George Leef’s latest column for the Martin Center tackles the controversial issue of diversity.

On November 7, 2006, Michigan voters passed Proposition 2, a measure that banned the use of racial preferences throughout state government and state universities. The next day, University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman issued a defiant statement. In it she pledged to fight in the courts against the voters’ decision to have a color-blind state, declaring, “I will not stand by while the heart and soul of this great university is threatened. We are Michigan and we are diversity.”

Really? It’s the “heart and soul” of a great university to prefer some people over others on account of race? Dr. King and his fellow civil rights advocates wanted an America where people were judged on the content of their character, not on the color of their skin. But the University of Michigan’s president stood ready to fight until the end to protect discriminatory policies because they’re supposedly essential for “diversity.”

In the years since the enactment of Michigan’s ban on racial preferences, the University of Michigan has changed very little and certainly hasn’t become a “mediocrity” as Coleman claimed to fear. Nevertheless, a quasi-religious devotion to race and gender discrimination continues to sweep over American higher education. Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald devotes her latest book, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, to a wide-ranging examination of this obsession.

The academy, she writes, originally maintained that its diversity efforts were needed for “bridge-building and broadening people’s experiences,” but clearly has the opposite effect by “dividing society, reducing learning, and creating an oppositional mind-set that prevents individuals from seizing the opportunities available to them.” This new kind of discrimination—for “diversity”—has spawned an antagonistic groupthink that tears the social fabric and distracts our universities.