COMMENTARY: Promoting intellectual diversity necessary in universities
What is diversity? It’s certainly the buzzword around college campuses, businesses and, indeed, all aspects of society. An institution can receive societal gold stars if it is “diverse” enough. Again, what does it mean? Should you care? Or should you go back to cramming for an exam or Netflixing your stress away? (Side note: If you do go back to Netflix, I highly recommend "Daredevil." Season 2 is phenomenal. Now, back to diversity).
Bottom line is you should care. Diversity is important, considering much of this country’s history is dominated by white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant men, and much of human history is dominated by men. The “Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History” is set up to address the aforementioned facts. It is a noble goal.
Is it necessary? For me, that is very much up for debate. Considering the buses are an ever-compounding disaster, most buildings on Douglass aren’t handicap-accessible, and the fact that library hours and collections were cut in order to pay for our transition into the Big Ten, I feel like now is not the best time, at least fiscally, to decide to assuage white Anglo-Saxon Protestant guilt.
Now some of you may be reading this and you’re ready to look me up and hunt me down because I’m another white (who is not Anglo-Saxon, nor Protestant, whose ties to this country don’t begin until the 1920s) man speaking on issues of colonialism, racism and whatever "ism" one can add to the ever-increasing list of taboos that contribute to the divisive identity politics of our time.
And that’s the beauty of free speech. I can write what I want, and you can love it, hate it, crumple it up and throw it out (preferably in a recycling bin) or vigorously click the red “x” button if you’re reading this online. It’s a free country (for now).
Perhaps the point I’m trying to get at, is this: If Rutgers wants to truly be “diverse” it must also allow for a healthy amount of intellectual diversity. Many colleges, and unfortunately RU too, fail miserably in this metric. For example, my history class is taught by a former card-carrying Marxist who “retired to Democratic Socialism because I don’t have the energy for Marx anymore.” Or another professor who blames the catastrophic political scene of the Middle East solely on the West and denies any evidence to the contrary. A friend of mine told me in one of her political science courses, her professor stated, “We want Bernie, but we’ll settle for Hillary." Imagine that, a professor making political solicitations in the middle of class. If a professor did that for say, Ted Cruz, there would be riots in the streets calling for that professor’s resignation and apology to whatever group of students he or she so mercilessly offended. Tolerance is a two-way street, unless you actually decide to go down the second road, at which point the first road travelers turn around and force you back under threat of societal castigation.
So I ask: Where are the conservative professors? Where are the classical liberal professors? If you went to the sociology department, you would be hard pressed to find a single faculty member who isn’t politically liberal. But Rutgers, we are told, is a diverse institution.
To be fair to President Barchi, he did send out an email after the Milo Yiannopolous fiasco saying he will vigorously defend free speech, even if he doesn’t agree with what is being said. How about we see members of the Rutgers community take some active changes made to the intellectual climate? No, I don’t mean invite an agitating, petulant provocateur like Mr. Yiannopolous. Hire some faculty for the political science department who aren’t to the left of Barack Obama. Hire a history professor who actually does work outside of Marxist traditions and interpretations. Encourage hearing all points of view by getting a lecture series together featuring prominent liberal, conservative, libertarian, green or whatever political party or affiliation you can think of. If Rutgers really wants to be diverse, it would expose its students to every single point of view possible.
I have no qualms with wanting to extend educational opportunities to historically disenfranchised, enslaved or otherwise marginalized groups of people. I think it would speak volumes for Rutgers if some new scholarships or financial aid packages were set up for these groups. Maybe on top of historical land-markers of the Lenne-Lenape tribe, Rutgers could set up some full-tuition scholarships for descendants, or descendants of native peoples in general. If you actually want to say “sorry," providing financial assistance for education in the present goes a lot further than some road signs. But that’s just me.
I guess the moral of this story is that diversity is great, but there are different kinds, and all of them deserve equal attention and care. Reasonable, right? I think so.
Steven Wynen is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in history, political science and Middle Eastern studies.
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