Ethics Observations On A Discrimination Enabler’s Confession

Over at Quillette, an American University teacher calling himself “Keith David” (I can’t find a reference for him) writes “A Student Sleuth Found Evidence that Our University Practices Reverse Racism. Here’s Why I Advised Him Not to Publish It.”

It is a long article, and deserves to be read in its entirety even at the risk of having your head explode. I find the author’s approach to the problem both typical and depressing, but before I enumerate my reactions, here are some major points in the article:

This essay describes a conversation I had in 2017 with [an undergraduate] I will call him Daniel…At the end of his freshman year, Daniel applied for admission to a competitive honors program that our university runs, but he was rejected….Daniel believed he’d been treated unfairly. He believed he was the victim of reverse racism….Daniel proceeded to explain that he and a friend had both applied to the same honors program and had both been rejected. Afterwards…[t]hey scrutinized the social-media accounts of fellow students and found several dozen applicants who’d posted about being accepted. A lot of them…were either African American or Hispanic. Daniel and his friend then…identified several dozen students who had been rejected, many of whom were Caucasian or Asian….They decided to create a spreadsheet…to organize the data they’d collected….Daniel explained that he and his friend had performed various kinds of statistical analysis on the data, and had concluded that admission to the honors program was closely related to Dean’s List status within certain groups. However, there were large differences in acceptance rates across those groups. Overall, he told me, the factor that explained the most variance in admissions outcomes was…the race or ethnicity of the applicant. The patterns were quite stark. African Americans who weren’t on the Dean’s List had a better overall chance of being admitted to the honors program than whites or Asians who were on the Dean’s List.

Daniel…told me he was thinking of filing a protest with the admissions committee and challenging them with the data he’d gathered. He was also thinking about sending his data to the university newspaper as a way of exposing the unfairness of the committee’s decisions.

As I listened, I began to think about what I might tell Daniel once he stopped talking.

Should I tell him what I thought—that he might well be right about why he was not admitted to the honors program? Should I tell him that I had heard some talk among the faculty that seemed to confirm his suspicions? A few months earlier, I’d heard a dean saying that the honors program was too “traditional” in its make-up. What the university needed to do, this dean said, was “make the program look more like America as a whole.” …Should I try to make the case for affirmative action, explaining that the policies are well-intentioned and designed to make up for real injustices, including slavery, segregation, and racism? Should I tell Daniel that sometimes in life one just has to accept this kind of unfortunate outcome as part of a larger process of social transformation? Should I introduce him to the concept of “taking one for the team”? Should I mention any of my own experiences with affirmative action? Should I tell him about the time when I applied for an internal position at our university, only to learn that it was actually a “targeted” search? …This meant that I, as a white male, had almost no chance of being selected.

Should I tell Daniel about the colleague I’d spoken with just a few weeks earlier, who’d told me, with much frustration and a touch of anger in his voice, that he was getting out of academia because he’d concluded that it is now virtually impossible for a white male to get a tenure-track position in his field? This young man had finished his PhD and published a book. He had applied for scores of tenure-track jobs, but had finally concluded he was not likely to get one. “Picking me,” he explained, “won’t do anyone any good. It won’t help the institution show that it is combatting racism, and it won’t allow any of the members of the hiring committee to assuage their white liberal guilt.” Shortly thereafter, this colleague took a non-academic job as a computer programmer….Should I tell Daniel that, over the years, I had grown more and more frustrated with the way in which the academics I work among approach hiring? I’d seen plenty of searches in which members of the hiring committee went out of their way to try to hire persons of color, or members of under-represented minority groups, but nobody would ever admit publicly that this is what was going on. Nor did anyone want to admit that their efforts to boost minority candidates made job-seeking more difficult for members of other, non-preferred groups….

In the end, I didn’t tell Daniel about any of my own experiences.

I told him that I thought he might be right about why he hadn’t been accepted into the program…. I then briefly (and perhaps half-heartedly) outlined the usual justification for affirmative-action programs.

But what I emphasized most was that I thought it would be unwise for Daniel to launch a campaign against the admissions committee, even if his data was as strong as he seemed to think it was. I told him that a campaign of the sort he was considering would almost certainly fail…it would probably do no good in the long run….Support for affirmative action is almost universal among academics. Very few are even willing to express hesitations or second thoughts on this issue, lest they be deemed racists. The people who make these decisions feel good about the people who benefit from affirmative action, and they avert their gaze, as much as possible, from the people who are harmed by it.  I warned Daniel that I thought his plan might end up doing him a lot of harm. If he chose to make his exposé public, the most likely outcome would be that some student or faculty member would accuse him of being a racist. Publishing his data would probably end up hurting him rather than helping him.

