Victor Davis Hanson recently noted some of the ironies and absurdities of the regime of affirmative action enforced in American institutions of higher learning. The rationale of the affirmative action regime is of course “diversity.” Regarding this rationale, Hanson wrote:
Diversity is Orwellian: the university is the most politically intolerant and monolithic institution in the country, even as it demands the continuance of tenure to protect supposedly unpopular expression. Even its emphases on racial diversity is entirely constructed and absurd: Latin Americans add an accent and a trill and they become victimized Chicanos; one-half African-Americans claim they are more people of color than much darker Punjabis; the children of Asian optometrists seek minority and victim status.
The Stanford Daily condemned Hanson in an editorial that conformed to the Orwellian theme Hanson had invoked. With Hanson filling the role of 1984‘s Emanuel Goldstein, the Daily went on the standard Orwellian Two Minute Hate with which we have become distressingly familiar:
At the risk of stating the obvious, we would like to point out this passage for what it is: absolute trash. If Hanson wants to engage in discussion about affirmative action or the role of race in higher education, we would applaud that and welcome his viewpoint. But this sort of homogenous denigration is no intellectual commentary. It is at best vitriolic ignorance. Combining the toxic assumption that all members of an ethnicity group act the same way with the mocking reference to “an accent and a trill” veers dangerously into bigotry.
The Stanford Daily editors called on Hanson’s employer (the Hoover Institution) to denounce him:
Hanson’s words, tragically, not only hinder this discussion, but deride stakeholders and concerned parties with callous and shrill remarks. If he was trying to draw attention to the topic, he has instead shifted the focus onto himself.
Worse yet, Hanson’s words reflect badly on Stanford through his association with a research center supported by this university and housed on this campus. The editorial board understands the Hoover Institution cannot be held responsible for all the public statements of its scholars, but strongly urges the institution to repudiate or, at the very least, review Hanson’s remarks. Surely, gross generalities couched in racially charged language cannot fit with Hoover’s mission.
It is worth stressing that the Hoover Institution includes preeminent scholars in a variety of disciplines. From Nobel Laureates to former high-level public policy officials and advisers, many of the foremost minds at Stanford and other universities contribute to Hoover’s work. These professors offer serious academic research that adds significant value to policy discussion and to the intellectual community on campus.
Hanson’s despicable words provide the Hoover Institution the perfect opportunity to clarify its role in American politics. Purposeful academic research or derisive, unfounded cheap shots: which will it be? The editorial board expects and hopes that an institution producing distinguished research to inform policy debates will wholeheartedly reject the sort of remarks Hanson made.
Thus, we issue this editorial as an open challenge to the Hoover Institution. If you find fault with Hanson’s grossly generalizing remarks and wish to be a leader in the discussion of modern American universities, then please: let us know.
If you do not, we hope you realize the damage you do to this university’s standing and to the well-being of higher education in America.
In response, Hanson condemned the Daily editorial as “McCarthyite,” though it could also be characterized as Orwellian. Hanson offered an open challenge of his own to the Daily: either apologize for the baseless slur of racism and the cheap language (“trash,” “toxic,””despicable”), or at least show how he was in error, and that, in fact, there are logical and consistent criteria that qualify some groups and not others for racial preference in admissions and hiring in the university.
He further asked the editors to specify the grounds for membership in a preferred racial group. Did one warrant special consideration for one-half, one-fourth, or one-eighth membership in the preferred group? He wondered whether the university employed such percentages. If so, he noted, their use had a nightmarish tradition dating back to the antebellum South. Simply invoking the generic idea of “diversity” was not by itself a sufficient answer to the questions raised by the regime of affirmative action.
Glenn Reynolds noted the Daily’s editorial and Hanson’s response. He invited readers to review the Daily editorial and Hanson’s response and then to write the Daily. The Stanford Review’s Fiat Lux picks up the story this morning, linking to the “deluge of letters” supporting Hanson posted by the Daily yesterday.
It is not entirely clear whether any of the letter writers is affiliated with the university. No affiliation is noted in any of the letters. The university remains unsafe for Emanuel Goldstein; the letters and email messages supporting Hanson appear to emanate entirely from precincts beyond the university.
I would like to add this footnote. The first use of “diversity” as an argument of which I am aware was made by Senator Stephen Douglas in the Senate campaign of 1858 against Abraham Lincoln. In his Chicago homecoming speech of July 9, 1858, Douglas took issue with Lincoln’s famous “House Divided” speech to the Illinois Republican convention that had named him its candidate for Douglas’s seat. In that speech Lincoln had famously asserted that the nation could not exist “half slave and half free.”
According to Douglas, Lincoln’s assertion was inconsistent with the “diversity” in domestic institutions that was “the great safeguard of our liberties.” Then as now, “diversity” was a shibboleth hiding an evil institution that could not be defended on its own terms.