As the Supreme Court appears poised to strike down decades of racially discriminatory affirmative-action policy, The New York Times’ “The Morning” newsletter last week suggested that such social engineering policies lead to better outcomes, declaring that “research shows that students learn more in diverse groups and employees are more productive.”
Yet it turns out the very research to which the Times linked admits that virtually no evidence actually exists to support the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) programming — which treats individuals based on their skin color — taking over campuses and companies across the nation. Rather, the authors of the cited 2022 piece, “Assessing Affirmative Action’s Diversity Rationale,” acknowledge that DEI skeptics such as Harvard Law School Professor Randall Kennedy are “correct that the existing empirical literature on diversity in education is lacking,” and even repeats the fact, just a few lines later, that “the empirical evidence on the effects of diversity has remained lacking.”
As the authors of the 2022 research article concede:
Scholars and jurists who are critical of affirmative action have frequently cast doubt on the diversity rationale’s empirical foundations. In 2014, Professor Peter H. Schuck of Yale Law School contended, ‘[T]he premises underlying the diversity rationale for race-based affirmative action are empirically tenuous and theoretically implausible.’ …. Two years later, noted economist Thomas Sowell voiced a particularly acerbic version of this skepticism: ‘Nothing so epitomizes the politically correct gullibility of our times as the magic word ‘diversity.’
So how does the Times prop up the notion that racially discriminatory affirmative-action policies actually boost student learning and employee productivity? By latching on to the study authors’ own attempt — in spite of the barren empirical landscape those very same study authors themselves admit — to shoehorn this idea through. As the researchers say, “This article aims to offer empirical evidence of the effects of diversity in higher education” — an objective they manage to convince themselves they have achieved through an extraordinary demonstration of groupthink.
Groupthink Among Researchers
Here’s how the researchers prove their point in their apparently Times-worthy research: Law reviews (i.e. journals) cite each others’ research, and it turns out that those journals that have implemented policies to “diversify” their editorial staff are cited more frequently by their peers in the aftermath than those that have not.
And voila, just like that, the study’s authors marvel: “We thus view these results as empirically supporting the much-derided diversity rationale — support that could prove critical as affirmative action confronts numerous threats.”
Yet as those very researchers admit, among law reviews, “excellent work” can be “lowly cited” while “execrable work is highly cited.” (The Times’ own 1619 Project offers a prime analogy.) So this measure can essentially boil down to asking, “How much does this journal’s output conform to the prevailing tastes of other (increasingly politically like-minded) journals?”
Indeed, as if to demonstrate the self-perpetuating absurdity of the whole approach, the Times’ own citation of the study will no doubt increase that study’s own reach — further compounding the credibility with which it is treated as a highly cited piece of scholarship.
Moreover, there’s a perfect parallel to the study’s conflation of quality and conformity: Universities now increasingly use “diversity statements” to screen out candidates who do not share the left’s notions of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” That means a doctoral program with a “diversified” faculty preaching DEI dogma will, on average, produce graduates who have an easier time passing the DEI gatekeepers at peer institutions and who will likely be hired more often than they otherwise would have. Yet no serious intellectual would regard this as evidence of increased learning or productivity, as opposed to simple forced conformity to the increasingly mandated tenets of DEI groupthink.
True Diversity of Opinion
From John Stuart Mill to contemporary captains of industry, diversity of opinion has formed the bedrock of thoughtful deliberation. But such intellectual diversity shares nothing in common with the superficial, skin-based discrimination promoted in academia under the euphemistic guise of “diversity.” In fact, as scholars such as the Heritage Foundation’s Jay Greene have illustrated, campus DEI regimes “have more to do with the increasingly imbalanced ideological nature of universities than with actual promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” while race-based policies in K-12 have likewise failed to demonstrate merit.
It is for this reason that the Goldwater Institute, where I work, recently joined Chris Rufo and Ilya Shapiro of the Manhattan Institute in releasing a model policy to abolish racially discriminatory DEI bureaucracies in higher education. In the days since, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has rolled out plans to do precisely this. And in Arizona, a new proposed state constitutional amendment, building off similar efforts, promises to bolster the state’s affirmative-action ban and put a stop to the use of compulsory “diversity statements” demanded by various state institutions.
The New York Times — and the herd mentality of academia’s DEI vanguard — may wish to wrap themselves in a warm blanket of groupthink. But taxpayers have no responsibility to indulge their narratives — and even less to foot the bill for them in violation of the Constitution.