Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Diversity, Part 3. The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

At what level of granularity can we say that Diversity has been achieved, or that we are on the cusp of achieving genuine Diversity.

For the moment, let’s stick with the ethnic and racial categories used by the Census Bureau and higher education’s Common Data Set itemized in Part 2.  We can add in gender, sexual preference, age, socio-economic-status, geography, and other categories at a later time.

Let’s also, for the sake of simplification, use proportional representation among the population at large as the standard for complete or perfect Diversity.  For example, if Blacks or African-Americans (hereafter Blacks) constitute 13% of the population, then full Diversity is achieved when 13% of the population in an organization is Black.  Ditto for other ethnic groups and races.

Diversity is very much akin to the older political issue of segregation/integration, when neighborhoods, schools, and employment patterns were predominantly White or Black, and in a few instances Hispanic.  The challenge then was to integrate schools and end segregated neighborhoods.

How was integration, or progress toward residential integration, to be measured?  By block, subdivision, neighborhood, precinct, census tract, and/or SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area)?  How about schools?  By elementary, middle-school and high school, or by the School District at large?  How many Black students had to attend each White school to achieve integration? Should Blacks be allowed to retain historically Black high schools and colleges if that was the overwhelming preference of parents, students, and faculties?  These were highly charged issues and the means chosen to resolve them, such as forced busing, magnet and charter schools, among others, remain controversial.

Back to Diversity?  I have been observing efforts to bring Diversity to universities and colleges for 50 years since my appointment at the University of Rochester in 1968, which was right in the midst of the Black Power Movement.  Let’s think about Diversity in higher education as it applies to students, faculty, staff, Trustees, and top administrators.

Let’s start with undergraduates.  Is the appropriate measure of full Diversity the percentage admission and enrollment of each ethnic/racial category in the population at large for “national universities?”  Should it be the state for state universities? The city/county for local colleges?

Ditto for graduate students, although a substantial number in many schools are foreign nationals, who conveniently pay full fare?  Ditto for each school in a university (Humanities & Sciences, Engineering, Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, Business, Law, Education, and Medicine)?  Ditto for faculty in each school and/or each department within each school?  Ditto for support and administrative staff in each department and school.  Ditto for board of trustees and top administrators (president, provost, deans)?

Many deans of Engineering Schools are making Diversity a priority among students and faculty given the historically low percentage of underrepresented minorities (and women) among their students and faculties.  This specialized emphasis suggests that Diversity should extend deeper into the schools of a university rather than be defined in terms of an overall percentage of underrepresented minorities (and women) in the university as a whole.

The matter of measurement, an agreed-upon numerical scale and the appropriate level (s) to which it applies in any organization, is critical to claims about progress towards Diversity.  To date, measurement has received little consideration in discussions about Diversity.

Let’s go a little further.  Proponents of Diversity claim it is the key to excellence in universities (and other organizations).  If you unaware of their arguments, you will find them in the Diversity and Inclusion sections that are prominently featured in the websites of most universities, businesses, non-profit organizations, and public agencies in the United States

A growing number of top officials in universities claim that their schools might not be viable several decades from now if they fail to achieve comprehensive Diversity.  How can universities survive 20-30 years from now, especially in the West and Southwest, with 80-90% White and 70-80% male faculty, when Hispanics will be an absolute majority and women 60% of undergraduate and graduate enrollment.  Whites, for their part, will decline to only 30% of the population in the West and Southwest.  Whites were only 20% and males only 40% in the first-year class of 2018-19 at UCLA.  Diversity implies that student and faculty ethnic/racial (and women) percentages should approximately, or at least more closely, align.

Are there circumstances in which the pursuit of Diversity is wrong?  In professional and collegiate sports, skills dictate the selection of players (e.g., basketball players are mostly Black and hockey players almost entirely White).  Same for the selection of subjects for medical trials of drugs to treat diseases that disproportionately or exclusively afflict different ethnic, racial, nationality, and gender groups.

Is it necessary to be Black to do Black studies and Female to do Feminist studies?  Can an all-Chinese cast perform Porgy and Bess?  Must the Beach Boys include a female member?  Can an A Capella group be solely male?  Are these acceptable exclusions from Diversity? 

There are indeed activities where it makes sense to grant waivers or exemptions from Diversity.  Perhaps experts from many backgrounds and fields should try to develop lists of activities that qualify for waivers or exemptions.  That is, begin by identifying principles and examples of Exclusion to determine what can and should be Diversity and Inclusion.

