Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Yes, The Academic Community Is So Homophobic

Yes, The Academic Community Is So Homophobic

There was a time when American universities regularly engaged in discrimination against blacks, women, and Jews, and I am quite prepared to believe that they discriminated on other grounds as well. They were--and are--the ultimate examples of non-free market institutions--almost completely insulated from the competitive forces of the free market.

As Thomas Sowell has repeatedly pointed out, a company that arbitrarily decides that 11% of the workforce isn't worth hiring thereby increases the wages that it has to pay the 89% of the workforce that it is willing to consider. Unless all of its competitors engage in that same discrimination, one of those competitors is going to hire that 11% at a lower wage, and outcompete the discriminatory firms. The only way to make arbitrary discrimination work in a free market system is to prohibit that competition.

South Africa's apartheid system got its start in the 1920s when poorly educated Afrikaaners insisted that the largely British-owned firms reserve the best paying jobs for whites. (The companies, being greedy, preferred to hire the cheapest workers, and didn't feel any racial solidarity with the Afrikaaners.) The Afrikaaners used their political dominance to impose this discrimination system on all employers.

Of course, times change. Universities today are awash in the desire to hire people who are victims--or who the university chooses to see as victims. There can't be more than a handful of blacks working on their doctorates now who have ever seen a whites-only restroom or drinking fountain--and even those have only seen them in a museum or a history book. The days when women went to college (if they went at all) to find a husband, not get a degree, have been over for some decades.

So I see this article in Chronicles of Higher Education linked over at John Rosenberg's Discriminations about Stanford's new program to encourage victim groups to work on their doctorates, and I am just floored:

Stanford University has created a $4.5-million, four-year pilot program to promote diversity in its doctoral programs.

The project, called Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence, and known as DARE, will provide two-year fellowships to 36 doctoral candidates from groups that are typically underrepresented in academe. Examples include women in science or engineering programs; members of racial or ethnic minority groups; first-generation college students; lesbian, gay, and transgender students; and disabled students.

As John points out:
I wonder how Stanford knows that “lesbian, gay, and transgender” people are “underrepresented in academe.” Are they equally “underrepresented” in all fields? If not, will Stanford take care to promote sexual “diversity” only in those academic areas that need it? It would be quite helpful if Stanford would make available the data that informs its decision to give some fellowships and other benefits based on sex, gender, and sexual preference.
There are four very serious problems with this effort:

1. Unless someone chooses to identify themselves as "lesbian, gay, and transgender," how will the university know that members of this group are "underrepresented in academe"? I would expect that there are some gay faculty who decide that it is no one else's business what their sexual orientation is. They might decide this because of concern about discrimination (although this seems most unlikely for a reason that I am about to mention), or because they have the good taste not to make a public issue of what is really a rather private matter.

2. To be blunt about it, does anyone seriously think that American universities, on the whole, are not profoundly pro-gay? They make Hollywood look like a bunch of homophobes by comparison. If homosexuals aren't going into academia, it can't be because of widespread hostility or discrimination.

3. It's pretty difficult to pretend to be female, or pretend to be black. (Pretending to be American Indian, however, isn't difficult at all. Ask Colorado University about that!) But having these fellowships available sounds like a recipe for fraud. You don't have to actually demonstrate your gayness--and indeed, since there are plenty of gay men who don't meet the swishy stereotypes, I wonder how long it will be before fellowship applications start coming in from very straight-acting "gay" men?

4. If the argument for this is that academia benefits from diversity, why aren't Republicans on the list? As Joel points out, why aren't any of the conservative Christian denominations on the list? I'm sure that a Stanford Faculty Republican Club could meet in the office of one of the economics professors--and for all I know, it wouldn't be crowded.

No comments:

Post a Comment