…He told me that he was not a racist. He had voted for Democrats in the 2016 election and hated Donald Trump. And as it happens, I had reason to believe this was true….Daniel told me that he believed affirmative-action policies were justified for college admissions, but he did not think they should be used to filter out qualified applicants to honors programs and graduate programs.

…To be honest, I’ve never been quite clear on how we’re supposed to get over centuries of judging people by their skin color or ethnicity by paying more and more attention to skin color and ethnicity.

In the past few years, in fact, I’ve increasingly had the sense that affirmative action may be backfiring. Policies meant to correct historical iniquities seem to be stoking racial resentment. Like Daniel, I dislike Trump intensely. I don’t have much in common with his followers, and I certainly don’t think of myself as one of them. But I do, increasingly, understand some of the grievances that motivate them. I wish I didn’t, but I do.

…I told Daniel that he could still succeed at our university, and get accepted by a top graduate school, even if he never made it into the honors program—as long as he just kept on taking challenging math and science classes and posting good grades.

In some ways, I think I gave Daniel good advice….On the other hand, maybe it would have done some good to let the world know just how far the admissions committee was willing to go to admit under-represented minorities and make that honors program “look more like America as a whole.” By the same token, maybe there is something cowardly about not challenging current practices because it’s not in one’s own self-interest to make trouble. Maybe the world would be a better place if some people did challenge these preferential policies.

Keith, if that is his name, concludes by asking, “Did I give Daniel good advice? Or would you have told him something different?”

Why yes, I would have told him something very different. Not only did the American U. instructor show that he is an enabling, complicit, cowardly and willing participant in a corrupt and unethical culture, but he recruited a student to take the same lazy, go along to get along, weenie-esque path as he has. The author asks, “Maybe there is something cowardly about not challenging current practices because it’s not in one’s own self-interest to make trouble. Maybe the world would be a better place if some people did challenge these preferential policies.”

Maybe? MAYBE???

The author nicely represents the absence of character within academia that has allowed our institutions to devolve into Leftis indoctrination camps with barely any resistance, places where political and philosophical conformity is valued above all. Notice the nauseating “he’s no racist because he hates Donald Trump like I do” virtue-signaling, and the condescension to “the deplorables.”

As for his questions:

  • “Should I tell him what I thought—that he might well be right about why he was not admitted to the honors program?”  You’re a teacher, man: how does withholding that information qualify as teaching?
  • “Should I tell him that I had heard some talk among the faculty that seemed to confirm his suspicions?” Of course. It’s called “evidence.”
  • “Should I try to make the case for affirmative action, explaining that the policies are well-intentioned and designed to make up for real injustices, including slavery, segregation, and racism?” “Well-intentioned” is not a valid justification for unethical conduct.
  • “Should I tell Daniel that sometimes in life one just has to accept this kind of unfortunate outcome as part of a larger process of social transformation?” Tell him to love Big Brother for the greater good? That the ends justify the means? What a good Nazi Keith would have been.
  • “Should I introduce him to the concept of ‘taking one for the team’”?  Which “team” would that be? How can one’s team deliberately ensure that one is mistreated?
  • “Should I mention any of my own experiences with affirmative action?” Of course!
  • “Should I tell Daniel about the colleague I’d spoken with just a few weeks earlier, who’d told me, with much frustration and a touch of anger in his voice, that he was getting out of academia because he’d concluded that it is now virtually impossible for a white male to get a tenure-track position in his field?”  What’s the alternative, withholding facts because they undercut the approved narrative?
  • “Should I tell Daniel that, over the years, I had grown more and more frustrated with the way in which the academics I work among approach hiring?” No, you should just lie to him. Why do you have to ask this question?

Utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill,delivered an 1867 inaugural address at the University of St. Andrews in which he said,

“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”

Exactly.

________________________

Pointer: Batman

12 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On A Discrimination Enabler’s Confession

  1. I have more to write on this later, but I’ll leave this here for now.

    “…I do, increasingly, understand some of the grievances that motivate them. I wish I didn’t, but I do.” (Emphasis mine.)

