In response to my letter to the editor of the student newspaper (The Summit) opposing affirmative action (see Negative on Affirmative Action), a biology instructor wrote a letter to the editor defending affirmative action and attacking me.
The article (titled “More faculty thoughts toward affirmative action debate”) appears below.
We can thank Vic Burton for exposing the true problem here at Grossmont College in regards to the so-called affirmative action debate. He states in last week's Summit, “I advise hiring faculty on the basis of competence and character alone.” This is what many of us here find so offensive about those who are creating this false dilemma: that by seeking diversity we will by definition be hiring less qualified or incompetent staff. Nothing could be further from the truth and they should know it. It is amazing that those individuals who so righteously quote Martin Luther King, would so easily perpetuate the age-old myth that non-Anglo candidates are less qualified. You can see why we still have a race problem in this country.
Let's try to be factual about the hiring process instead. By seeking diversity, we seek a diverse pool, all of whom are qualified. OBVIOUSLY.
No one who supports diversity on this campus suggests that we hire less qualified individuals. We know that diversity exists in the qualified pool. (QUALIFIED and COMPETENT diverse candidates are there. On average, your pool should represent that diversity. If it does not, then there is a serious problem with your hiring criteria. An adequate sample (our hiring pool) of the population (the qualified pool in the state of California) should represent the variation (diversity) of that population. If it does not represent the variation found in the population, then there may be a problem with the sampling method (hiring criteria). This might be intentional or not, but regardless, it is evidence of a resistance to hiring diverse candidates.
No one is calling for quotas, only representation that reflects the qualified pool. If you are hiring without regard to race, then your hires should approximate the diversity found in the pool.
I ask those individuals who believe that seeking diversity implies hiring incompetent individuals to either; a) show your data that supports such a charge or, b) admit your racism. It's as simple as that!
Why diversity is important for Grossmont College:
1) Education is based on many factors, not all of which can be quantified. Having diverse faculty on campus means having a rich and diverse source of knowledge. I'm sorry, but no matter how talented an all-Anglo faculty may be, much of the richness of the human experience and its knowledge is missing, and thus by definition, it will NOT be an excellent institution. Shakespeare was a great talent, but a library holding his works only while excluding Toni Morrison's or Eduard Galeano's is not a library, but a monument to Anglo-conformity.
2) We have a diverse student body here at Grossmont. We don't believe that a student of any particular culture can only learn from teachers from that same group. Since we are quoting students, let me share with you a conversation I had recently with an African-American woman. She said “I don't think about who my teacher is so much. But when I walk around campus, I don't see any faculty of color. And I ask myself, why? (pause) I KNOW why.” When a non-Anglo student walks around this campus and sees overwhelmingly Anglo faculty, there is a deep suspicion that this is a campus that does not welcome diversity, and thus does not welcome them. After all, that student KNOWS there are qualified teachers from their communities. So when they see that they aren't represented here, it is a logical and warranted feeling that there is overt racism here.
3) Anglo students benefit from having diversity on campus. Diverse ideas, perspectives, cultures, etc.
I am very troubled that anyone could fight so hard against diversity while quoting Martin Luther King. This is not a color blind society. Racism permeates every level of this society, overwhelmingly at the expense of minorities and women. Just look at the make-up of Congress, corporate CEO'S, or the demographics of Grossmont's faculty (81% Anglo). To state that the struggle against racism is over is Orwellian Newspeak. The fact that all but one of the faculty members who have come out against affirmative action are white males is instructive. How dare they say that race isn't (or shouldn't) be an issue in the hiring process. If you are so concerned about justice, what are you going to do about the fact that the faculty on this campus is disproportionately white and male?
Yes, race is a factor in hiring. How else can one account for the fact that our faculty is 81% Anglo? Is it not ironic that the same issue of the Summit which contains yet another faculty member's attack on affirmative action shows a picture of the three latest hires to Grossmont's faculty? They are all Anglo-American males. So much for race-based hiring quotas.
I suggest we proceed in the following manner:
-That all concerned faculty go on record supporting diversity. Far from contradicting excellence, this is a major test of it. Further, that we all commit to making this happen.
-That faculty look at their own departments and honestly ask whether their department's demographics represent the demographics of the qualified pools.
-If their hirings do not represent this pool, that they seek out and remove the biases (intentional or unintentional) that favor the hiring of Anglos.
-That diversity be cherished like the treasure it is. If the pool isn't large enough, hiring committees should find creative ways to search for members from those qualified pools.
If you truly believe that diversity is important, then let's work together to find the best way to accomplish this goal. Let's nurture the process, not attack it. If you think the qualified pool is too small, encourage your students to become history majors, or biology majors. Let's plant the seeds here at Grossmont. Yes, there are probably some problems on both sides of the issue. Let's find positive ways to encourage diversity in our hiring. After all, a homogeneous institution is NOT an excellent one. Grossmont is not and will not be a truly 'excellent choice' until it has a truly diverse staff.
The Summit (Grossmont College). Oct. 3, 1996. Vol. 9, No. 5. Pg. 2.