The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Campus ‘diversity’ goals have lost focus

By Aaron Zundel

In a recent Chronicle article about the U’s desire to recruit a more “diverse” faculty, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Pershing referred to minority candidates as “hot property” (“U struggles to hire racially diverse faculty,” July 2).

Indeed, it seems the administration here on campus is so concerned with hiring minority instructors that it has offered to help individual departments pay the minority applicants’ potential salaries.

How asinine.

According to the Office of the Associate Vice President for Diversity, the U “is committed to removing barriers that traditionally have been encountered by individuals from underrepresented groups,” and that’s a noble thing. But when the administration offers incentives to hire the most diverse applicants, instead of the most qualified, there’s a problem.

Here at the U, we claim to cherish diversity, but more and more it seems we’re into diversity not because of what it brings to the table, but because it seems to alleviate the administration’s collective guilt about reaching out to minorities. The evidence for this comes from the U’s confusion between equity of opportunity and equity of outcome. Not content with simply leveling the playing field, the U’s administration has gone beyond “removing barriers” for minorities to erecting additional barriers for other, more traditional applicants in order to ensure more minorities are hired.

Make no mistake, diversity is a wonderful (and necessary) thing. The thought of surrounding oneself with people who think, act and dress exactly alike makes me want to put a gun in my mouth (there’s a very specific reason I don’t go to BYU, you know). But there’s a difference between embracing diversity and pandering to it.

Entrenched at the most basic levels of the U mindset, there’s an obsessive desire to include everyone. And, while this is a very correct and progressive idea (I mean, I’m sure glad they’re including me), it sometimes interferes with the first, and most important, objective of the U, and that’s providing people with an education.

For instance, I’ve talked to many students in the engineering department who’ve either stopped attending lectures or changed schools entirely. Why? Because several of the “diverse” professors in that department speak English so poorly, or have accents so thick, that the students can’t understand what’s being taught. Instead of going to lectures, these students spend their time in the Marriott Library, struggling to understand material from a textbook and wondering why they were dumb enough to pay thousands of dollars for classes when they’re teaching themselves for free.

Have the experiences these students have had with their diverse, non-English speaking professors enriched their lives? Possibly. But have the experiences helped them get an education and prepare them for their life’s work? No.

As an academic institution, the U has an obligation to its students first, not its ideology. True, one of the central parts of a well-rounded education is exposure to new and diverse ways of life — but cultural exposure is only a small piece of the educational picture.

Minority applicants should be given the same chance at gaining employment at the U as any other individual. However, cash payouts and other incentives to employ them create a dangerous precedent for employment — one based in identity politics rather than individual qualifications.

If the U administrators want to focus so heavily on diversity, they ought to think about resigning their posts and opening a community center. In the meantime, incentives ought to be contingent on the caliber of an applicant’s resume, not the color of his or her skin.

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