Karin Agness reports (on NRO’s Phi Beta Cons) that the Student Bar Association at the University of Virginia law school is encouraging all students to sign the “2009 Diversity Pledge.”
She quotes the entire Pledge, which I encourage you to read, but I will limit my comments here to its first paragraph:
Every person has worth as an individual. Every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of class, color, disability, gender, nationality, race, or sexual orientation. Thoughts and acts of prejudice have no place in the UVA Law community.
“Prejudice” is a mental condition — a pre-conceived opinion impervious to facts that don’t fit; an idea, value, attitude, belief — and thus it’s not clear exactly what an “act of prejudice” would be. No matter, because the budding lawyers would also ban any prejudicial thoughts. Yes, but what is a prejudicial thought?
Let us, generously I think, make some assumptions here (assumptions are necessary because the text isn’t clear): first, that although what the UVa lawyers-in-waiting actually say is that
Every person has worth as an individual. Every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of class, color, disability, gender, nationality, race, or sexual orientation…
what they really mean is that every person has equal worth, that every person is entitled to equal dignity and respect, regardless of race, sex, etc. In other words, they seem to be saying no students should be the victim of prejudicial thoughts or acts based on those thoughts because of their class, color, disability, gender, nationality, race, or sexual orientation (and, if I might make another assumption here, presumably not because of their religion, ethnicity, or national origin as well).
If my assumptions are correct, then this is an impressive pledge (although the attempt to banish even bad thoughts in Mr. Jefferson’s University is overreaching a bit). But, alas, my assumptions can’t possibly be correct, because if these future lawyers really meant that everyone should be treated without regard to race, etc., they would have to oppose UVa’s heavy use of race preferences in admissions, and of course they do not.
A 2002 study by the Center for Equal Opportunity found that the UVa law school gives a
massive preference to black applicants over their Hispanic, white, and Asian counterparts. The relative odds of admission of a black over a white applicant for UVA, controlling for other factors, were almost 650 to 1 in 1998 and 730 to 1 in 1999 (the highest in any CEO study).
The practice of rewarding some and penalizing others because of their race or ethnicity is not consistent with the pledge to treat everyone with equal respect regardless of their race or ethnicity.
ADDENDUM [7 Feb.]
The more I think about UVa’s Diversity Pledge, the more I think of … Miss Faulk. As I wrote here:
My eighth grade teacher, the formidable Miss Faulk, refused to require (or, as I recall, even allow) students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom. She had no problem with “under God,” but Miss Faulk was a fiercely unreconstructed Confederate, and she had a great deal of trouble with “one nation, indivisible.”
Modern liberals are, of course, much more sensitive than Miss Faulk. They want to extend the borders of “inclusion” so that no one will be or even feel different, isolated, excluded.
Well, maybe not no one. What about the feelings of any students who might be skeptical about this Pledge, who refused to sign because, although they had no problem with the abstract “diverse” thoughts it expressed, they held principled objections to the “diverse” actions that flowed inexorably from these thoughts? Would not such students feel “different,” unwanted, excluded if the Pledge were posted or published and their names were conspicuously absent?
Given their devotion to “diversity,” it’s almost surprising that the UVa Student Bar Association settled for encouraging everyone merely to sign its Pledge. If “diversity” is so important to the law student “community,” why settle for a mere paper Pledge? Why not ask (require?) that the day begin with the Pledge broadcast every morning throughout the law school? Students who did not want to be exposed to this daily devotional could be allowed to opt out, perhaps by being supplied with a set of ear plugs (paid for, of course, out of student activity fees).
UPDATE [9 Feb.]
Eugene Volokh discusses the UVa Pledge here. He finds it “vapid” and “also quite empty of any political or community norm-setting value, … partly because it would so clearly be understood as political posturing.” Otherwise, it doesn’t bother him.