Case Study: How Institutions Like Wellesley Get That Way

In the previous post about Wellesley programming its students to oppose free speech, we learned to our horror (I presume you were horrified) what the liberal college culture is doing to the minds and values of your young.

Now comes this: an anonymous account on the website Quillette on how “standards” are created and maintained at some universities. All? We better hope not.

I was appointed by the dean of General Studies to serve as the chair for a writing hiring committee, a committee charged with hiring one full-time writing professor, who not only could teach first-year writing classes but also offerings in journalism. The committee of three met late in the fall semester to discuss the first group of candidates, before undertaking the second set of Skype interviews. I mentioned that I had received an email from one of the candidates and shared it with the committee members. After reading the email aloud, I argued that the missive effectively disqualified the candidate. The writing was riddled with awkward expression, malapropisms, misplaced punctuation, and other conceptual and formal problems. Rarely had a first-year student issued an email to me that evidenced more infelicitous prose. I asked my fellow committee members how we could possibly hire someone to teach writing who had written such an email, despite the fact that it represented only a piece of occasional writing. The candidate could not write. I also pointed back to her application letter, which was similarly awkward and error-laden. My committee colleagues argued that “we do not teach grammar” in our writing classes. Sure, I thought. And a surgeon doesn’t take vital signs or draw blood. That doesn’t mean that the surgeon wouldn’t be able to do so when required.

In the Skype interview following this discussion, a fellow committee member proceeded to attack the next job candidate, a candidate whom I respected. In fact, before the interview, this colleague, obviously enraged by my criticisms of her favorite, announced that she would ruthlessly attack the next candidate. She did exactly that, asking increasingly obtuse questions, while adopting a belligerent tone and aggressive posture from the start. That candidate, incidentally, had done fascinating scholarship on the history of U.S. journalism from the late 19th through the first half of the 20th Century. He had earned his Ph.D. from a top-ten English department, had since accrued considerable teaching experience in relevant subjects, and presented a record of noteworthy publications, including academic scholarship and journalism. He interviewed extremely well, except when he was harangued and badgered by the hostile interviewer. He should have been a finalist for the job. But he had a fatal flaw: he was a white, straight male.

After the interview, I chided my colleague uncompromisingly, although without a hint of bias. I believed, and still do, that her behavior during that interview was utterly unprofessional and prejudicial, and I told her so. Next, I was on the receiving end of her verbal barrage. Not only did she call me some choice expletives but also rose from her chair and posed as if to charge me physically, all the while flailing her limbs and yelling. I left the room and proceeded to the dean’s office. I told the dean what had just occurred. He advised me to calm down and let it rest until the following week.

What happened next was telling. I was unwittingly enmeshed in an identity politics imbroglio. The woman who had verbally assaulted me was a black female and the candidate whom she championed was also a black female. I was informed by the dean that pursuing a grievance, or even remaining on the committee, was now “complicated.” Shortly after the dean recommended that I step down from the committee, I realized I was in a corner and stepped down, going from chair to non-member.

The committee went on to hire the woman in question. Since assuming her position, the new hire posted an official faculty profile linked from Hudson’s General Studies program page. Her faculty profile page betrays the same awkward prose, poor incorporation of quotes, and other problems of expression typical of first-year student writers, but usually not professors. The profile also includes a glaring grammatical error: “The two main objectives in teaching is …”

 

The writer concludes,

Blatant tokenism in hiring and promotion jeopardizes the integrity of higher education and also undermines the objectives that diversity initiatives aim to promote.

Further, when markers of race, gender, gender fluidity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion and other factors are deemed the only criteria for diversity, students are cheated, as are those chosen to meet diversity measures on the basis of identity alone. Nothing is more essentialist or constraining than diversity understood strictly in terms of identity. Such a notion of diversity reduces “diverse” people to the status of token bearers of identity markers, relegating them to an impenetrable and largely inescapable identity chrysalis, and implicitly eliding their individuality. Meanwhile, there is no necessary connection between identity and ideas, identity and talents, identity and aspirations, or identity and beliefs.

Likewise, if we wish to foster real diversity in higher education, we must consider not only diversity of identity but also diversity of thought and perspective. This is the kind of diversity that we are supposed to recognize and foster in the first place.

But the professor is afraid to reveal his or her name.

______________________________

Pointer: Amy Alkon

16 Comments

Filed under Education, Gender and Sex, Race, U.S. Society, Workplace

16 responses to “Case Study: How Institutions Like Wellesley Get That Way

  1. Inquiring Mind

    That says it all.

  2. John Billingsley

    I can understand the professor not being willing to give a name. Probably just not that fond of tar, feathers, and a rail.

  3. Wayne

    You better keep quiet in The Third Reich or you know what will happen.

  4. The goal is not to create a new oppressed group, but make none oppressed.

    • Other Bill

      Exactly. What better example of oppression of black people can you find that having the absolute gall to expect black people who want to teach college expository writing be able to write proper English?

  5. That “former chair, now non-member” is likely a target for more persecution now. Mentioned is “Hudson’s General Studies program page.” Busted. (But, with luck, the potentially-formerly-anonymous whistleblower will not be caught – if none of the other committee members read at Quillette.)

