States and professional agencies should encourage paths to work around higher ed, so that they do not have a credentialing monopoly on tomorrow’s professional class, writes Scott Yenor in American Reformer.
Proposals to reform higher education have been bubbling around since William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale (1948). As conservatives have founded organizations like ACTA and National Association of Scholars to reform our increasingly ideological, incompetent universities, things have only gotten worse.
The Left now holds these institutions with an iron grip. Administrators and faculty on the Left control budgets, policies, supervisory powers, professional standards, hiring, promotion, curriculum, and student life. They credential those who can serve in universities. Administrators are products of the system. Faculty self-select those within the system. Pay is great. Security is good. Accountability is affirming.
Leftist control comes in the form of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies. As I show elsewhere, diversity policies involve racial preferences for faculty positions and student admissions so that more minorities and fewer “oppressors” are on campus. Inclusion policies concern favoring some forms of speech (anti-white and anti-Western, for instance) and associations (LGBTQ graduations) while disfavoring other forms of speech (any speech that challenges the DEI hegemony on campus).
Opponents of DEI have, reasonably enough, responded to it by banning racial preferences and seeking to protect free speech on campus. Even where they have banned racial preferences and protected free speech, however, the net effect of such policies has been pitifully ill-suited to reign in the DEI regime as it has burrowed into universities. Partly this is because universities evade the bans with creative hiring and admissions practices. Free speech policies do nothing to stop universities from using anti-discrimination laws or administrative machinations to punish dissenters.
Despite the failures, reformers continue to demand more effective bans on racial preferences or better policies on free speech. Even many critics of DEI at Stanford’s recent conference on academic freedom bristled at the idea of using state power to wrest control of universities away from the Left or to dictate what universities should do. This lays bare the real issue, namely that reformers are fighting an asymmetrical battle against forces appealing to values that their opponents explicitly reject. Free speech and banning racial preferences do not stop DEI advocates from transforming universities into ideological monoliths.