Government racial preferences are far from the only source of our divisions, but they may be the one most amenable to legal abolition.
In the nineteenth century, Oxford and Cambridge required dons to adhere to the 39 Articles of Religion, the basic creed of Anglican Church. Today the University of California requires faculty to adhere to a new creed—diversity. (Here is an example from U.C. Davis). It mandates that any applicant for a position write a diversity statement that tells the university how in the past the applicant has promoted diversity and how the candidate would promote diversity in the future. Diversity is defined in terms of ethnicity, gender, and other forms of under-representation. I have been told that political diversity does not count.
The old requirement of the British colleges was at least less intrusive. One had to profess a set of beliefs but did not have to do anything to advance their social realization. But under the California policy, a prospective faculty member must advance a designated social mission to advance his or her career.
Such statements undermine academic freedom. Because the University of California is a public university they also raise serious First Amendment issues. Let’s substitute a statement that would require all applicants to tell the university how they had and how they would promote patriotism, perhaps further defined as the notion that Americans are held together by their participation in an exceptional nation. One can imagine the howls of protest that the University has no business in judging professors’ adherence to a political mission that may be in tension with their beliefs. But I have not heard of any complaint from University of California law professors, some of whom claim to civil libertarians.
This kind of requirement also thickens the pall of orthodoxy around universities. Professors are overwhelmingly left-liberal, and diversity promotion is now a basic tenet of left-liberalism. Libertarians and conservatives as a rule oppose discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and gender, but they are concerned that various forms of conscious promotion of diversity, like affirmative action, either violate individual rights or are counterproductive. Thus, their statements are unlikely be judged as compelling as those of left-liberal candidates, particularly when the academic judges will be overwhelmingly left-liberal.
Two decades ago, Californians passed Proposition 209 by referendum which forbids consideration of race and gender in hiring. Another way of seeing the diversity statement is that it offers another way of evading the law. First, as libertarians and conservatives are more likely to be white, the statement will have an adverse disparate impact on whites. Second, the statement helps select for candidates who may be likely not to pay much attention to restrictions on race- and gender-conscious hiring. But even without Proposition 209, the requirement indicates how far the University of California is willing to sacrifice basic tenets of hiring and promotion in higher education to promote its ideological mission.