  6. The professor in question is Kaia Shivers of NYU (the hired, not the author)

    http://www.advicegoddess.com/archives/2017/04/16/the_useless_div.html

  7. dragin_dragon

    I would also like to see the bigot who “championed” this illiterate exposed.

  8. Wayne

    This is an interesting study about why people become adamant about their beliefs when faced with contradictory facts: https://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2010/10/why-people-dont-change-their-minds-even-when-faced-facts

  9. Glenn Logan

    But the professor is afraid to reveal his or her name.

    Well, if he cares for his job, he probably should fear exposing his identity. I know this undermines the ethical duty of courage, but primarily for just reasons such as continued employment.

    We can infer from this…

    The woman who had verbally assaulted me was a black female and the candidate whom she championed was also a black female. I was informed by the dean that pursuing a grievance, or even remaining on the committee, was now “complicated.”

    …that the author is, in fact, a white male. It seems unlikely that if he ticked the box on any of the two most important identity questions (race and gender), these two sentences would’ve been different, and less “complicated.”

    Nothing is more essentialist or constraining than diversity understood strictly in terms of identity. Such a notion of diversity reduces “diverse” people to the status of token bearers of identity markers, relegating them to an impenetrable and largely inescapable identity chrysalis, and implicitly eliding their individuality.

    I don’t suppose it’s lost on anyone the bizarro world in which leftist academics live. They tell us that we must not make judgments based on things like race, gender, sexual identity, etc., yet they base their hiring decisions on those very factors, in the main if this anecdote is truly representative, and will literally run off anyone who doesn’t agree with that process. They have not only embraced identity biases, they have apparently integrated those biases formally into hiring procedures in ways that would’ve inspired government intervention had it been done the other way around. In this case, sauce for the goose is just that.

    Academia has often been thought of as the crucible in which great ideas are formed, debated, and formalized. We could laugh at the irony if only it weren’t so rigidly formal and relentlessly enforced in such a repressive, humorless fashion. “Intellectual thought” no longer describes what goes on at many colleges; it would be more accurately described as the relentless pursuit of “virtue” rather than knowledge.

  10. “Shortly after the dean recommended that I step down from the committee, I realized I was in a corner and stepped down, going from chair to non-member.”

    There are times in people lives when standing against what’s wrong for the good of the many; this should have been one of those times.

    I have absolutely no tolerance for these kinds of things.

    Based only on this account of the story; I would have refused to step down and that Dean and I would have had a serious on-the-spot discussion. As a result of the Dean recommending to step down, I would have demanded the black woman on the committee be removed from the committee for her intentional disregard for the writing qualifications required of the position in favor of a race based choice – racism. If the Dean was not willing to remove her from the committee, I would be forced to perused a formal grievance against the black woman exposing her racism and subsequently the colleges inability to deal with reverse racism.

    People must stand against what is wrong.

    Who will cast the first stone?

    • dragin_dragon

      Many years ago, there was a white sociology professor at UT/Austin who, in the course of a news conference stated “&#% of black students who start college fail to graduate.” He was hounded until he apologized for his “racist statement”, and damned near lost his job. I don’t blame anybody for not wanting to face this kind of insane attack. But I like to think I’d still do it.

      • dragin_dragon

        So what looks like a cuss word is actually “73%”.

      • He didn’t make a racist statement, he stated what he believed to be a fact; he never should have apologized, it empowers the race baiting idiots.

        A black Professor at the University I attended ended up retiring early after grading a classroom full of students mid-terms exams and trying to perform his version of affirmative action to increase the number of blacks in the Engineering department. He shouldn’t have tried that at all but with me in the classroom he bit off more than he could chew; he got nailed for his blatant racism and was forced to retire early. I’ve gotten whites, blacks and latinos fired from their jobs because of racism – I have zero tolerance for racism.

        Down south many years ago I was standing in line at a U Haul dealership (one of those places back in the late 70’s and early 80’s that also rented U Hauls) down south listening to a racist white man repetitively turn away a black man for no justifiable reason, I pointedly called the man a racist for is actions and what he was saying the man then called me every four letter name his small mind could think of and the entire line of patrons and others in the store walked out the door. To top that off I got a local TV news crew (pays to have friends in important places) to go to the U Haul dealership the next day to interview this guy, who just happened to be the owner, the crew showed up with the black man that was turned away and me as the witness; that idiot racist damn near came across the counter at me when I interrupted the interview and called him a liar to his face for lying about the incident. The next week U Haul had pulled all its equipment from the place and the business shut down shortly after that.
        Side note: That black man became a pretty good friend of mine until Obama was elected, then he suspiciously vanished from my life like a few other black friends.

  11. Rob Palmer

    What drives me nuts about these stories is the part where the reasonable person invariably backs down. Threats to his job, telling him the issue was “complicated;” those were bluffs. They had no leg to stand on and they knew it. They always push for the person to stop fighting with social pressure, because they’ll lose in any official battle. Don’t give in.

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