The diversity bureaucracy has finally swallowed an entire college. San Diego State University has just named to its presidency a vice chancellor of student affairs and campus diversity, hired from the University of California, Davis. The new SDSU president, Adela de la Torre, is a peerless example of the intersection of identity politics and the ballooning student-services bureaucracy.
As vice chancellor of student affairs and campus diversity at UC Davis, de la Torre presided over a division made up of a whopping 28 departments—not academic departments, but bureaucratic and identity-based ones, such as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Resource Center; the Center for African Diaspora Student Success; the Center for Chicanx and Latinx Student Success; the Native American Academic Student Success Center; the Middle Eastern/South Asian Student Affairs Office; the Women’s Resources and Research Center; the Undocumented Student Center; Retention Initiatives; the Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services; and the Center for First-Generation Student Scholars. This gallimaufry of identity-based fiefdoms illustrates the symbiosis between an artificially segmented, identity-obsessed student body and the campus bureaucracy: the more that students carve themselves into micro-groups claiming oppressed status, the more pretext there is for new cadres of administrators to shield them from oppression. (The causation runs in the opposite direction as well: the very existence of such identity-based bureaucracies encourages students to see themselves as belonging to separate tribes.) The admission of students who do not share the academic qualifications of their peers also creates a vast bureaucratic genre of retention services, one now taking aim at traditional pedagogy said to handicap underrepresented minorities.
De la Torre received a Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from UC Berkeley and soon began specializing in Chicano studies. Before her diversity and student affairs vice chancellorship, she chaired the UC Davis Department of Chicana/Chicano Studies. The guiding principle of that department is “promoting social justice,” a frank admission of the political, rather than scholarly, nature of the field. Its curriculum, according to its website, is “strong in the use of cultural expression, theory and analysis of the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality, a dedication to fostering excellent student usage, and support for community service activities.” It is not so strong in English usage.
Following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, de la Torre responded proactively to the hurt feelings and fears of UC Davis students, alerting them via email that special counseling services would be made available. “Healing spaces” were created in the various identity-oriented centers to give traumatized students a place to cope with the “potential outcomes” of the election. A few months later, de la Torre went on an international tour “with the purpose of reassuring students and families that UC Davis is committed to welcoming all students.” As vice chancellor, de la Torre also led an investigation into the suspected racial insensitivity behind a scheduled “Cinco de Drinko” party.
The American university is becoming an appendage of the identity bureaucracy and identity studies. If the mission of higher education is no longer knowledge, but social justice, an emphasis on diversity, and indoctrination in “anti-racism,” then SDSU has made the ideal hire.
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