    This person is an educator, an intellectual (probably liberal arts), and evidently fairly perceptive for a human, yet with just two short sentences he flirts with what I consider to be damnation, although I think he is confused about whether willful ignorance or understanding is the bad side.

    I call myself Extradimensional Cephalopod because many things I take for granted, like questioning dogma and understanding other people’s points of view and trying to become better, seem to disturb the fragile mind of the average human. To me, they seem weak and lacking the character to face reality, change themselves, and change the world.

    And yet they call me the mad one! But I’ll show them. I’ll show them all! Mad? I’m not mad! No… no, I’m not mad. I’m just very disappointed in these people. I expected them to be more mature, after everything they’ve been given.

    • Extra-Dimensional Cephalopod:

      You zeroed in on exactly the portion that struck me.

      He wishes he did not understand the way other people, people he does not like, think.

      Why on earth would someone wish a lack of comprehension upon oneself.

      Understanding other people leads to empathy. Essentially, he wants to become less able to empathize with people he already dislikes.

      Understanding other people is part of emotional intelligence and lots of other touch-feely feel-good buzzwords we are supposed to want attributes to us.

      Yet, it is the absence of such things that permits such great division between people to grow.

      Why would he want that for himself.

      So. Since you stole my thunder, I have to resort to this quotation:

      …To be honest, I’ve never been quite clear on how we’re supposed to get over centuries of judging people by their skin color or ethnicity by paying more and more attention to skin color and ethnicity.

      Oooh! He is SO Close to having an insight. The problem is, I don’t think he wants to have that insight, and, if he did, would probably wish that he hadn’t.

      His goal is blissful ignorance, not aggravating enlightenment.

      -Jut

      • Because, once he understands what motivates a Trump supporter, he is less likely to consider them human.

        In the wake of Ottawa, Jack Posobiec has made an interesting observation:
        It’s not hypocrisy, it’s hierarchy.

      • “Understanding other people leads to empathy. Essentially, he wants to become less able to empathize with people he already dislikes.

        Understanding other people is part of emotional intelligence and lots of other touch-feely feel-good buzzwords we are supposed to want attributed to us.

        Yet, it is the absence of such things that permits such great division between people to grow.

        Why would he want that for himself?”

        That sounds pretty thunderous to me!

        People are supposed to learn emotional intelligence, basic ethics, and conflict resolution in grade school, and yet somehow all of that goes out the window when they grow up and learn someone didn’t vote the same way they did. Sometimes it’s tricky to get them to realize that the situations they’re in aren’t special exceptions to those basic life skills.

    • XF, I couldn’t agree more and this is a perfect example of why you’ve long been one of my favorite commenters on E.A. I was struck hard by those four particular words too, and couldn’t fathom how anyone–must less an EDUCATOR–could utter those words with sincerity.

      Flirting with damnation, indeed.

      –Dwayne

  2. Most likely “Keith David” is simply a handle. There is an actor and voiceover artist by that name (full name: Keith David Williams) of some note. He was in several well known films including Platoon and he provided the voice of Goliath in the dark animated series Gargoyles (however you may feel about animated programs, that show employed a fair amount of legit talent for voiceover). This is just the old argument not to make waves and to go along to get along. It always held some weight because whistleblowers and grievants are generally not well liked. You don’t usually hear about people who exposed some problem at a company prospering later. You don’t usually hear about women who pushed the “me too” agenda later flourishing after they came forward.

    The fact is that no one likes a tattletale and no one likes a complainer. Most of us are quite content to let sleeping dogs lie, not upset the applecart, and just continue with whatever it is we’re doing until we can retire and be beholden to no one.

    The fact is that no one usually thinks about the consequences for ordinary folks when some kind of big exposure is made or some big complaint is made that shakes things up. If I am a blameless associate in a law firm where one of the partners has decided to get handsy with one of the female law clerks, that is later exposed because this law clerk decides to get her 15 minutes of fame, and business tanks as a result, which translates into adverse financial consequences for me, do you think it isn’t going to cross my mind that “why didn’t she just keep her mouth shut?”

    The same applies here, in an academic environment. A lot of people stand to gain from things remaining the way they are. They don’t want them disturbed. If someone does disturb them, and people stand to lose tenure or jobs as a result, those people will not be well disposed toward that person.

