The Principle of Diversity Rests on Individual Rights

Some of Whitewater’s residents may have heard – because it’s been falsely told to them – that diversity – the inclusion of people from different backgrounds and characteristics – is a group value resting on subcultures of varying size. Hearing this, they’ve heard something else, too: that to abandon a particular leader in Hyer Hall is to abandon a progressive commitment to diversity, leaving that principle undefended from ideological attack.

Diversity doesn’t – and so politically needn’t – rest on a progressive or collective political foundation. Indeed, there are people who believe in individual liberty, free markets, and peaceful international relations (we’re called libertarians) who know that a diverse society rests on rights and respect for individuals as individuals, rather than a collective social foundation.

That’s of course what Noah Smith meant when he defended diversity as grounded in individuality against a bad faith attack:

Our institutions, too — schools, companies, etc. – are forced to take more of an account of people’s backgrounds than they would if they could simply assume that everyone came from the same background. Diversity means we can’t expect or force people to fall in line.

In other words, diversity strengthens America’s core values of individuality and freedom. Diversity provides a backstop defense against the natural tendencies of homogenization and conformity.

In other words, America chooses to embrace diversity not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Because the payoff – a society that instinctively respects each individual’s irreplaceable, unique humanity – is worth it.

Via Noah Smith on Diversity.

Now, fearing the consequences of a failed leadership, the denizens of Hyer Hall point to support for diversity as one of their supposed gifts to this small city, and warn their friends that should they go, a commitment to diversity will go.

This pointing and these warnings are self-serving lies: diversity rests on respect for individuality, and it will have a robust defense in this city long after one scheming, selfish administrator or another departs the public scene.

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4 years ago

I’m a liberal who would positively say diversity is a liberal value. I get that’s not your only point however. It’s very telling that this is a post about “Hyer Hall” and not about my faculty colleagues. Most people who talk about diversity would tie it to a faculty perspective. It’s also pretty obvious that diversity (no matter how people see it) is something that you support (although again we do not see it the same way).

We disagree about how atomistic diversity really is but you are correct that this chancellor (“Hyer Hall”) is looking for allies she can find. You imply strongly that her effort includes contrasting her liberal or pro-diversity views with critics (who may not support diversity initiatives). From that perspective, this becomes a matter of campus and System politics.

We completely agree that it’s not all or nothing. It’s good to remind people who favor these initiatives (including me) that they don’t face a binary choice between Beverly and return to the Dark Age. (To be honest however Beverly has nowhere the overall level of support that past chancellors did)