Rethinking College Education in America

In an interview posted last month by the Hoover Institution, the estimable Victor Davis Hanson, speaking in character, made a typically provocative comment, saying “for what we are paying for every provost of diversity and inclusion we could probably hire three professors of electrical engineering.”

That can be fact checked. And the results are illuminating.

On the Public Records Act-enabled online database “Transparent California,” take a look at these 2018 search results for job titles that include the word “inclusion,” or “diversity.” Note that taxpayers funded a position for Jerry Kang, UCLA’s vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, that bestowed a total pay and benefits package worth $468,919 in 2018.

Compare that to the faculty of UCLA’s School of Engineering, where two assistant professors (Jonathan Kao and Ankur Mehta) along with an associate professor (Chi On Chui), altogether collected pay and benefits in 2018 of $564,123. That’s pretty close. At UCLA, at least, you can definitely hire two electrical engineering faculty members for the price of one diversity don, and quite nearly three.

To be fair, perhaps an apples to apples comparison would be to look at UCLA’s top engineering faculty member. Ok. The chair of that department is Gregory Pottie, who made $312,027 in 2018, only two-thirds what Kang made. But Gregory Pottie is running an engineering department. That takes technical expertise and produces graduates that keep the world running. What does Kang do?

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The Inclusion Delusion

California’s public universities already apply variable standards to their undergraduate admissions programs in order to fulfill defacto racial quotas. Now they’re requiring their faculty applicants to submit “diversity statements.”

Both of these practices distract from more important questions: Are student applicants academically competitive? Are faculty applicants experts in their fields? As will be seen, California’s public universities have moved far away from these fundamentals. And as goes California, so goes the nation.

Prioritizing race and gender diversity over academic excellence has consequences, not the least of which is how those who object to these priorities are intimidated. Dr. Abigail Thompson, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics at UC Davis is one of the most recent victims.

In a letter published by the American Mathematical Society, of which she is a vice president, Thompson objected to the “diversity statements” which are now required of all faculty applicants, and which she claims have become “central to the hiring process.” Thompson compared these diversity statements to the “loyalty oaths” that were required of UC faculty during the 1950s McCarthy era.

One specific example Thompson cites describes how these diversity statements are scored. Using UC Berkeley’s official “rubric to assess candidate contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she shows how if a faculty applicant asserts that they will mentor and treat “all students the same regardless of background,” they will earn a score of 1 or 2, on a scale where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best.

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