Diversity Bureaucracies are a Cancer on the Modern University

There are no doubt many causes of the renewed rise of political correctness on campus, but one of the most important is the increasing power and size of universities’  diversity bureaucracy. The recent events at Yale began with an e-mail from a collection of no fewer than thirteen university bureaucrats (e.g, officials of LGBTQ Resources, Gender and Campus Culture, Native American Culture, La Casa Culture, to name just a few) who advised students how to dress for Halloween. Similarly, at Harvard the Office of Diversity, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion created politically correct place mats for “social justice” to help students confront benighted family members on the issues of the day.

Cornell University distributed guidelines on the public display of holiday symbols (short version: avoid religious symbols but mistletoe too). That ukase issued from the Department of Environment Health and Safety, since it also included fire safety tips. But there can be little doubt that advice on how to be inclusive came from diversity bureaucrats. The rules have the Orwellian touch we have come to know from these officials: promote diversity by preventing people from offering in public evidence of their diverse religious sentiments. As in 1984 War was Peace, in 2015 Diversity is Uniformity.

Diversity bureaucracies are proliferating for three reasons. First, government bureaucrats have implemented laws, such as Title IX, in such a heavy handed way as to create work for a whole new class of university brethren. Second, many faculty members, at least at elite universities, want to avoid administrative work that is not only of little use to their careers but can be positively dangerous for anyone with an independent mind. Third, student activists periodically demand more diversity bureaucrats, because they rightly recognize them as their best of allies—as single-minded and ideologically committed as themselves.

Sadly, in the coming years government will likely impose more intrusive regulations, faculty’s career ambitions will not broaden, and activists, emboldened by the diversity bureaucracy, will make ever more demands. As a result, the diversity bureaucracy will continue to metastasize. As the diversity bureaucracy is selected from individuals who want to internalize the left’s view of social justice as university policy, more growth will further threaten academic freedom and neutral inquiry.

I am not optimistic that anything can be done in the near term to rectify the problem. But in the long term the only solution is to get rid of the diversity bureaucracy.   Any legitimate university objectives in this sensitive area should be pursued by representative faculty committees. Most university professors lean left, but they are less likely than university administrators to erode the atmosphere of free inquiry and meritocracy so essential to advancing knowledge. To paraphrase Bill Buckley, I would much rather be governed by a random selection of a university’s faculty members than of its bureaucrats.

Reader Discussion

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on December 28, 2015 at 19:25:44 pm

Right you are!

As for me, I would rather be governed by a random collection of football tailgaters - don't even care what team they support - possessed as they are with a rather wide spectrum of beliefs, sense(s) of humor and the large amount of intoxicating beverages they consume make them somewhat slow to action.
However, one caveat: they may only discuss governance after a team VICTORY

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on December 29, 2015 at 08:36:57 am

Bull's Eye!

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Mark Pulliam
on December 29, 2015 at 09:06:45 am

So ... maybe we'd be safe with Cleveland Brown tailgaters?

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on December 29, 2015 at 11:25:17 am

Unless, of course, that would mean giving Johnny the (Presidential) football!


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Image of gabe
on December 29, 2015 at 11:47:09 am

More and more it appears that the universities are looking like federal bureaucracies. Stagnation and rot ensue.

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john trainor
on December 29, 2015 at 13:13:53 pm

There is something of a paradox at the center of these campus ructions. The primary grievance seems to be that words have a fearsome potency to wound, to cause lasting and debilitating injury, even when taken in context and accounting only for the subjective sensibilities of the hearer and not the benign intent of the speaker. Yet, it would seem there is no confidence in the power of words to counter the power of words; that the injuries of innocent speech grievously received must be countered not by reason, but by totems such as "safe spaces," sacrifices to ideological gods, and creations of bureaucratic priesthoods who invoke force to purify or purge non-believers.

It is tempting to think that the whole state of affairs as explained by Professor McGInnis is the result of misguided thinking, or perhaps a measure of ideological zealotry that like-minded college administrators find too seductive to resist. But a simpler explanation, by no means exclusive of other etiologies, is that reasoned argument is abandoned because reasoned argument can carry unreasonable theories only so far. The whole notion of microaggressions can in fact be quite reasonably dismissed out of hand, on grounds that the risk of a particular subjective reaction in a hearer is inherent in all human interaction, and cannot be made otherwise by imposing burdens on free speech. History that discomforts is no less historical because of the fact. Someone whose world view makes them demand protection from that which offends them is an emotional invalid, that the world outside the university is under no obligation to accommodate.

University bureaucracies are no different than any other kind, given to risk aversion, responsibility-shirking, mission creep, and self perpetuation at the expense of their founding rationales. However, resort to coercion, or force, or flagrant bureaucratic bullying to placate vocal, self-absorbed interests always has a price. And though the world may be patient in presenting the bill, it will come due nonetheless.

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on December 29, 2015 at 16:51:24 pm


Well crafted and well reasoned (as always).
I have a simpler explanation or recommendation.

If we wish to NOT raise another generation of perpetually offended, passive aggressive children, let us immediately cease handing out orange slices after a soccer game for a "loss well-done".

In fact, let us outlaw soccer - it encourages "flopping" - and red & yellow cards no longer seem to be effective.

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