May 18, 2007

Heather MacDonald Q&A with a college "diversity" officer

The always excellent Heather MacDonald tries -- in vain -- to get some straight answers from University of California at San Diego chief diversity officer(!) Jorge Huerta:

Q: As I understand it, when an academic department at UC San Diego initiates a faculty search, you provide an analysis of that department's racial and gender composition with the aim of helping the department increase its diversity.

A: The UC San Diego Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity completes that analysis. At UC San Diego, we view every recruitment effort as an opportunity to bring us closer to our goal of greater diversity.

Q: Do you believe that there are undiscovered black Ph.D.'s in nuclear physics, say (to choose a field at random), or in other hard science and engineering fields, who have not already been identified by every university in the country seeking to diversify itself? Isn't every university in the country chasing the same very small number of underrepresented minorities in the sciences?

A: UC San Diego is very focused on increasing diversity among faculty in the sciences as well as in other disciplines. It could be said, perhaps, that we are all vying for the same excellent candidates, precisely because they are excellent. This may make the process more challenging but it does not change UC San Diego's level of commitment and long-term goals.

Q: Do you think that without friendly encouragement from yourself or other administrators, a physics department, say (this is a purely hypothetical example) would discriminate against - or even merely ignore - highly qualified and competitive minority physicists?

A: I think all academic departments at UC San Diego are well-aware of the university's strong commitment to achieving greater levels of diversity. UC San Diego's chancellor Marye Anne Fox and I have made it a point to communicate the importance of this goal to all academic leaders and department heads. In addition, I think faculty at UC San Diego realize that a more diverse faculty that more accurately reflects the citizens of California is in everyone's best interests.

Q: If you don't think that a department would discriminate against a competitive minority scientist, might oversight from a diversity officer be interpreted as friendly pressure to make race-conscious hiring decisions?

A: The administration of UC San Diego cannot tell any academic department who to hire. Further, we are prohibited by law (Proposition 209) from using race as a factor in hiring. This makes achieving our goals more challenging but it just means we have to try harder through outreach and other efforts.

Q: You said in the La Prensa article that "you cannot have excellence without diversity." To take a purely hypothetical example, do you think that a cancer lab at UCSD, say, that was composed overwhelmingly of Chinese and South East Asian researchers and that was developing a way to turn off a cancer-prone gene, would be less "excellent" for its lack of underrepresented minorities?

A: I believe that's been taken out of context. Of course, a group of scientists who are not ethnically diverse can conduct excellent research. Our goal at UC San Diego is to achieve greater levels of diversity - ethnically, intellectually, and in terms of gender. Diverse perspectives lead to a more competitive and stimulating marketplace of ideas and the outcome of this is excellence in the greater community.

Q: If you do believe that such a lab would be less excellent than a lab with black or Chicano researchers, do you believe, to repeat my question from above, that there are competitive underrepresented minority [URM] microbiologists that UCSD is overlooking?

A: Those "competitive" URMS may be overlooking UC San Diego.

Heather's final retort (my emphasis):

"When he is not purporting not to pressure departments into hiring by race and gender, Mr. Huerta works with UC San Diego's Cross-Cultural Center, its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association, and its Women's Center on a 'Dialogue on Race' to celebrate what Huerta calls 'innovations in equity, diversity and excellence.' Those 'innovations' will presumably not include straight-speaking."

I've often wondered if there are "diversity officers" that are not members of a minority. On top of that, I really wonder if these officers, or "trainers," actually know about the cultures they're supposed to "train" the supposed unenlightened about. If you're ever in a "diversity seminar" for "training," ask the "trainer" if he or she has ever lived abroad in a country whose race/ethnicity/culture they're supposed to be "teaching" about. Don't be surprised if the answer is "no."

Posted by Hube at May 18, 2007 04:12 PM | TrackBack

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