues that confronted us, and they were not perceived as partisan issues. Whether one's political activities were in the liberal or conservative bands of the spectrum were simply not issues.
After the Limbaugh-led assaults on liberalism for every imagined and concocted ill that affects America, a significant number of people believe that universities are political training camps. The problem is not really that liberal doctrine is being preached on campuses; it is that conservatives want to convert campuses to that purpose. And so, you get a bunch of yokels promoting a cultural diversity bill.
Within academic disciplines, professors have diverse stances on matters in their specialities. Scientists, because of their scholarship and research, have diverse perspectives on their field. So do humanists. Those are the differences that provide the vital exchange and interaction that produces knowledge. Partisan politics may be mentioned, but until recently they were not considered relevant to academic business. They were not the stuff that academics concerned themselves with--unless issues of freedom, equality, and justice were at issue.
The conservatives go ballistic when it is suggested that if a majority of professors lean toward the liberal orientation, it is because the essential processes of scholarship are embraced by the liberal philosophy. The country's first-line universities do seem to have liberalism as a the predominant political orientation. There are no valid statistics available that we could find that attempt to show how professors array themselves on the political spectrum. But in the northern plains, we do not seen evidence of liberal dominance. In fact, we see quite the reverse. Most universities in this region are cold-frames of regression. They are devoted to vocationalism, and are not centers of intellectual or cultural activity. A few noisy liberals can be severely irritating in such a setting and that is too much for the regressive mentality to endure.
If there is a certain political inclination that is identified with higher academics, it may well have been somewhat institutionalized during the post-World War II years of the G.I. Bill. Veterans who returned from war and went to college had a common belief in what they fought for and how education served to extend and strengthen those values. They had seen the effects of fascist states for themselves and believed that democratic liberalism best expressed the values and processes they sought to protect and extend. Their values reached into the early years of civil rights advances in the 1950s. Their residual, and often misconceived, stances characterized campuses of the 1960s and 1970s. There was no argument about freedom, equality, and justice, but there was discussion on how those democratic values could best be served. The cultural diversity bill is an open declaration that we are no longer Americans. We are Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, progressives and regressives. We are in a deadly struggle for our beliefs, and campuses which once were neutral grounds are being appropriated as political battlegrounds.
The cultural diversity bill makes a statement, and that statement is how higher education is being saddled with useless and resource-draining paperwork and is being transformed into a medium for political indocrination.
Our response: perhaps binge drinking is justified on campuses that are being stripped of their academic integrity.
Cultural diversity as conceived in the South Dakota bill has nothing to do with the diverse ethnic and social backgrounds of students and faculty. It is a bill that insists that people be identified by political affiliation and that adminstrations establish and enact policies on that basis.
While South Dakota higher education is struggling to obtain tax money to carry out its mission, we object to having our contributions to the system used to promote "cultural diversity" as it is defined in the current bill. We prefer to contribute to real universities and send our children to them. And that may leave South Dakota out of the picture.