The University of California, San Diego has done it again. Last year, it announced the creation of a new diversity sinecure: a vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion. Campus leaders established this post even as state budget cuts resulted in the loss of star scientists to competing universities, as humanities classes and degree programs were eliminated to save money, and as tuition continued its nearly 75 percent, five-year rise. The new vice chancellorship was wildly redundant with UCSD’s already-existing diversity infrastructure. As the campus itself acknowledges: “UC San Diego currently has many active diversity programs and initiatives.” No kidding. A partial list of those “active diversity programs and initiatives” may be accessed here.
Now UCSD has filled the position and announced the new vice chancellor’s salary. Linda Greene, a diversity bureaucrat and law professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will pull in $250,000 a year in regular salary, but that’s just the beginning: she’ll receive both a relocation allowance of $60,000 and 100 percent reimbursement of all moving expenses, a temporary housing allowance of $13,500, two fully paid house-hunting trips for two to the San Diego area, and reimbursement for all business visits to the campus before her start date in January 2013. (By comparison, an internationally known expert in opto-electronics in UCSD’s engineering school, whose recent work has focused on cancer nanotechnology, received a little over $150,000 in salary from UCSD in 2011, according to state databases.) The UCSD press office did not respond to a request for the amount the university paid the “women-owned executive search firm with a diverse consulting team” it used to find Greene.
Last week, the UC Regents, the university’s lay overseers, approved the new vice chancellorship and its compensation package, as first reported in the San Diego Reader. Since this summer, the regents have been shilling for Governor Jerry Brown’s $8 billion November tax initiative, arguing that the only way to save the university from financial and academic ruin is to jack up the state’s upper-bracket income and sales taxes. Their rubber-stamp approval of UCSD’s senseless new appointment, with its sky-high salary, shreds whatever remaining budgetary credibility they may have had. And of course the diversity machine is operating at fully funded throttle throughout the rest of the University of California; among the diversity initiatives that continue to cascade out of the president's office and the individual campuses is an imminent $662,000, system-wide “campus climate survey” to track down the racism of UC's faculty, staff, and students that is allegedly putting UC’s “most marginalized and vulnerable populations . . . at risk,” in the words of UC President Mark Yudof. If there are reasons to support the Brown tax initiative, rescuing an allegedly financially strapped UC that has made hard choices to survive is not one of them.
Greene’s salary and perks are, of course, just the start of what her tenure as San Diego’s new VC for EDI will cost taxpayers. If we are to believe UCSD’s syntactically challenged press office, this new vice chancellorship is a position of extraordinary complexity and challenge: It “will require creativity and innovation to establish the role and organizational structure to enable achievement of the campus’ strategic diversity goals.” The new VC for EDI will therefore undoubtedly also require a staff of massive proportions to support the expected “creativity and innovation.” As a benchmark, UC Berkeley’s own vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, Gibor Basri, whose princely salary of $200,000 suddenly looks piddling by comparison with Greene’s, presides over a staff of 24, up from 17 a mere year ago. Estimating conservatively, a comparably bulked-up office for San Diego’s new VC for EDI will run taxpayers close to $1 million a year, even before the VC’s salary is added in. That million-plus could easily pay for over a dozen new professors just starting their careers or for scholarships for many more promising graduate or undergraduate students.
Despite UCSD’s desperate efforts to give substance to this new appointment, there is in fact nothing for Greene and her staffers to do that isn’t already being done. Every department at UCSD faces unrelenting pressure to hire females and “underrepresented minorities,” i.e., blacks and Hispanics—Asians and Indians, of course, counting as honorary whites for the sake of the diversity crusade. If females and URMs are not proportionally represented on the UCSD faculty, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, that’s because every other campus in the country, many far more well-endowed than UCSD, is chasing the same limited supply of competitively qualified, “diverse” Ph.D.s. There simply aren’t enough to go around.
The creation of a massive diversity bureaucracy to police the faculty for bias against women and URMs can be justified only if there is evidence that the faculty need such policing. No one has yet presented a single example of UC San Diego’s faculty discriminating against a highly ranked female or URM candidate because of skin color or gender. The opposite is of course the case: female and URM Ph.D.s enjoy enormous advantages in the hiring market at UCSD and everywhere else. A professor in the Geosciences Research Division of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, whose wife is a UCSD “faculty equity advisor,” sent me a self-righteous rebuke for my initial criticism of the new VC for EDI. I asked him if he knew of any instance where a UCSD hiring committee had merely overlooked a top-notch female or URM candidate because the department was not trying hard enough to “diversify.” He responded that the supply of qualified “diversity” candidates was “so low that the policing of faculty . . . is virtually irrelevant.”
