Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Racist hiring at the University of Louisville: Does it matter?

 The University of Louisville got caught this week by openly doing what most universities are doing surreptitiously: hiring faculty member based on race.  Through some incredible slip up at the University's human resources office, the Department of Physics and Astronomy posted a job that contained this language:
The Department of Physics and Astronomy announces a tenure-track assistant professor position that will be filled by an African-American, Hispanic American or a Native American Indian [sic].
 Let's give the University of Louisville credit for at least being honest. Most American universities, both public and private, now take race into account when hiring faculty and admitting students. In fact, in Gratz v. Bollinger, one of the Supreme Court's seminal opinions on affirmative action, Justice Ruth Ginsburg argued in a dissenting opinion that the courts should allow universities to admit students based on race because they will do it anyway, even if the Supreme Court rules that it is a constitutional violation. Let them do it openly, Ginsburg counseled, rather than force them do it with winks and subterfuge.

So what difference does it make if the University of Louisville decides that whites and Asians are not eligible for a faculty position in the Physics Department? On one level, it's no big deal.

Twenty-five years go, when I was a doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education, it was well known that only minority students would be admitted to the staff of the Harvard Educational Review. In fact, one faculty member told me candidly that the Harvard Educational Review was "a racial ghetto."  I applied, and I was not selected.

But being rejected by the Harvard Educational Review had no major impact on my life. I feel quite confident that I have published more scholarly work than all the students in my HGSE doctoral cohort put together--certainly more than all the students who were on the Harvard Educational Review when I was at Harvard.

Likewise, the whites and Asians who won't be hired for a Physics professor's position at the University of Louisville will probably find other jobs.

And certainly, greater diversity on America's college campuses is good thing.  We need more African American and Hispanic professors, and we need more minority students.

But here's the thing. Academia's obsession with race, gender and sexual orientation has diminished higher education as a moral enterprise.

First of all, most racial and gender preferences are done dishonestly. The University of Louisville goofed when it said in print that whites and Asians would not be considered for a particular faculty position. In fact, a university spokesperson said the job advertisement was an "error" and muttered some gobbledygook about the university's commitment to diversity. But in fact, at least some people at the University of Louisville wanted to make a hiring decision based on race. You can call that diversity if you want, but that's racism.

And this dishonesty has permeated every aspect of American higher education. The universities are dishonest about their racism, dishonest about their tuition prices, and many are dishonest about the employment prospects of their graduates.

Moreover, this morbid obsession with race is eroding the rigor of higher education. Just last year, students at three prestigious law schools--Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown-- asked to postpone their examinations because they were so upset about the racially charged shooting death of an African American in Ferguson, Missouri that they couldn't study for their exams.
Think about that. People trained at our top law schools are so sensitive that they can't do their school work because they are upset by current events. Who would want to hire a lawyer who gets the vapors from reading the morning newspaper?

And occasionally, racial fixations at our elite universities have become downright embarrassing. Awhile back, Harvard Law School claimed to have a Native American on its faculty. A real live Indian! And who did that Indian turn out to be? Elizabeth Warren, who said vaguely that she thought her grandmother might have been a Cherokee!

Who cares, in an authentic academic environment, whether a law professor is one sixteenth Cherokee? The fact that Harvard Law School thought it was legitimate to claim it had a Native American faculty member based on Elizabeth Warren's unverified assertions tells you all you need to know about the intellectual and moral rigor of Harvard Law School.

Eventually, young Americans are going to ask themselves why they bother to enroll in these flim-flam shops--these palaces of hot air that obsess on race and blather about academic freedom while charging outrageous tuition prices that most people can't pay without taking out student loans.

Elizabeth Warren:
I think I am a Cherokee Indian


Philip Marcelo. Law Schools Delay Exams For Students Upset by Ferguson, Eric Garner Decisions. Huffington Post, December 10, 2014. accessible at:

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