Diversity is empirically good for universities, and we should embrace itBy Paul Bousquet | 03/07/2018 7:47pm
All of my opinion columns for The Crimson White have elicited at least one disparaging online comment. Unlike many of my fellow columnists, I always try to respond to these comments to break up the echo chambers people so often like to place themselves within.
In the comments for The CW Editorial Board’s endorsement for Amber Scales, a commenter lambasted Scales for being a part of the “Diversity Machine”. When I challenged his attacks, he accused me of being “liberal” for advocating for diversity.
However, diversity is not a partisan issue. Diversity, of all forms, is inherently a net benefit for UA and for society at large, especially when this diversity is welcomed. We should do better as a school and community to promote this idea and challenge those who don’t.
There are several reasons why racial diversity provides huge benefits to The University of Alabama. First, diversity includes learning outcomes. Every study I read that analyzes academic performance alongside diversity shows a positive correlation with strengthened academic results in some form. Studies from sources such as The Century Foundation, The Journal of Economic Inquiry, The American Council on Education, and The Journal of Higher Education have found these impacts to include increases in basic academic performance, cognitive function, creativity, study habits and academic satisfaction. When students are exposed to more perspectives and cultures, learning can occur with or without the professor.
In addition, diversity strengthens communities. A meta-analysis published in the Review of Education Research found a strong positive correlation between diversity and civic engagement. Also, research presented to the Supreme Court by professors at The University of Texas found that diversity increases volunteering and intra-community communication, and that these impacts only magnify as attitudes towards diversity become more positive.
Thus, if UA wants to excel, it must do more to enroll minority students. Twenty-five percent of this state is black, yet only 11 percent of the University is. While some commenters on this article may question universities that spend money specifically on diversity, optimal integration is not feasible without these resources. So to argue against the existence of diversity resources is to argue against diversity itself, which means you would prefer to go to a universally white college. While people who do not support diversity claim often also claim not to exhibit this bias, it is the logical conclusion of the arguments they make. If you don’t want to make an effort to have people of color feel safe on campus, you don’t want people of color at your school.
However, racial diversity is not the only type of diversity UA should be promoting, we should always seek to have intellectual diversity as well. UA is more ideological diverse than most institutions; the stereotype of faculty being unabashedly liberal does not apply here. I have heard an equal number of stories about partisan professors from both sides of the aisle.
Regardless, encouraging more ideological perspectives has also been shown to improve academic performance. Your own ideas are strengthened when you take the time to actually consider other points of view. Many people who say they want intellectual diversity actually don’t. They want to feel less alienated internally, but they do not actually want to consider other perspectives.
Logistically and logically racial and intellectual diversity should go hand in hand. However, I seldom see institutions accomplish both very well. My favorite news article from 2017 from POLITICO detailed how the US News rankings have led colleges to accept more well-off, white students. American colleges are failing students by making their primary goal raising their arbitrary rankings and not making their primary goal improving learning and research. If focus was truly placed on positive outcomes, universities would do everything in their power to support and implement all types of diversity on campus.
We don’t like to assume the worst about our subconscious motivations. However, those who find themselves vehemently advocating against diversity are saying they feel more comfortable with less diversity. Saying we shouldn’t do anything to promote or celebrate diversity means you want to turn our campus from a PWI to an EWI (exclusively white institution). If you can’t bring yourself to say the statement “I want diversity”, a silent voice in your head is saying “I prefer white people”.
We should not pretend that diversity is something reserved for those on the political left. UA has become a better University and a more diverse University over time, and that’s no coincidence.
Paul Bousquet is a sophomore majoring in economics. His column runs biweekly.