    This is twice as bad as it normally would be in these present times where the politically correct have a much stronger upper hand than normal (although I don’t know for how much longer) and the consequences of saying something disfavored can be swift, hard to reverse, and completely out of proportion to what was said. I am beginning to believe that a substantial portion of the journalism industry, if it can be called that, is devoted to catching and publicizing statements by people that can generate outrage and overreaction. I also believe that a substantial portion of the social media industry is devoted to making certain that information or allegations that can hurt the disfavored travels around the world while anything that blunts those allegations or adds any nuance to that information gets buried deep.

    If you are going to go up against all this, you’d better be damn sure that what you have to say will stick and is worth saying, because the fallout for you and for others could be catastrophic. And there will be fallout.

  3. This is probably grossly over-simplified, but…

    I wonder what Keith David’s advice to Daniel would have been had the research instead led to evidence of discrimination against blacks and hispanics. I have seen ethical situations posted here that are sometimes complicated and answers are difficult. But far more often, they are answered by simply applying the Golden Rule. If discrimination against blacks and hispanics is wrong, it’s wrong when lighter-skinned people are the victims…and it should be reported in either case.

  4. More, as promised:

    “…Should I try to make the case for affirmative action, explaining that the policies are well-intentioned and designed to make up for real injustices, including slavery, segregation, and racism?”

    I don’t care about the whole “making up for injustices” angle. That’s not why I think we should be trying to help people out of poverty. I think we should do it because of the Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance: how would you arrange the world if you didn’t know who you would be born as? I want to live in a world where people aren’t trapped in poverty. If you were to tell me a person is poor because their ancestors made bad decisions, that doesn’t change my desire to help them.

    “Should I tell Daniel that sometimes in life one just has to accept this kind of unfortunate outcome as part of a larger process of social transformation?”

    I might agree with that sentiment in general. After all, opportunity for those below usually means less job security for those above. If that scares people, we should probably make sure that getting demoted isn’t an existential threat for people. (Maybe the upper class shouldn’t buy the most expensive houses they can afford?)

    However, I am of the opinion that the principle of “taking one for the team” doesn’t apply in this case because the policy doesn’t work. What we need is ensure that children (and their families) have the resources and support they need from the day they’re born. (Actually, probably more like a few weeks after conception, for best results, if not earlier.)

    I can understand the reasoning behind affirmative action despite considering it misguided (and I’m proud of being able to do so, unlike “Keith”). Scarcity is the fundamental liability of known material limitations. Poverty is a form of scarcity that most people think of as a simple lack of money but which usually manifests as additional insufficiencies of nutrition, time, mental energy, opportunity, connections, skills, et cetera. Poverty is a pit. It used to be a prison, deliberate engineered by slaveholders and other landowners, but just because the guards have mostly wandered off doesn’t mean that everyone in the pit can just climb out and go on their merry way. It makes sense that they need some organized outside help.

    What doesn’t make sense is trying to extract people from the pit by giving them things in the wrong order. Giving someone a prestigious position (connections, opportunity) doesn’t work if they don’t have the skills to back it up, any more than it would work to equip them with skills before making sure they had enough to eat.

    I’m going to steelman the “make the program look more like America as a whole” line, because there’s an important idea here that I think the people saying that phrase don’t even think about. If we want different cultures to be connected to influential institutions, the better to hold those institutions accountable for looking out for the cultures’ values and wellbeing, that’s a goal that we can work on thoughtfully. There are many approaches which we can pursue simultaneously.

    I agree that a person of skill who can also serve as a liaison or consultant for a particular culture is a valuable asset to a business or institution and should be compensated accordingly. If they don’t have sufficient skills or they’re not providing constructive input regarding a culture they’re familiar with, that’s when we’re in virtue-signaling territory, and it’s not fair to pass over people who might have done a better job just because they don’t “look like” enough of America. Diversity should be functional, not aesthetic.

    It’s worse when applied to students, though, because the focus should be on the students’ needs. Moving students into a higher level group they’re not ready for to make the group “look like America” doesn’t give the student what they need and it only hides any problems with a student’s earlier education.

    I am grateful to “Keith” for going to the effort of publishing this article, and I don’t begrudge him his anonymity. It might even be more effective as is than if he had revealed his name, because there’s no opportunity for anyone to try and track down his life story and “prove” he’s racist. It’s difficult to ad-hominem attack an anonymous source. All we have are his words, and goodness knows an angry mob of Twits has trouble responding to what people actually say.

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