Diversity is something that I am sick of hearing about. You can’t pick up a paper without reading about it, and important people seem to be talking about it, but no one agrees on how to achieve it. I’m not talking about real diversity — distinct personalities and thoughts coexisting within a system.
No, I’m talking about the local variety, the kind that makes no sense, and has little relevance to the outside world. As a society we have real diversity. There is no end to the differences among people in this world. Whether you take the time to acknowledge and learn from the assortment of people is entirely your business. Diversity on this campus is no different. With so many students and faculty, it isn’t difficult to find someone with a viewpoint different from your own. What university officials, the Associated Students of Madison and vociferous student groups are really talking about isn’t just diversity, but racial and ethnic variety. There is a subtle, but important difference between the two goals. Admitting more students of color is, and should be, a priority of this university. Having said that, increasing diversity should not be a reason for admitting under-qualified students of color. If the goal is to help bright young men and women who may come from disadvantaged backgrounds get into this school, it should be stated as such. Placing this goal under the obfuscatory banner of diversity is wrong, and damaging to the original purpose.
In a recent brief detailing the admissions policy, UW admissions director Rob Seltzer stated the university “has a compelling educational interest in fostering diversity. Diversity in the student population improves both the richness of the educational experience and our student’s marketability in the work world.”
How this translates into the actual admissions policy I cannot say; thus far, the university has been unclear about how this guideline is used in practice. By allowing the admissions process to continue in this muddled fashion, the university has given credence to reactionary groups such as the Wisconsin Scholars and closet bigots like UW Board of Regents member Frederic Mohs.
As for ASM and the student groups it supports (that is, friends and other members), their idea of diversity does not seem to be inclusive. The only way true diversity can be achieved is through open discourse; you need not agree with what you hear, as long as you hear it. As exemplified in the response to the ad David Horowitz placed in the Badger Herald last winter, ASM and the more vocal student groups aren’t interested in diversity if the opinions held by others are in opposition to their own. Mike Dean, then ASM chair, blasted the Herald for publishing what he considered hate speech. I don’t agree with what Horowitz wrote, but personal feelings should have nothing to do with the free flow of thoughts and ideas. You cannot sharpen your own beliefs unless you are willing to listen to those with whom you do not agree.
There is a difference between diversity of ideas and acceptance of ideas. It is up to each individual to decide whether or not to subscribe to a belief system, but a truly diverse society will allow all viewpoints to be heard. The so-called goal of diversity on this campus is nothing more than self-interested groups foisting their beliefs on us all.
James P. Kent ([email protected]) is majoring in economics and business management.