Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut have come under fire from the United States Commission on Civil Rights. According to a startling report to that body from the Connecticut Advisory Committee last January, faculty at these two institutions in particular “resist efforts to diversify curricula and adapt to the changing composition of the student body and of the nation’s citizens.” The committee recommended that performance evaluations of faculty members include “elements related to the ability to accommodate change.” It specifically suggested that the University of Connecticut appoint a high-ranking official “to concentrate on multicultural and diversity issues and give appropriate weight to their consideration” and that Wesleyan implement “a clearer line of communication and command between the president and the individual faculty member.”
If one reads through the pompous prof-speak in this committee report, it is clear what the Connecticut Advisory Committee is proposing: faculty members should not be permitted to resist the multicultural agenda. Surely there are faculty members who are convinced that multiculturalism is the imposition of an orthodoxy on campus and who therefore oppose it. But if faculty performance is to be determined by an ability to accommodate change, then those on the wrong side of the orthodoxy will be writing their own pink slips.
Moreover, what docs a high-ranking official at the university do when assigned the task of overseeing multicultural issues? Is he the chief of thought police? Must he force faculty conformity? Similarly, what does a university president “communicate” in this area? In a way these recommendations bespeak an intolerance that is the direct antithesis of the civil rights they supposedly defend. Since when is the demand for conformity so rigid that faculty members should be penalized for disagreement and reluctance to accommodate change? At this moment many American universities resemble their Chinese counterparts in imposing a party line on faculty members for some greater social good. However, if universities are obliged to adopt a doctrine, then it seems to me the university paradigm will have been vitiated. What is the meaning of a university unwilling to accept dissent?
Diversity on campus is certainly necessary, but it is a diversity of ideas that is needed. A university may have biases, but it is not in the business of employing bias in order to adopt a soteriology. If students and faculties enlist in university life to be indoctrinated without dissent, then they become mere foot soldiers in an ideological war.
While I possess an ideology, I would resist to my very core the imposition of any doctrine on campus, even a doctrine consonant with my own views. Universities should resist the sometimes wellmeaning directives by civil rights authorities who want faculty members to think “appropriately.” Those faculty members who have resisted the multicultural juggernaut in Connecticut have acted appropriately.
It takes extraordinary courage to stand up to the diversity police on campus who have arrogated to themselves the tag of civil rights defenders. Yet that is precisely what universities need. If the tradition on which the academy is organized survives, it will be because some people on campus recognize the importance of dissent.