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