Taboos So Powerful That They Completely Prevent Addressing The Issues

The big thing at Yale University this past week has been the issuance of the ultimate definitive report on the secular religion of the academia of today, "diversity, equity and inclusion" or "DEI."  (Funny name for the new religion.  In the old religion, the same word used to mean "of God.")  The Report is titled "Leadership in the Face of Change:  A Report From the Alumni Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion."  It seems to have been sent as an e-blast to all alumni -- otherwise, why would I have gotten one?

As you probably know, Yale, along with most other elite universities, adopted more or less explicit racial admission quotas way back in the 1960s.  OK, they never explicitly say that these are fixed quotas as far as I can find, but somehow the numbers for various ethnic groups seem to come out right around the same percent every year.  For blacks that figure is about 10%.  And yet, on a campus completely obsessed with issues of race and inclusion, something doesn't seem to be working. For example, there was that huge blow-up at Yale in October 2015, ostensibly over "safe spaces" and Halloween costumes.  But what exactly is the underlying problem?  The DEI Report clearly believes that these are the world's most important issues, but yet it is entirely lacking in specifics as to any causes.  The best they can come up with is a claim that there has been a "lack of focus" -- on the very issues as to which Yale has for decades been demonstrably not only focused, but obsessed:

Yale has long championed its commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, to building a faculty and student body that respect the multicultural reality of the world around us and a community where everyone feels valued and welcomed. But while these beliefs are laudable, they have not always translated into meaningful and lasting policy and action. In late 2015, students of color and their allies voiced their frustration that inequity on campus and a lack of focus by the administration on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) meant the university was falling far short of its ideals. 

If you somehow think that "lack of focus" explanation is less than plausible, you are not alone.  But in this Report, that nostrum is taken as gospel, and all recommendations for what to do next flow from it.  And the recommendations do flow, and flow, and flow.  Like:  

  • Commit to becoming a leader in DEI in the eld of higher education!
  • Engage young alumni and alumni of color!
  • Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in all levels of AYA leadership!
  • Build a bridge between current and future alumni in tackling DEI issues!
  • Build infrastructure to continue to champion and implement DEI work!

Etc., etc., etc.  Funny, but there doesn't seem to be anything in that list that they weren't already doing and talking about endlessly for the last 50 years.  Might there perhaps be a few things about this subject that they are just not mentioning?

To get an answer to that last question, you'll just have to go somewhere that is not under the spell of the current academic taboos.  This Report is completely under the spell of the taboos, such that nothing that anyone might ever find remotely sensitive or discomforting can be mentioned, no matter how obvious the fact and no matter how important it might be to understanding the problem at hand.  

For example, could it be that by implementing a fixed quota of 10% blacks, Yale ends up with large numbers of blacks who find it difficult or impossible to compete academically with their classmates?  That's a question that must not be asked!  In an article in the current City Journal titled "Are We All Unconscious Racists?" , not focused specifically on Yale, Heather Mac Donald collects some relevant statistics on SAT scores:

From 1996 to 2015, the average difference between the mean black score on the math SAT and the mean white score was 0.92 standard deviation, reports a February 2017 Brookings Institution study. The average black score on the math SAT was 428 in 2015; the average white score was 534, and the average Asian score was 598. The racial gaps were particularly great at the tails of the distribution. Among top scorers—those scoring between 750 and 800—60 percent were Asian, 33 percent were white, and 2 percent were black. At the lowest end—scores between 300 and 350—6 percent were Asian, 21 percent were white, and 35 percent were black.

If every elite university wants to get about 10% blacks, and also wants to get all or nearly all of its students from the group scoring between 750 and 800 on the SATs, you can see how this is not going to work.  Somehow, four-fifths or so of the blacks at each institution are going to have to come from lower-performing groups, and therefore be highly likely to underperform.  The obvious consequence of the 10% quota is that the bottom of every class is going to be consist mostly of such candidates.  Once you realize that, is it any wonder that the supposed beneficiaries here turn out to be unhappy about the situation into which they have been thrown?

Our Yale DEI Report gives us no information on the relative SATs of black students admitted to Yale.  Nor does it give us any information on the academic performance while at Yale of the admitted blacks.  Nor does it give us any information on how many blacks major in "hard" subjects like math and science, versus medium subjects like history and English, versus dubious subjects like the "studies" departments.  Nor does it give us any information on the post-graduation success of black graduates in the job marketplace.  Nor can I find such data anywhere else.  Yale has these data.  It's just that the data are considered too sensitive for our delicate eyes.  The taboo on mentioning or discussing such things is complete.

But the problem is that you need to understand the issues before you can address them.  The fifty or so members of the committees who put this Report together were clearly way too "polite" to ask for anything that might make anyone uncomfortable.  OK, so go ahead and believe that what you identify as the problem of "diversity, equity and inclusion" can be solved by "committing to becoming a leader in DEI" and "building bridges between current and future alumni" and such.  Another fifty years of this, and nothing will have changed.