A “ghettoization”effect


The proposed requirement is supposed to provide our students “with the ability to understand the perspectives of others whose views, backgrounds, and experiences may differ from their own.”  To that end, the diversity courses were to “substantially address conditions, experiences, perspectives, and/or representations of at least two groups using difference frames that include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, language, nationality, citizenship status and/or place of origin.”[1]  The aim of the two-group rule was to ensure that the diversity courses would have a relatively broad focus.  But the report of the Diversity Initiative Implementation Committee makes it clear that in practice many courses that focus on the experience of just one identity group would fulfill the requirement.[2]


The gutting of the two-group rule is a serious matter in its own right.  Indeed, it makes some opponents suspect that the requirement, if adopted, would be implemented in a way that reflects the ideological agenda of the “diversity” lobby.  But many opponents also believe it will have one major and under-appreciated effect.  Many students would probably end up taking courses associated with their own identity group.  As it is, students enrolling in such courses tend disproportionately to be from the corresponding identity group.  And it is important to remember that the vast majority of our undergraduates come from such groups.  White Non-Hispanics from the United States currently comprise 27% of our undergraduate body.  Of that group, more than half are women.  Of the remainder, many belong to various identity groups (Gays, Jews, Armenians, and so on).[3]  That means that over 90% of our undergraduates belong to one of the identity groups covered by the diversity requirement.  Nothing in the proposed requirement obliges those students to take courses relating to groups other than their own, and if they do, as seems likely, end up enrolling disproportionately in courses dealing with their own group, the result would be a form of ghettoization. 


The purported goal of the proposal is to sensitize students to the point of view of others whose experiences differ from their own, but in practice the requirement seems likely to have the opposite result.  It might well simply encourage students to retreat into their various identity group enclaves.



Thought reform is not our mission


It is clear from the College Diversity Committee’s report that a basic aim of the proposal is to reshape our undergraduates’ “attitudes about race.”[4] One goal, for example, is to break down “White students’ color blind racial ideology.”[5]  The aim, it seems to many opponents of the proposal, is to get the University to adopt a kind of official ideology—a set of beliefs and attitudes it would try to inculcate in its students. 


A recent statement in the Daily Bruin, signed by nine student backers of the “diversity” initiative, shows what lies in the hearts of some of the most fervent supporters of the proposal.  The mere fact that a number of professors wanted the whole faculty to have a chance to vote on the issue proves, to these supporters of “diversity,” that those professors are “bigoted.”  They want the University authorities to hold those “renegade faculty” accountable.  “There must be consequences,” they say, “for actions that prevent diversity initiatives from being implemented”.[6]  Voting NO would make it clear that we reject that vision of what UCLA should be—that we do not accept the idea that the University should be a place where a degree of ideological uniformity is expected.


Many of our colleagues thus oppose this measure because they believe the faculty should not sanction the politicization of the University.  They think that we, as an institution, should not want to instill in our students a pre-packaged set of beliefs reflecting a particular ideological perspective.  They believe that our business is education, not indoctrination.  And they would take the same view if the threat were coming from the right—as in fact was the case during the McCarthy period—and not just from the left.



The case for adopting the requirement is weak


For many opponents, the most important reason for rejecting the proposal is that it would place an additional burden on undergraduates in the College—students who, in many cases, already have their hands full just completing the coursework required for their major.  By forcing them to take a “diversity” course in order to graduate, we would be limiting yet further their already limited ability to take electives that interest them.  The burden is particularly great because (according to calculations some of our colleagues have made) there probably would not be enough diversity courses offered to enable students—and especially transfer students—to meet the requirement and still graduate on time.  Given these problems (among others), the case for imposing this new requirement should be compelling.


The proponents, in particular, would need to show that whatever problems we have here at UCLA with racial, ethnic, or gender insensitivity, the diversity requirement would be a good way of rectifying them.  But the evidence the Diversity Committee cited to prove that the requirement would have the desired effect is not impressive.   In some of the studies it cites, for example, students are surveyed at the beginning and then at the end of a “diversity” course (in one case before the grades were in);  the “improved” answers they give at the end is then taken as evidence that the course has worked.[7]  But such conclusions are suspect because of the tendency of those surveyed to give what sociologists have called “socially appropriate answers.”  The favorable findings might simply show that students had learned to give answers those administering the survey wanted to hear.[8]



A question of fairness


This is the second time this proposal is being put up for a vote this year.  The October poll of the College faculty produced a margin of 332 to 303 for the diversity requirement.  Some of our colleagues feel that that first vote should have been dispositive.  That point might have a certain force if the process leading to that first vote had been fair.  But it wasn’t.  Arguments pro and con, for example, did not accompany the ballot, as the Senate by-law governing this process required.  Our colleagues, moreover, have been bombarded with numerous emails from administration officials (including some department chairs) urging a YES vote, while the opponents have not been given a chance to lay out their own views in the same way.  On the eve of that October vote, the Daily Bruin, which supports the proposal, simply refused to publish a statement by one of our colleagues outlining his reasons for opposing it.  And more recently proponents of this measure have been trying to prevent the whole faculty from getting a chance to vote on this issue.  They have complained that “a small group of opponents”—the 80 or so professors who have signed the petitions—have undermined the “democratic process” that culminated in earlier votes by the College faculty and the Senate’s Legislative Assembly by “forcing a campus-wide faculty vote.”  But petitioning for a full vote—clearly provided for in the by-laws—can scarcely be seen as a subversion of the “democratic process.”  And it is certainly strange to see people who view themselves as the heirs of the civil rights movement—a movement in which voting rights loomed so large—trying so hard to prevent the whole faculty from voting on this important question.  What are they afraid of?


