June 26, 2002

Leo Zakuta

Letter to Editor, University of Toronto Bulletin

The question of diversity

Paul Muter reproaches Professor John Furedy for objecting to the employment equity report (Diversity can increase excellence, May 21). “Professor John Furedy apparently fails to   recognize,” Professor Muter writes, “that there are at least two conditions under which increasing diversity tends to increase excellence” — the composition of police forces and the entry of blacks into major league baseball. The examples are fine; diversity helps where it’s relevant. But is there any evidence that it’s relevant in the university, which is what Professor Furedy wrote about?

In baseball, blacks were not merely discriminated against, they were barred outright from the entire structure of organized baseball. As a result, as every baseball follower knows, a large pool of talent built up in the Negro Leagues. Is there any evidence that pools of talented physicists, economists and geneticists are denied entry into the universities or face barriers within them? Furthermore, now that the barrier to black players has long gone, diversity appears irrelevant in the teams’ search for talent. Performance is what counts.

Does anyone suggest that medical research would be improved if the seemingly disproportionate number of Jews and Chinese in that field were diluted? In the same vein, the ranks of professional football and especially basketball players consist entirely of males and mostly of blacks. Where are the proposals to achieve diversity and thereby strengthen these teams by hiring women and more whites?

What these examples show is that the issue is not diversity. That word is a euphemism and smokescreen for a patronizing program of social engineering that has little relevance to the universities.

James Robert Brown also takes issue with Professor Furedy (Diversity improves quality of research, June 10).  His conclusion is emphatic: “A diverse collection of researchers actually improves  the quality of research.” But his long letter contains not a thing that supports it.

Leo Zakuta, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

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