“Diversity” At MIT?

I am posting below in its entirety an email I have just received from a new MIT parent who, after reflection, asked that his name be withheld. Affirmative action has become such a sacred cow that he was understandably concerned his son might catch flack because of his politically incorrect comments.

Our son is starting MIT this year, so last week my wife and I attended the MIT Parent Orientation, which lasted three days. (Question: Why does Parent Orientation take three days? Answer: It takes that long to tell you how to write all the checks.) During our sojourn on campus, the big news was the recent selection of a new President for MIT.

On August 26, two days before we arrived on campus, the MIT Corporation unanimously chose Susan Hockfield, currently Provost at Yale, to be MIT’s new President, replacing the retiring Charles Vest. Stories in The Tech, MIT’s student paper, and in the Graduate Student News, noted that Dr. Hockfield would be the first woman and the first life scientist–she is a neuroscientist–to be MIT’s president. Dana Mead, Chair of the MIT Corporation was quoted as saying that the selection was “gender-blind,” and the “best person” just happened to be a woman.

That may well be true–Dr. Hockfield has an impressive background–but President Vest and the MIT Corporation supported affirmative action in the name of diversity in the Michigan cases. How are we to know that the corporation didn’t choose Hockfield on the basis of affirmative action? (It’s too much, of course to expect honesty–”She was the third most qualified candidate, but we picked her because she is a woman”–though such a declaration would be consistent with MIT’s support of affirmative discrimination. Once the principle of giving preferential treatment to members of “underrepresented” groups is accepted, the selection of anyone, however well qualified, from such a group is unavoidably suspect.

And, unfortunately, the appointments Dr. Hockfield makes as president, as well as the students admitted during her tenure, will be under a cloud as well. Consider this excerpt from a story in the Graduate Student News, which interviewed her:

“Dr. Hockfield addressed diversity at the Institute as a factor that enhances the community experience. ‘People bring ideas, questions, challenges, and perspectives… We need to create an environment where people are comfortable,’ she said. She is ‘pleased with the outcome of the Michigan case,’ underlining her commitment to affirmative action at universities. ‘MIT is a welcoming community.’”

And, as George Orwell might say, some are more welcome than others.

Say What? (1)

  1. LTEC September 8, 2004 at 11:01 pm | | Reply

    For a while now I have been obsessed with the way industry and universities are obsessed with the issue of a lack of women in technology. Statistics are turned into problems, arbitrary and inconsistent explanations are given as incontrovertible truth, and one idiotic “solution” after another is uncritically proposed. I’ve documented dozens of examples of this here.

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