The recent Supreme Court Fisher v. University of Texas court battle was only the latest episode in the ongoing saga of universities smuggling racism back into post-secondary education under the guise of “diversity.”
Diversity is a cult which will not brook reasoned dissent. Like it or not, diversity in academia is here to stay. Its opponents will have to learn to live with it. How, then, to thrive when subcutaneous melatonin content is an index of sanctimonious self-congratulation?
First, we must understand that “diversity,” for the Left, is devoid of intellectual valence. It is simply a crude index of different states of “embodiment.” There must be three blacks in our department, someone decides, or two homosexuals, or at least one person with a physical disability.
“Diversity” reduces people to their mere existential presence, their ability to occupy a position and allow departments to check off boxes on a form. It is an advertising gimmick, and as such is utterly uninterested in how the diversity pawns think or what they believe. Indeed, one may, like pawns, keep them fixed in place for as long as necessary to advance one’s broader interests in the game of bureaucratic strategizing, and then sacrifice them when a better opportunity for even more “diversity” comes along. It is enough that the diversity vectors embody difference – they need not have any thoughts of their own at all.
It’s a shame that the higher-ups are so devoted to this kind of intellectually homogenous “diversity,” though, because diversity works much better when the number of viewpoints is actually greater than one. And the viewpoint at universities throughout the land is almost unfailingly leftist. The orthodoxy is stifling. But by challenging the oft-repeated chorus of liberal pieties―“socialism is charity,” “deluded euphoria is marriage,” “abortion is liberation,” and “invasion is citizenship,” to name just a few―conservatives enable debate and allow students to make up their own minds. In the intellectual autoclave of modern classrooms, it is a surfeit of sterility, and not a cacophonous plurality, that is crippling higher education.
Truly diverse–i.e., intellectual–diversity will confront students after graduation, anyway, even if universities try to isolate themselves and their acolytes from conflicting viewpoints during the quarter-million-dollar interlude of orgiastic binge drinking between high school and work. Sooner or later, students will leave the greenhouse of the academy, bid farewell to their radical professors, and move into the real world, where, ready or not, they will encounter a welter of opinions not neated to fit professors’ reading lists.
That the modern American university has utterly failed to prepare its charges for a life of productive citizenship amidst a plurality of worldviews was vividly shown by Occupy Wall Street, wherein a mob of entitled and deeply indebted college graduates ran riot through the streets of America, bitterly disappointed that employers could find no use for their mastery of queer film studies and French protest literature. Behold the fruits of decades of campus diversity.
So, how do we bring true diversity back to academia, provide students with actual conflicting epistemologies about which to “think critically,” enrich campus atmospheres with honest, robust debate, and promote good citizenship by modeling ways in which to disagree sharply without throwing Molotov cocktails through shop windows?
It is tempting to suggest that we engage in a kind of rhetorical judo, co-opting the diversity soothsayers’ favorite empty phrases in order to smuggle conservatives back into the academy. A quota system comes readily to mind, for instance. By insisting that universities force reluctant department heads to hire candidates who have not voted the straight Democrat ticket in every election since 1964, or by scrutinizing an applicant’s publishing credits for the telltale signs of reactionary lucubrating, committees could be reasonably sure that they were hiring true conservatives.
But hitting upon the lasting solution to any problem requires getting to the heart of the matter.
The hard truth is that the desertification of the academy is the end result of decades of, among other things, conservatives’ capitulation to the nonsensical screeching of the tenured Maoists on campuses nationwide. I understand the sentiment. Passing by the latest drum circle outside the Humanities Building, I, too, think wistfully of all the places I could otherwise be, surrounded by normal people with a greater appreciation for the shower and the comb. And, while it would certainly be desirable to see conservative professors–even one!–return to academia under the protest of his peers, in honesty we must admit that conservatives have for too long let the leftists have the run of the place without offering even perfunctory resistance to their demands.
This brings us up against another hard truth, which is that, in my own experience, at least, while the leftists utterly dominate academia (sort of like the way in which bats outnumber bald eagles on the ceilings of caves), they do not often discriminate against those with whom they disagree.
Granted, this may very well be because I am so vastly outnumbered that I seem more quixotically cute than genuinely threatening. Nevertheless, speaking strictly from anecdotal experience, the only thing standing in the way of conservatives’ retaking the castle is their own liliness of liver. If my own experience is typical, then the professoriate will not flunk you for liking Reagan. To their credit, most of them are far too high-minded for that sort of thing. The upshot of this is that the moat has already been filled in. The portcullis stands wide open. The guard at the gate is busy reading The Feminine Mystique.
So, my suggestion is that conservatives interested in retaking higher education for God and Country prepare themselves for a long slog through the academic trenches. We cannot expect to parachute Green Berets onto the roof of the Kremlin on the very first day of the campaign. We must regain, inch by inch, all the ground that we have surrendered over the past century. We must lay the ghosts, not only of Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, and Timothy Leary, but also of Herb Croly, Woodrow Wilson, and Louis Brandeis.
Legislatures can help, of course. By choking off all funding for universities, state legislatures will force them to operate in a market environment with market consequences: the Marxists who moonlight as tax-dollar hoarders will be starved into earning an honest wage for an honest day’s work. But this will all be meaningless unless conservatives quietly slip into graduate schools and eventually begin running at least some segments of the show. If we really want to rescue higher education from the Maoists, we must be willing to field infantry, and lots of it.
Leftism thrives in the anaerobic sea-floor vents of the modern universities precisely because so few other organisms are adapted to live there. Think of conservatives as volunteer microbes from another realm, willing to brave the bathyspheric depths in order to bring glad tidings of objectivity and capitalism to our separated brethren. Imagine the biopolitical diversity such an experiment might produce! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Agamben!
Those who blanched at the mention of “God” and “Country” above will object that letting conservatives into the academy would ruin the current fun of dictatorial relativism. “Truth” would be stripped of its scare quotes. Facts would kick in the doors of the opium den. I confess that that is precisely the point. If the academy has such ironclad ideas, then surely a little gentle questioning couldn’t hurt. If, though, liberalism is a sand castle built on a gelatinous fen, upon which the torrents of Keynesianism and rampant secularism have begun to pour, then, yes, be afraid, be very afraid. We conservatives are coming to live among you, and we are not friendly to your city’s gods.
In the meantime, intellectual diversity will replace cosmetic diversity. The discomfiting specter of intellectual competition will stalk the halls of academe. But this is precisely what true diversity looks like is. Messy, yes; downright maddening, true; but a picture of the freewheeling “sifting and winnowing” that characterizes the democratic marketplace of ideas? Yes, very much that, too. If professors think their students might benefit from such an approach, then they should convince their colleagues to hire someone like me. But if conservatives are tired of waiting for academia to undergo a switch in magnetic polarity of its own accord, then it’s time that they girded themselves for battle. May the best ideas win.
Fix contributor Jason Morgan earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, his master’s degree at the University of Hawai’i, and is currently earning his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
He hopes to work as a professor after earning his doctorate.