Many opponents feel that the whole faculty should have the right to vote because they believe a YES vote would have far-reaching implications.  If this measure is approved, we would not just be imposing a new requirement on the undergraduates in the College.  We would also, in effect, be giving our seal of approval to a certain vision of what the University should be.  To do so would be at odds with the basic idea of a politically-neutral university committed to free and open inquiry. 

[1] Report of the UCLA College Diversity Initiative Committee, June 9, 2014 (, pp. 1, 2, 6.  Emphasis added.

[2] Report of the Diversity Initiative Implementation Committee, September 19, 2014 (, esp. pp. 4, 5, and appendix C.  The Committee’s claim is that those courses that do not explicitly deal with more than one group would still satisfy the requirement because that group’s experience is considered in the context of a “dominant culture.”

[3] For the figures, see UCLA Office of Analysis and Information Management, “Enrollment Demographics, Fall 2014” (

[4] Report of the UCLA College Diversity Initiative Committee, June 9, 2014 (, p. 3.

[5] Ibid., pp. 3-4.  To support the claim that a requirement of this sort would have a desirable effect on racial attitudes, the committee in that passage cited a study that argued that taking diversity courses decreases “White students’ Color Blind Racial Ideology.”  To say that we can measure success in this area by whether we’re able to get white students to abandon their “color blind racial ideology” clearly implies that one goal of the proposal is to bring about change of this sort.  If that were not a goal, a study of this sort would never have been cited in this context.

[6] See Jazz Kiang et al., “Racism in UCLA bureaucracy hinders diversity requirement passage,” Daily Bruin, February 18, 2015 (  One of the authors of that statement, a leading member of the College Diversity Initiative Student Advisory Committee, had said earlier this year that those professors who had signed a statement opposing the proposal “disrespect members of underrepresented communities on campus”;  they were “all white males,” and he was angry that they could “say things that have a subtext that is racist.”  “Proposed diversity requirement meets some faculty opposition,” Daily Bruin, October 28, 2014 (  The ease with which advocates of the “diversity” requirement feel free to accuse anyone who opposes them of “racism” and “bigotry” is quite revealing, and it seems clear that this push for “diversity” has had a chilling effect on free speech on campus.  The goal of the requirement is supposedly to “encourage communication and understanding across difference.” And in the country as a whole we have heard a good deal in the past year about the importance of having an honest conversation about these issues.  But one gets the sense that from the point of view of the diversity lobby, this would be a conversation in which only one side does the talking—that the only voice it is really interested in hearing is its own and that anyone who takes a different view is expected to remain silent, upon pain of being accused of racism.  True intellectual diversity is the last thing it seems to be interested in.


[7] College Diversity Initiative Report, p. 3. The study by You and Matteo cited in that passage was based on a survey “administered in the first and the final week of the semester.”  See the abstract for Di You and Elizabeth Matteo, “Assessing the Effectiveness of Undergraduate Diversity Courses Using the Multicultural Experiences Questionnaire,” Journal of College and Character 14, no. 1 (February 2013) (

[8] See Stanley Rothman, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Neil Nevitte, “Racial Diversity Reconsidered,” The Public Interest, no. 151 (Spring 2003), pp. 29-30.  This is a popularized version of Stanley Rothman, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Neil Nevitte, “Does Enrollment Diversity Improve University Education?” International Journal of Public Opinion Research 15, no. 1 (Spring 3003) ( It is also important to note that the conclusions scholarly studies have yielded are less clear-cut than the Diversity Committee’s report would lead one to think.  Mark Engberg, for example, noted ten years ago that while many American colleges were trying to develop a diversity requirement for their undergraduates, there was “a dearth of evidence on the efficacy of these courses.”  He could find only seven studies that “examined the effects of a diversity course requirement on students’ level of racial bias.” Of those, two “reported positive effects,” three “showed mixed results,” and two “found insignificant effects.” Mark Engberg, “Improving Intergroup Relations in Higher Education:  A Critical Examination of the Influence of Educational Interventions on Racial Bias,” Review of Educational Research 74, no. 4 (Winter 2004), pp. 482-83.  And a very recent article by Nicholas Bowman and Julie Park pointed out that while “some studies have shown that diversity coursework is positively related to diversity interactions,” others had “not found a significant relationship,” while yet another—an article written by Bowman himself—reached the conclusion “that diversity coursework is associated with having more negative diversity interactions” (i.e., interracial “interactions that are hostile, tense, and/or hurtful in nature”). Nicholas Bowman and Julie Park , “Interracial Contact on College Campuses: Comparing and Contrasting Predictors of Cross-Racial Interaction and Interracial Friendship,” Journal of Higher Education 85, no. 5 (September/October 2014), pp. 662, 665.  Bowman is a leading expert in this area. Indeed, one of his articles is the very first source cited in the “Evidence” section of the College Diversity Initiative Committee’s report.