The next post will address these questions, starting from the bottom up with groups that should be excluded from Diversity to identifying groups that should be included.  Then we have to develop a consensus on measurement to quantify Diversity and Inclusion.  What should be the allowable plus/minus variation from proportional representation in any organization and at all its levels?

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Diversity, Part 2: The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

Who are we talking about in the name of Diversity?  How can we  know the extent of Diversity in meeting goals to increase Diversity unless we know who qualifies as Diverse?

Let’s begin with the simplest categories used by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.  The broad categories used in the 2010 Census, expected to be the same in 2020, are as follows:

White (non-Hispanic White)
Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish
Black or African American
American Indian or Alaska Native
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific islands
Some Other Race or Ethnicity (presumably includes mixed of two or more races)

Within each category are subcategories that specify country of origin.  For example, under Whites, specific countries include German, Italian, Irish, Polish, English, French, and a blank space in which to write another country, e.g., Swedish, etc.  The six listed are the most numerous.  Under Asians are Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Asian Indian, Japanese, and a blank space to enter another country.  So, too, for Black or African American, and Hispanic, Latino or Spanish.

Going further, immigration data are broken down into every country from which immigrants arrive.  For example, 23 countries are listed from the Americas, of which 18 are Spanish speaking, thus Hispanic.  So, too, are immigrants from Europe, Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, Australasia and Oceania.

On the country level of race and ethnicity, there are well over a hundred subcategories.  If tribe and language are included, the number of subcategories increases by hundreds more.  Religion adds in more.

Universities and colleges use broad Census Bureau categories to report Diversity among students, staff, and faculty on a form known as the Common Data Set.  The CDS is a collaborative effort among data providers in the higher education community and publishers as represented by the College Board, Peterson’s, and U.S. News &World Report.  Its purpose is to provide accurate and timely data on 10 categories to students and their families who are applying to specific college(s) or university (ies) to make informed judgments on selectivity, admission requirements, affordability, financial aid, and other aspects of higher education.

Section B2 reports enrollment by Racial/Ethnic Category on enrolled first-year students and all undergraduates.  The categories are:

Nonresident aliens (no specific race/ethnicity of this category is reported)
Black or African American, non-Hispanic
White, non-Hispanic
American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic
Two or more races, non-Hispanic
Race and/or ethnicity unknown

Universities also report the percentage of First-Generation, Low-Income undergraduates they enroll, but do not list their racial/ethnic categories.

Some small colleges enroll as few as 250-300 students in their first-year class, which is less than the number of subcategories.  Even first-year classes of several thousand would find it impossible to accurately represent hundreds of subcategories.

No reasonably useful or practical measure of Diversity on the basis of hundreds of distinct subcategories could possibly be used as a policy guide in achieving a target level of Diversity in any organization or institution.  Practical considerations dictate a manageable number of categories, but any number chosen is arbitrary, however carefully designed to be fair.  It must treat unfavorably some subcategories that are grossly underrepresented for historical reasons.

Efforts are ongoing to increase the number of racial/ethnic categories in the decennial Census.  Some want the Census to count Middle East and North Africa as a separate category.  Or West/Central Middle East.  Or Sub-Saharan Africa.  Presumably universities, along with public and private enterprises, would follow suit.

Let’s complicate the story even further.  Who is Hispanic?  Consider a hypothetical case of two sets of identical twins born and raised in Spain, who marry each other.  One couple immigrates to the United states, the other to Mexico.  The children of the U.S. couple, who speak no Spanish and have never lived in a Central or South American country, are designated White in the Census.  The children of the Mexican couple, who subsequently move to the United States, are designated Hispanic.

Ditto for similar couples born and raised in Portugal.  Their children of the Portuguese couple who moved to Brazil are Latino if born in Brazil and thus eligible for Latino preference, but White and ineligible if born in the U.S. because their parents moved to the U.S. 

There is one broad category that many organizations, especially universities and colleges, agree on:  people of color (POC), or non-Hispanic White (hereafter White).  POC runs the gamut from below-poverty level Blacks and Hispanics to upper-income East and South Asians.  They have little in common apart from not being White.  For universities obsessed with Diversity, increasing POC for all non-White categories allows them to claim that they are no long racist institutions.  Universities that achieve 25% Hispanic/Latino/LatinX enrollment are eligible for extra federal funding.  Every University of California campus below 25% Hispanic is racing to meet the 25% level, largely by reducing White enrollment.

To summarize, there is a large degree of arbitrariness in the racial/ethnic classification of American residents, which means that any descriptive statistics on Diversity are somewhat arbitrary.