The Useless "Diversity" Dump That The Academic Humanities Have Become
I should say that I obviously don't know that this is how things are at all colleges. Also, personally speaking, I mainly know professors in the social sciences, not the humanities arena. However, the experiences the writer details sound like many I've read and heard about.
There's a terrific pseudonymous piece at Quillette on how standards have been yanked from academia.
I was appointed by the dean of General Studies to serve as the chair for a writing hiring committee, a committee charged with hiring one full-time writing professor, who not only could teach first-year writing classes but also offerings in journalism. The committee of three met late in the fall semester to discuss the first group of candidates, before undertaking the second set of Skype interviews. I mentioned that I had received an email from one of the candidates and shared it with the committee members. After reading the email aloud, I argued that the missive effectively disqualified the candidate. The writing was riddled with awkward expression, malapropisms, misplaced punctuation, and other conceptual and formal problems. Rarely had a first-year student issued an email to me that evidenced more infelicitous prose. I asked my fellow committee members how we could possibly hire someone to teach writing who had written such an email, despite the fact that it represented only a piece of occasional writing. The candidate could not write. I also pointed back to her application letter, which was similarly awkward and error-laden. My committee colleagues argued that "we do not teach grammar" in our writing classes. Sure, I thought. And a surgeon doesn't take vital signs or draw blood. That doesn't mean that the surgeon wouldn't be able to do so when required.
In the Skype interview following this discussion, a fellow committee member proceeded to attack the next job candidate, a candidate whom I respected. In fact, before the interview, this colleague, obviously enraged by my criticisms of her favorite, announced that she would ruthlessly attack the next candidate. She did exactly that, asking increasingly obtuse questions, while adopting a belligerent tone and aggressive posture from the start. That candidate, incidentally, had done fascinating scholarship on the history of U.S. journalism from the late 19th through the first half of the 20th Century. He had earned his Ph.D. from a top-ten English department, had since accrued considerable teaching experience in relevant subjects, and presented a record of noteworthy publications, including academic scholarship and journalism. He interviewed extremely well, except when he was harangued and badgered by the hostile interviewer. He should have been a finalist for the job. But he had a fatal flaw: he was a white, straight male.
After the interview, I chided my colleague uncompromisingly, although without a hint of bias. I believed, and still do, that her behavior during that interview was utterly unprofessional and prejudicial, and I told her so. Next, I was on the receiving end of her verbal barrage. Not only did she call me some choice expletives but also rose from her chair and posed as if to charge me physically, all the while flailing her limbs and yelling. I left the room and proceeded to the dean's office. I told the dean what had just occurred. He advised me to calm down and let it rest until the following week.
What happened next was telling. I was unwittingly enmeshed in an identity politics imbroglio. The woman who had verbally assaulted me was a black female and the candidate whom she championed was also a black female. I was informed by the dean that pursuing a grievance, or even remaining on the committee, was now "complicated." Shortly after the dean recommended that I step down from the committee, I realized I was in a corner and stepped down, going from chair to non-member.
The committee went on to hire the woman in question. Since assuming her position, the new hire posted an official faculty profile linked from Hudson's General Studies program page. Her faculty profile page betrays the same awkward prose, poor incorporation of quotes, and other problems of expression typical of first-year student writers, but usually not professors. The profile also includes a glaring grammatical error: "The two main objectives in teaching is ..." I strongly believe that her official evaluations are likely as bad as her RateMyProfessors.com reviews.
To be perfectly clear, I am not arguing against the diversification of the faculty and student populations within Hudson's General Studies program and beyond. Rather, I am suggesting that the diversity initiatives recently introduced by the university and our program have been hastily and thoughtlessly administered and mistakenly construed, to the detriment of academic integrity and real equity. Qualified academics can be found among all population groups. The university must ensure that those selected are qualified, first and foremost, not by their identities per se, but by what they know and are able to do and teach. It is sheer cynicism to suppose that qualified candidates cannot be found among minority groups. Blatant tokenism in hiring and promotion jeopardizes the integrity of higher education and also undermines the objectives that diversity initiatives aim to promote.