Diversity advocates try to mask the vacuousness of their enterprise with two strategies. First, the diversophile pretends that a new diversity initiative is the first time that the relevant institution has ever embarked on such an endeavor. In announcing Greene’s selection, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla noted in a campus-wide email: “As we look ahead to our next fifty years, it is imperative that we embrace and actively advance issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as core principles.” Implication: It’s long past time that UCSD finally “embrace and actively advance issues of diversity,” etc. Reality: “Diversity” has been an all-consuming and costly obsession at UCSD for years.
The second strategy consists of dressing up “diversity” activities with speciously technocratic rhetoric. In trying to portray diversity bean-counting as something akin to an actual skill, use of the phrase, “metrics,” is de rigueur. A diversity bureaucrat doesn’t count females and minorities, she uses “metrics,” as Chancellor Khosla explained in the same email: “Additionally, the [diversity strategic] plan will include metrics to ensure that we are employing best practices that both research and experience show have a real impact.” “Holistic” is another favored term. In arguing for regent approval of Greene’s astronomical salary and perks, the UC Office of the President in Oakland noted that the new VC for EDI would be “responsible for providing a holistic and integrated vision on all major equity, diversity and inclusion efforts at UC San Diego.”
The regents’ spinelessness on the Greene matter is their usual modus operandi, but the behavior of UC San Diego’s incoming chancellor, who began his tenure in August, is actually disappointing. There was reason to be guardedly optimistic that Khosla, the former dean of Carnegie Mellon’s engineering school, would have the insight and fortitude to bring UC San Diego back to its core academic priorities. In a May 2012 interview with the UCSD Guardian, he dared to point out that more than 55 percent of UCSD students receive financial aid, and that students would have to “accept the fact that there is some level of payment required of them.” He punted on the question of how he would “address the issue of diversity and overall campus climate,” leaving himself useful wiggle room. And he articulated a potentially powerful standard for future budget decisions: “We are looking at what a high-quality education means, what are the various components that have to be maintained and strengthened, and what are the components that are fine to have, but if they walked away, the impact would not be as much on the quality of education.” The VC for EDI easily falls into the category of components that would not be missed if they “walked away.”
Granted, it would have taken enormous political courage to cancel the VC for EDI position that outgoing Chancellor Marye Anne Fox had created in 2011. But Khosla could have argued that in a time of budgetary crisis, hard choices had to be made, and that he had full confidence that his faculty would pursue excellence in hiring and admissions without regard to race or gender. Instead, he took the easy way out, allowing this insulting appointment to proceed, even as he slipped with depressing facility into diversity-speak. To be fair, no college president in America would have behaved any differently.
Neither Khosla, nor the regents, nor the UC president can seriously believe that hiring Greene will enable UCSD to discover a trove of previously unknown female and URM stars ignored because of their gender and skin color. If they do believe it, they’re shamefully ignorant about their own institutions and the context in which those institutions exist. If they don’t, they’re deceiving the public. The evidence points to the second scenario. UC president Mark Yudof argued for regent approval of the new VC for EDI position and its pay on the ground that Khosla needed to “show his commitment to the diversity mission” and to “touch key constituent groups” during his fall-quarter “introduction to the [UCSD] community.” In other words, the new position is purely symbolic. It serves no function other than placating the campus Left (whom Khosla had already riled by praising the faculty’s “entrepreneurial nature”) and signaling that Khosla can be relied upon to keep the diversity pork flowing.
In July, the regents voted to endorse Governor Brown’s tax proposal, with only one regent standing against. “It’s a simple question: Will UC be better off if it passes than if it doesn’t? That’s not just an answer of ‘yes,’ that’s an answer of ‘hell yes,’” said regent Bonnie Reiss. After the resolution, Brown showed up for the first time to a regents meeting, where he holds an ex officio chair, to urge students, faculty, and staffers to vote for his tax-hiking Proposition 30, according to the Los Angeles Times. Brown portrayed support of his proposition as a patriotic duty: “Let’s pull together for the university and for our country.”
Brown’s exhortation was restrained compared with that of Richard Blum, who in March urged his fellow regents to back Proposition 30. Blum, who runs a private-equity firm and is married to U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein, was so impressed by his own remarks that he republished them in the Daily Californian. They epitomize the bubble in which the regents reside. According to Blum, the “root cause for rising tuition at the University of California is state disinvestment, plain and simple.” In other words, UC has no responsibility for its rising costs, driven in considerable measure by such bloated bureaucratic offices as UCSD’s new VC for EDI. The university has already cut to the bone, Blum maintained. “The truth is, we can only cut so much before we begin to erode the quality of our academic mission.” Eliminating positions like UC’s ubiquitous diversity vice chancellors and deans will not erode the quality of the academic mission; cutting such superfluities would strengthen that mission. Blum reached his peroration: Prop. 30, he said, was about “restoring one of the very core values of this country—the idea of America as a meritocracy, as a society which allows everyone the opportunity to succeed.”
Of course, the biggest enemy of meritocracy is the diversity industry. Rejecting the patent untruth of Blum’s claims may be reason enough to vote no on Prop. 30.