by Walter Smith
What is the mission of the University of Virginia’s Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
You can try reading the Office’s “Mission” here, but that won’t clear anything up. The document is so loaded with jargon and fuzzy thinking that it won’t mean much to anyone untrained in diversity speak.
I have a few questions.
Who are the “historically underrepresented groups?” you speak of? Do they include, say, poor Appalachian white people?
How does ODEI define “affirmative and supportive environments” for work and life at UVa? Are such environments for all students and faculty and supporters, or only for the “underrepresented” groups?
Is “enriching ourselves” a Freudian slip in creating and promoting your department’s vision of diversity and equity (but not inclusion) or do you mean to convey that you expect your diversity and equity vision to be one that enriches all?
If the latter, how exactly does embracing “diversity” help UVa become the “leading institution we aspire to be?”
Is “diversity” just color of skin? Does “diversity” include sexual orientation? Sex (mistakenly today called “gender”)? Is there a spectrum of the traits that makes up “underrepresented groups?” Is there a scale for which traits have more “value” in trying to achieve “equity”?
By “equity” do you mean equality of results measured across all “diversity” traits?
What are the “various units and constituencies” of UVa to which you will be providing “leadership, information, consultation, coordination and assistance?”
How so exactly?
What does embracing diversity and equity as a pillar of excellence mean? How
would you define and measure that?
What actions do you intend to “synergize?” Which levels of UVa? How would you create these synergies?
How will your department cultivate “inclusiveness and mutual respect?” Would not measuring all students on traits, in and of themselves, be a dividing mechanism? Does inclusivity and respect apply to people who disagree with you, the administration, other students and CIOs? How would you make these disagreeing people feel included and respected?
Who are the “individual and institutional partners who share mutual goals and interests” and what are those mutual goals and interests?
Isn’t a “community of understanding, tolerance and respect” already what UVa was supposed to be? Which of those elements were previously missing and how so?
In regard to UVa’s commitment to diversity, as a “cornerstone” of UVa culture, how do you define success for ethics, integrity, academic excellence and diversity? Will you measure these attributes? How?
Does UVa really “embrace” the “full spectrum of human attributes, perspectives and disciplines?” Have you surveyed professors and students to see if that “embrace” is real?
Would you find it acceptable if students, alumni and friends of UVa caused you to question your assumptions?
How exactly does the UVa “community” being “rich in diversity” bring about equal respect? Does equal respect exist now? Why is being “rich in diversity” necessary as a forum for “understanding our differences as well as our commonalities?” Isn’t the entire raison d’etre of a true institution of higher learning to pursue truth wherever it may lead and without preconception?
The classic definition of racism was discrimination or prejudice based on race. It was the basis for the Civil Rights laws and Martin Luther King’s wish for his descendants to be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
It strikes me that the ODEI “Mission” hides behind fluffy words to justify racism as a means of ending racism. According to ODEI proponents “racism” will exist until “equity” is achieved, and purely as a matter of observed human experience, “equity” (meaning equality of results) can never be achieved because it denies any human agency in outcomes. As to inclusiveness, everything the ODEI does focused on diversity and equity causes division and separation. “Inclusion” is a hollow promise – the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.