Further, when markers of race, gender, gender fluidity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion and other factors are deemed the only criteria for diversity, students are cheated, as are those chosen to meet diversity measures on the basis of identity alone. Nothing is more essentialist or constraining than diversity understood strictly in terms of identity. Such a notion of diversity reduces "diverse" people to the status of token bearers of identity markers, relegating them to an impenetrable and largely inescapable identity chrysalis, and implicitly eliding their individuality. Meanwhile, there is no necessary connection between identity and ideas, identity and talents, identity and aspirations, or identity and beliefs.
Likewise, if we wish to foster real diversity in higher education, we must consider not only diversity of identity but also diversity of thought and perspective. This is the kind of diversity that we are supposed to recognize and foster in the first place.
Perhaps intentionally, perhaps unthinkingly, the author gave us something to Google: "The two main objectives in teaching is"...
And Google I did.
The professor mentioned -- who writes "The two main objectives in teaching is ..." -- appears to be Kaia Shivers and the school appears to be NYU. The program is their "Liberal Studies" program.
I've preserved a screenshot of Kaia Shivers' online page from NYU:
The first line of a paper she published has a similar error in the first line -- one that would disqualify a person from being my assistant. It should also disqualify a person from becoming a professor, and the notion that skin color would give a person pass is one of the most disgustingly racist things I can think of.
Negotiating Identity in Transnational Spaces: Consumption of Nollywood Films in the African Diaspora of the United States
Kaia Niambi Shivers
Journalism and Media Studies Rutgers University, New Jersey USA
The consumption of Nollywood films in the United States is a site of complex translational engagements and a location of disjunctured processes that illuminate how Diasporas are imagined, created and performed. This study focused on how three major groups in the African Diaspora community located in the New York Metropolitan area negotiate identity within the historical, political, and socio-cultural circumstances of their locality. African-Americans, Caribbean migrants, and African migrants who interact with each other via the consumption of the popular African video films, articulate an intricate and layered understanding of each other, as well as their group's meaning of blackness. These articulations show that blackness is a concept that differs inter-ethnically and intra-ethnically.
She does write in the tangled bullshitese of post-modernism, which I suspect is another plus in getting hired these days.
Shivers gets a 1.9 (out of 5) on Rate My Professor from seven students rating her. She would have done far worse, save for the one student who gave her a 5. Students clicked the box to deem her teaching either "poor" or "awful." A few examples of Shivers' reviews:
She's completely disorganized. Her eCollege site was just a mess and there was no consistency which was really frustrating. She was never clear about what she wanted in an assignment so students would spend half the class just clarifying. However, her assignments are still easy and consist of just making blog posts and a shared paper at the end.
I never felt the need to rate a professor until now. She's the most disorganized professor! The syllabus was copy pasted from the previous semester, so all the dates are all wrong. It's really a guessing game trying to figure out when assignments are due. Grades are never posted so you don't know how you're doing in class.
Never grades anything, does no prep for class. Exams are on things we have never seen.
I have never written a professor review but felt obligated to do so. I have never been in a more unprepared and disorganized class. NOTHING was graded the entire semester nor did we ever receive feedback on anything. How is a student supposed to improve with no feedback or even know where they stand in the class. The professor was also rude.
But, hey -- she did win the diversity vote:
IDK101 Honestly if you're into the truth and knowing that people in this world are so messed up because of the small things we do on a daily basis really affecting people who we don't know, please take a class with her. I am never going to forget her because she really helped me remember how important it is to have some sort of voice in this society.
It would help if the "voice" you have includes a fifth-grader's command of grammar.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Gottschall, whose beautifully-written and insightful book, "The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch," I featured on my science podcast, is yet another exceptional person with a Ph.D. who had to leave academia because he just couldn't get more than a low-paying adjunct lecturer job. He's now completing a novel.
This guy, at any other time, would have been a plum that colleges fought over.
Now, he's just a white guy, and that makes him not-so-employable.
Ability now seems to be an afterthought in academic hiring. What's essential is that you come in the "right" color.