by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
What does “D&I” mean for the proper function of the university? It sounds good, but what does it mean in practice? Well, in addition to the creation of a large and growing bureaucracy like UCLA’s, it means setting up some kind of proportional representation for “underrepresented” or “victimized” groups, in an ever-expanding list. The most recent step along this path is not just representation but “celebration” of previously despised or “abnormal” minorities such as homosexuals and the transgendered individuals. All such activity is at a tangent to the university’s core function, which is open and free debate in search of veritas. If diversity of race leads to — or, at least, is compatible with —diversity of ideas, then the university’s purpose is unharmed. But if not…
… Certain beliefs are essential to the proper functioning of a university; one is the idea that there is a single truth to be discovered, imperfect though our attempts to do so are likely to be. Others include the idea that truth is the same for everyone, hence the idea that anyone can learn from anyone, the idea that personal experience is not relevant to our understanding of facts, and the idea that facts are simply facts and can’t disrespect anyone.
These basic assumptions are questioned, either explicitly or implicitly, by the staff of The Atlantic and by many faculty, administrators and students at our elite universities. Such superficial dismissal of ideas that have served Western Civilization so well for many centuries is astonishing—and very often opens itself to conclusions that are the very opposite of those intended. For instance, the insistence that group differences in ability or interests remain “out of bounds” means that numerical disproportions can only mean racism, a claim that will inevitably result in mutual distrust and animosity. And if ideas cannot be separated from identity —truth is not the same for everyone—the result is a nihilistic relativism that makes a real university impossible.