DEI Isn’t Above Critique

A symposium, set up apparently to be critical of diversity, equity and inclusion programs, has had to be moved from the Medical College of Wisconsin to an off campus site. The reasons given were vague, but it looks like there was a concern that the event would be disrupted by hard-left protestors.

According to a story in yesterday’s Wisconsin State Journal, the symposium is to include a panel of three DEI critics: Sen. Ron Johnson, State Rep. Dave Murphy and John D. Sailer, a fellow at the National Association of Scholars, who wrote a piece critical of DEI for the Wall Street Journal earlier this year. The National Association of Scholars can be fairly described as a conservative, maybe libertarian, think tank. You can judge for yourself here.

Now, I think RoJo is a stark-raving idiot and Murphy is kind of a dolt. But I did think that Sailer’s piece was persuasive. He argued that DEI statements, required of prospective teaching hires at many universities, are hurting education. These statements ask job applicants to describe what they’ve done in the name of diversity, equity and inclusion. Sailer’s argument is that this is irrelevant to academic qualifications and can give a leg up to applicants who are less truly qualified. They also tend to favor liberal applicants, further contributing to the ideological homogeneity on campuses.

Why is the hard-left so afraid of this guy?

I agree with Sailer. I’ve been highly skeptical of DEI programs myself, most recently in a blog just last weekend. In fact, DEI has come in for some criticism even in the pages of the New York Times. It’s not as if skepticism about DEI, or at least DEI as it’s often practiced, is a fringe movement on the hard-right.

But faculty at the Medical College wrote a letter to the administration which asserted: “The presence of this organization on campus directly impacts our students, especially those who are routinely subjected to discrimination and the effects of racism, Discourse that is politically motivated and not rooted in evidence adds nothing to the MCW learning community and makes our learners feel unsafe.”

What’s ironic about that statement is that what’s not rooted in evidence is the assertion that DEI programs work. That New York Times column critical of DEI cited academic studies in the Annual Review of Psychology, Anthropology Now, and Sage Journals’ Perspectives on Psychological Science.

But even if I thought DEI was just great, as a traditional liberal, I would still think it’s a good idea for these programs to be challenged. Ideas and programs improve when they’re tested. In fact, my own view is that DEI would be fine if it emphasized the values of equality, non-discrimination, merit and the goal of a color-blind society.

And, by the way, it’s not like this panel was crammed with star-studded intellectual fire power. If anything, those who support DEI should have been licking their chops at the chance to challenge the likes of Johnson and Murphy in a question and answer period, though Sailer might be a better equipped adversary. Anyway, for the hard-left to chase this discussion off campus reveals just how afraid they are to defend their own ideas.

Liberals used to be for a clash of ideas. But now the hard-left has established an ever-growing liberal canon, an orthodoxy that may not be questioned. Maybe that’s why a DEI discussion on campus must be moved off campus, lest it spread heresy in the temple. Or maybe it’s just that a $3.4 billion DEI industry feels threatened.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

3 thoughts on “DEI Isn’t Above Critique

  1. Your ending of your column on a quasi religious note was unsurprisingly on point. The similarities between current issues and religions are evident, sharing a comparable evolution.

    Prehistoric proto-humans simply “endured” their lives. Having no explanation for catastrophic events (earthquakes, violent storms, droughts, etc.), they just hid and hoped to survive,

    The eventual recognition of the concept of “cause and effect was profound. If everyday minor problems were caused by other humans and animals, then large disasters must be caused by “really BIG” humans or animals. Thus, the gods were realized. Still, with no means of communication with the god, there was no way to know the demands of the god, and no way to petition it on people’s behalf. They merely lived at the mercy of a “now known” entity.

    The third iteration of the evolution is conceivably positive, yet, potentially dangerous as well. Invariably some individuals will step forward, claiming the ability to commune with the god, and discern its will. All requests for divine favor must flow through them. These people become the witch doctors, shamans, priests, etc., for all of the believers. Wielding the authority of the god, their power is absolute, even over kings. If you need to know how many virgins to sacrifice, how much wealth to tithe to the “temple”, the changes to your lifestyle that you must endure, they have the answers.

    For many thousands of years humans lived with biases, both for and against each other. These, along with the abundance (or scarcity) of natural resources, were accepted and taken for granted, only later to be attributed to “the will of the gods” In the last 60 years more effort and progress has been made in racial equality and environmental conservation, among “first world nations”, than in all of previous history.

    What I sense now among the racial equity/environmental/gender movements is the emergence of new class of “social justice shamans”, ready to assume their traditional powers, and resume issuing demands that yield few positive results.

    Systemic Racism is rampant among the ethnic groups in parts of Africa, it does not exist in Madison Wisconsin. Racial disparities will continue to exist for some time, until a more homogeneous “American culture” forms. Humans will always gravitate toward that which is familiar. They will seek out others with shared interests, culture, viewpoints, ad infinitum. The good news is that associations are now, much more likely to be based on common interests, than skin color. Basically, the patrons of predominately white country music bars, and those of black hip-hop clubs, meet and interact at sports bars. An “affirmative action society” is unrealistic, and saying that is not racist. Finding common grounds among disparate groups, not looking for petty grievances, should be our focus. On this, DEI is a miserable failure. The merchants of DEI are merely witch doctors prospering on the public’s dime.

    I know the rules here, so delete away, no hard feelings. We all grow, as informed adults, through the exposure to differing opinions. I read to ponder your viewpoints, and someone named pANTIFArts just offered one of his.


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