School's Diversity Policy and Prof's Disdain for It Raise Debate

Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 08:13 PM

By Cathy Burke

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A new diversity policy at the University of Wisconsin in Madison — and an economics professor's open disdain for it —  are triggering heated debate over claims the school is urging race-based grading.

Writing a commentary last Wednesday for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, N.C., economics professor W. Lee Hansen called the new policy's language "mere education babble, but the Faculty Senate swallowed it whole. So did the academic staff and the students."

"Apparently, 'diversity' has become such a sacred cow that even tenured professors are afraid to question it in any way," Lee wrote.

"Especially shocking is the language about 'equity' in the distribution of grades," he wrote.

"Professors, instead of just awarding the grade that each student earns, would apparently have to adjust them so that academically weaker, 'historically underrepresented racial/ethnic' students perform at the same level and receive the same grades as academically stronger students," said Hansen.

Of the more than 42,000 students enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, minority students compose 13 percent of the student population.

Hansen also took exception to the policy's definition of "representational equity," which calls for "'proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high-status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades."

"Suppose there were a surge of interest in a high-demand field such as computer science," he wrote. "Under the 'equity' policy, it seems that some of those who want to study this field would be told that they'll have to choose another major because computer science already has 'enough' students from their 'difference' group."

Professor Patrick Sims, the university's chief diversity officer, hit back Monday, the Christian Post reported.

"The idea that UW-Madison will begin to base student grading or the makeup of programs or majors on race or ethnicity has circulated on the Internet in the wake of a recent opinion column by emeritus UW-Madison professor Lee Hansen," Sims said. "Allow me to set the record straight: nothing could be farther from the truth."

"Regrettably, Hansen's assertion that the campus' most recent strategic diversity framework embraces a quota system for apportioning grades by race is a gross misrepresentation of our current efforts," he added.

National Review also weighed in, slamming the university policy and noting:

"Political correctness has for some time mandated that everyone get an A, so it was only a matter of time before the coercive forces seeking 'Diversity and Inclusive Excellence' rendered grades utterly meaningless."

"But to commandeer grades as a vehicle for reparations? That level of brainlessness deserves an F — no matter what color you are," National Review commented.

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