Following up on my previous posts (links below): Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern), What Yale Law School Teaches — Inadvertently — About the Appropriate Role of Diversity Officials:
Yale Law School’s disastrous mishandling of a discrimination complaint actually shows that diversity officials can do valuable work — if we consider what they should have done.
As the bitter controversy continues over Yale Law School’s disastrous mishandling of a discrimination complaint, some have wondered whether there ought to be diversity officials at all. The mutual incomprehension among students that led to this situation actually shows that they can do valuable work — if they get it right.
In some ways, opposition to racism is baked into the modern university. Law schools like Yale, where I was a student, or Northwestern, where I teach, admit the best students they can find, regardless of race, sex, social class, or other ascribed statuses. But that egalitarian ethic has not always existed. The old hierarchies leave their mark, and members of previously excluded groups often feel that they don’t belong. If that affects their academic performance, the university’s educational mission is impaired.
Faculty should care about this experience of isolation because teaching is an exercise in rhetoric, and rhetoric has a moral dimension. It forces you to learn about your audience, to get outside your own head and into the heads of other people. Universities need to know what alienates students. Otherwise we can’t do our jobs as effectively as we could. The alienation of minority students is a problem that needs to be addressed.
But addressing it can’t involve the embrace of any substantive orthodoxy. As the 1967 Kalven Report noted, a university “cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy,” because that means “censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted.” Rather, what the university can contribute to social policy is clarity, the dispelling of ignorance and confusion. That has implications for the role of diversity officers.
My point will be clearer if we consider the specifics of what happened at Yale. ...
January 21, 2022 in Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink